By Ben Ellison
new VHF radio has two setup menu items I’ve never heard of. What
do “U.I.C.” and “FIPS Code” do? B.A.,
FIPS is more exotic, and I hadn’t heard of it myself until I tested the Uniden radios for this column. It has to do with an advanced feature of the National Weather Radio (NWR) alert system, which is the useful automatic tone that many VHFs will sound when a hazardous weather “event” is predicted in your area and about to be discussed on a WX channel. S.A.M.E., or Specific Area Message Encoding, can put the explicit warning, watch, or statement right on your radio screen, be it for a tornado, a tsunami, or coastal flooding. By the way, as part of the Homeland Security effort, NWR now also carries warnings about emergencies that have nothing to do with weather.
At any rate, the FIPS codes, or Federal Information Processing Standards numbers for specific counties (I swear, I didn’t make any of these names up), can be used to limit the S.A.M.E. messages to just the specific areas within your general VHF area that you care about. And if you don’t want to hear another word on the subject, that’s fine. As long as you have weather-alert on, you’re going to get all the warnings; FIPS is just a way to limit them. If, on the other hand, you want the whole story, it’s available at www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr. But hold onto your hat, it’s storming many more strange acronyms than I’ve mentioned over there. —B.E.
Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: PMYElectronics@primedia.com. No phone calls please.
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.