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Wayward weather? Pick a reliable radio

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – As tornado season approaches, a device that could save lives is being made available for free across the state.

In December, a tornado tore through parts of Rush County. It blew roofs off homes, ripped siding and left housing projects in pieces.

“Weather is very fickle,” Indiana Department of Homeland Security public information director John Erickson said. “A tornado could hit any part of the state at any time.”

This is why John Erickson said all Hoosiers should have a weather radio. A device that signals 60 warnings, including tornadoes, flood watches and amber alerts.

“Make sure it will wake you up in the middle of the night,” Erickson said. “If that means you have one on every floor, and you have three floors on your house, absolutely have three of those.”

The radios typically cost more than $20. To help Hoosiers, the department has purchased nearly 5,000, and gave them to all 92 counties.

In Hamilton County, Emergency Management Deputy Director Carl Erickson said the radios are stocked, and ready to be distributed.

“I mean this is huge,” Erickson said. “In Hamilton County, there’s people that can’t afford to go get a weather radio, or just never thought about it, or whatever. That’s just what makes this a great opportunity.”

Carl Erickson said firefighters will issue most of the radios. They focus on people in need, the elderly, and those that live near water and in trailers.

“We’re getting into that tornado season,” Erickson said. “So you’re going to have severe thunderstorms that could possibly spawn tornadoes, high winds, hail, lightning, things like that.”

Across Hamilton County, you might notice a warning system in place. There are more than 70 sirens.

But emergency officials say you shouldn’t count on them. “We can’t rely on outdoor warning sirens to notify us if it’s two o’clock in the morning and we’re in bed in sleep,” Erickson said. “We can’t rely on the TV if the power is out.”

If you already own one, you might want to consider upgrading. The technology and function has greatly improved over the past decade.

“They come in many forms,” John Erickson said. “Some of them you can even clip to your belt. So you need to pick what’s right for you and your family.”

In terms of technology, old weather radios give warnings from across the state. But new devices allow you to focus on a specific county. So if you live in Central Indiana, you don’t need to hear what’s happening hundreds of miles away.

The devices aren’t too complicated either. John Erickson walked 24-Hour News 8 through it.

After selecting a language, date, and time, it only takes a few clicks to select the county and the alerts you want.

“Then you hit select, and you’re all done,” John Erickson said. “You’re going to go back and forth a little bit, and you might press the wrong button but really it’s very self-directed and it takes only a few minutes with these current models of radios.”

Not all counties will rely on firefighters to distribute the radios. If you’re interested, call your local emergency management office.

And if you’re looking to buy one, there’s no brand experts recommend, just make sure it has the NOAA and SAME names on the box, so you get all alerts, and can make it county specific. For more information on emergency preparedness, click here.