In 1998, the state's Task Force on Warning and Communication was founded. At the time, more than 20 counties were without NOAA radio coverage. Many others had only partial coverage, said Jonna Wheeler, special assistant to the director at GEMA.
Since then, GEMA has partnered with the National Weather Service and received a federal grant to raise the number of NOAA transmitters from 12 to 31. Now, 98 percent of Georgia can get NOAA weather radio broadcasts.
The challenge nowThe challenge now is to get people to use weather radios as a fixture in their homes, like a smoke detector.
David Stooksbury, the state climatologist at the University of Georgia, says using a weather radio to be prepared for severe weather is more important now than ever.
"Because of cable TV and the number of channels offered now, the likelihood that you're going to be watching a local station that carries local warnings when a tornado hits is not very high," Stooksbury said.
"Also, in Georgia, we have a large number of tornados at night when people are usually not watching TV or listening to their radio," he said. "They're asleep."
Weather warning alarmThe weather radios being sold today have an alarm you can set to go off when a weather warning is issued. You can program some radios, too, to pick up only warnings for your county and those nearby.
Radios with these features are sold in electronics shops, department stores and fishing and outdoor outfitters shops. They normally cost $30 to $100.
You may want to get a radio to keep with you when you're working outside, too. "It's important to have one out in the field or on the tractor to give you an extra heads-up," Stooksbury said.
"It'll give you a little more time to react," he said, "so you're not caught in the middle of a field during a tornado or lightning storm. That's one place you don't want to be."
(Merritt Melancon is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)