Important Radio announcement from NOAA for Big Sur

**UPDATE** This page is out of date. My understanding is that NOAA weather radio is no longer in service in Big Sur. The service was temporary and ended toward the end of last winter. However, Dick Ravich is looking for a transmitter tower site so a grant be applied for for a permanent NOAA weather radio installation.

o All Big Sur Residents,

(Please help by spreading the information in this email to others in Big Sur.) 

The National Weather Service’s weather radio transmitter is now on the air in Big Sur!  

The time has come to purchase “Public Alert certified” NOAA-weather emergency-alert radios if you want to receive NOAA-weather-radio emergency-alerts this winter.

Jim Lacalamita at Peninsula Communications in Salinas donated many days of time to get this system working, and Bill Post generously donated space on his transmitter tower.  We all owe them and many others much thanks for helping make this happen.

Jim has offered to purchase “Public Alert certified” weather radios for Big Sur residents and to provide them at his cost of $40 each.  The radio is a First Alert model WX-200, manufactured by the Sima Products Corporation.  Jim has evaluated these radios (including looking inside) and says they look good.  On this radio the NWS signal is on channel 4 (162.475MHz).

If you wish to purchase one or more First Alert model WX-200 weather radios email Dick Ravich now at bigsursat@sprynet.com to place your order.  Make your check payable to Peninsula Communications in the amount of $45.60 for each radio you order.  This includes sales tax and shipping to Salinas.  Mail your check to Dick Ravich PO Box 428 Big Sur, CA 93920.  Jim must order these radios in lots of 10, so the faster you respond the better the chance you can join in the first order.  We will get the radios to Big Sur and distribute them.  You may also pay for the radios at that time, but please email your order now.

If you wish to purchase a different “Public Alert certified” weather radio on your own, we have included a list of others below.  We highly recommend that the weather radio you purchase be a “Public Alert certified” radio.  See below for details on why.

The transmitter’s broadcast frequency is 162.475 MHz, which will probably be channel 3 or 4 on your NOAA weather radio (channel may vary by make and model, check your radio’s manual).  Make sure the transmission you are listening to is broadcasting on this frequency, and they announce it as KEC-49, transmitting from Post Ranch Inn.  If you are listening to another frequency you may not receive warnings and alerts intended for Big Sur.  See below in this email for other important warnings.

If you already own a programmable weather radio, you should program it with the following code if you want to hear only emergency alerts intended for the Big Sur area, 706053.  This procedure is described in the owner’s manual.

If your weather radio cannot be programmed with the above code, you do not have a recently-manufactured “Public Alert certified” weather radio, which means your radio may also be lacking other important features.

You should know that this transmitter installation is temporary.  National Weather Service says it will remove the transmitter after May 15th of this year.  However, we are working on a permanent solution, so hopefully NOAA weather radio will continue to be available in the Big Sur area for years to come.

Here is a list of some of the “Public Alert certified” radios you may want to consider (with approximate Internet prices):

First Alert/Sima WX-200  ($40 – $65)
Reecom R-1630  ($55)
Reecom R-1650 with AM/FM  ($70)
Midland WR-100B  ($25 – $45)
Midland WR-300 with AM/FM  ($45 – $50)

Although it lacks some of the features of a “Public Alert certified” weather radio, following is a programmable scanner that includes the ability to alert when triggered by a NOAA weather radio emergency alert or an AM/FM radio emergency alert (e.g., from KUSP): 

Uniden BC370CRS scanner, includes alert capability  ($136.00)

Why a “Public Alert certified” weather radio?  The Consumer Electronics Association, in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed a standard for weather radios with certain features that make these radios ideal for issuing emergency warnings.  The trade name for the standard is “Public Alert.”  Here are some of the features of Public Alert radios:

  • They can be set to be silent (so you don’t have to listen to them 24/7) and to unmute when they are triggered by a broadcast alert signal, to emit a loud warning sound (to get your attention), to sound a verbal warning of the hazard and to display and save a text warning.
  • You can set them to warn you only about certain types of hazards (see this NOAA web page for an explanation).
  • They can be programmed with a code that limits the warnings they trigger-on to only those intended for Big Sur, so you won’t be awakened by warnings for other areas (generally, from Mal Paso Creek on the north to San Luis Obispo county line, inland well into the Los Padres National Forest).  This code is called a SAME code (see this NOAA web page for more on SAME codes).  The SAME code for Big Sur is 706053.
  • Attached is a map showing the SAME codes for different parts of Monterey county.
  • An optional external antenna can be connected to improve reception.
  • They can optionally be set up to turn on a light or other external warning device when there is a emergency alert.
  • They have battery backup in case the power goes out (e.g., the First Alert/Sima WX-200 uses 4 AA alkaline or rechargeable batteries to automatically power the radio for up to 2 days during a power failure).

WARNING:  The National Weather Service transmitter currently relies on telephone service to work.  If phone service to the transmitter stops working, you will receive NO warning on your weather radio.  To learn if the transmitter is working, set your weather radio so you can hear its 24-hour-per-day weather report on 162.475 MHz (channel 3 or 4).  If you hear the broadcast, the transmitter is working. 

Also, if your phone service fails, you will receive NO warning from Monterey County’s telephone-based emergency warning system.  

This means if all phone service in Big Sur fails, NO emergency warnings will be issued in the area through either of these systems.

The NWS signal may not cover all parts of Big Sur due to the mountainous terrain.  

Pay attention to the amount of rainfall.  Always act on your own, without warning, if you suspect there is a possibility of debris flows, mud flows or flooding.  Phone and radio warning systems are only a back-up for your good sense!

Here is a list of some of the people who have helped to get this warning system working:

Jim Lacalamita and his crew (Peninsula Communications in Salinas)
Bill Post
Terry Green and Brant Herrett (manager and engineer, KUSP FM)
Tom Evans (and others, National Weather Service)

Dan Priano (manager, Post Ranch Inn)
Mike Caplin
Mary Trotter
Trey Kropp
Dick Ravich

THANK YOU ONE AND ALL!

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