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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Weather radios such as these cost about $40.

County giving weather radios to the poor

– Allen County Homeland Security officials are giving away 120 weather radios to those who can’t afford them and encouraging those who can afford one to buy one soon.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security bought the radios. Allen County’s allotment is among 8,500 distributed by county agencies statewide.

Homeland Security Director Bernie Beier said the radios – technically called all-hazard radios because they also receive civil engineering notices, Amber Alerts for missing children and Silver Alerts for missing seniors – are an important part of any family’s preparedness efforts and can give minutes of extra warning at a time when even seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

“It’s an early warning – it gives you those couple extra minutes,” Beier said. “But of course, before the radio goes off, you have to have a plan. … You need to know what you’re going to do when an emergency happens.”

The radios, available at many stores for less than $40, are always plugged in and also have a battery backup. Unlike a television or regular radio that is useless when turned off, these radios simply wait for an emergency signal and then broadcast the alert.

Arvin Copeland, the director of response and recovery for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said the radios broadcast the information sent by the National Weather Service or homeland security agency, meaning those with radios get the alert at the same time as the media and first responders.

Almost every all-hazard radio is programmable, so they can receive alerts only from selected counties. Officials suggest people in Allen County program them for Allen, plus the counties to the west, to give even more notice in case of a storm.

“We really encourage that,” Copeland said. “Especially for those on the west side of the county, it might give you another six to eight minutes’ warning. … We know from experience that seconds really do count.”

Beier said the radios are an important part of a system of warnings. Tornado sirens, for example, are meant to be heard by those outside, telling them to go indoors and find out what the emergency is. They’re not meant to be heard indoors or wake you up – that’s where the radios come in.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security has distributed more than 23,000 radios over the past four years.

For information on getting a radio or for programming information, call 449-4663, or see