As warm weather slowly creeps in, severe weather outbreaks will begin to happen more frequently. One of the most repeated phrases by victims after any weather disaster is "we had no warning!" With all the technology available today, that should never be the case. All homes, businesses, and schools should be equipped with a NOAA weather radio.

A weather radio is like a fire alarm for the weather. Most modern weather radios have Specific Area Messaging Encoding (SAME) that allows you to program your county's unique six digit code into the device. Once you program your county's code into the radio and set it to the correct radio station, the weather radio will automatically emit a loud tone along and read the text of the watch or warning out loud when one is issued for your county.

The alarm and voice functions of weather radios often turn people away from buying them, but manufacturers add customization functions to most devices to allow users to choose what type of alerts they want to receive. By default, certain emergencies like tornado warnings can never be deactivated by the user, but other alerts (such as flash flood warnings) are less relevant to some than to others, and may be switched off if desired.

One of the smartest decisions you can make is to spring the thirty or forty bucks to buy a weather radio to keep you and your family safe as severe weather season approaches. Tornado outbreaks often happen during the night and warnings can pop up with relatively little reaction time before a potential storm impacts your location. They truly are life-saving devices. Homes and businesses are required by law to have smoke detectors, fire alarms, and some even have carbon monoxide detectors to protect occupants from hazards within the building. A weather radio can do the same for outside hazards and often prove just as effective at saving lives, as evidenced by the story in the above video.

Weather radios can be purchased online through most retailers (including Amazon), as well as local stores like Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Target.

If you can't afford a weather radio or stubbornly don't want to buy one, several iPhone and Android apps exist to alert you to severe weather, including the free Weatherbug app (iPhone, Android) and an excellent pay ($9.99) app called iMapWeather Radio.

And, as always, the latest watches and warnings for your area are constantly updated for free on your local National Weather Service office's website.

[Image via Midland]