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Author Topic:   VHF Marine Radio: SAME and FIPS
jimh posted 02-05-2006 09:08 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Recently I encountered the acronyms SAME and FIPS for the first time. What are they?

SAME--Special Area Message Encoding
NOAA weather radio broadcasts are now transmitted with a special alert signal to indicated the particular area for which the alert message is intended. Radios which monitor NOAA weather radio broadcasts can be set to only respond to alert messages with particular designated SAME information.

For a listing of these codes by county, see:

FIPS--Federal Information Processing Standards
Federal information processing standards codes (FIPS codes) are a standardized set of numeric or alphabetic codes issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure uniform identification of geographic entities through all federal government agencies.

For a listing of these codes, see:

A good place to start reading for more information on NOAA Weather Broadcasts, SAME, and FIPS, is:

Some VHF Marine Band radio transceivers are now including the ability to monitor and decode SAME transmissions.

jimh posted 02-05-2006 09:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
After reading a bit about the new SAME weather broadcasts, I began to wonder if this was not a bit of over-engineering being applied. Most VHF radio broadcasts can only be received in the surrounding area. The typical coverage is only for about a 40 to 50 mile radius from the transmitter location. Because of this, it would seem that if you can receive a particular weather broadcast, you will probably be interested in any alert message it transmits. Because of the limited coverage of a VHF signal, you are likely to be within about 80 to 100 miles of the weather which is causing the alert. In most cases, that is close enough to imply you ought to be concerned about it.

Suppose I program my radio for the FIPS code of my home port. If I travel to another area, I would need to reprogram the FIPS code to include the new area, otherwise I might miss an important alert broadcast!

Chuck Tribolet posted 02-05-2006 09:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
I agree with Jim - where I boat, I can pickup two NOAA
weather stations: channel WX1 is Santa Clara, Santa Cruz,
and Monterey Counties, and does marine forecasts
interspersed with land forecasts, and channel WX5 does
nothing but marine forecasts. Biggest difference is that you
don't have to wait as long for your sectors marine forecast
on WZ5 becuase they cycle about three times faster (no land
forecasts to cycle through). But, even though the two
stations have the same power and share an antenna site, I
often can get WX1 when I can't get WX5.

Now, if the SAME radios would take the lat/lon they are
getting from your GPS, and figure out where they were, that
that would be cool.


6992WHALER posted 02-06-2006 09:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for 6992WHALER  Send Email to 6992WHALER     
In my experience SAME is great.
I am involved in out door public beach operations.
Our facilities have NOAA weather alert radios.
Before SAME our weather radios would sound a weather alert for storms that were several 100 mile away from us.
Being able to program the units only to react to alerts in a certain county or counties really helps reduce the number of time the alert goes off. Now when the alert sounds you pay attention to it.
To give us a little advanced warning we program in the county just west of our location as well as our county.

(It appears that NOAA has done something over the years to limit the range on alerts, because our non-programmable radios don’t seem to be giving us as many alerts from far away counties.)

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