News and Events

For Immediate Release

GPS in Tornado Alley: Magellan® RoadMateTM 800 Helps Ham Radio Operators and Emergency Agencies Spot Storms and Issue Warnings

LINCOLN, Nebraska   (May 22, 2006) With spring on the way, emergency agencies in the nation's "Tornado Alley" are getting ready for another year of tracking and warning the public about potentially deadly twisters. As usual, they'll rely partly on local ham radio operators to act as their eyes and ears.

Joe Eisenberg of Lincoln, Nebraska, is one such spotter, who this year looks forward to using GPS, including a new Magellan RoadMate 800 vehicle navigation system, to help forecasters and emergency crews get the jump on fast-moving storms.

"I won the Magellan RoadMate 800 late last year in an Internet drawing sponsored by a national radio show," said Eisenberg. "It's a versatile and easy-to-use GPS system, and I immediately realized I could use it in my tornado-spotting work. It gets me exactly where I need to be, faster, any without and second-guessing."

Eisenberg belongs to a ham radio club that's part of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, a nationwide group of ham operators who help with disaster and emergency communications of all kinds. About half of the 300 members of Eisenberg's club take part in the spotting program, whose aim is to provide fast storm information to the Lincoln/Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency.

"When potential tornado conditions develop, the county agency notifies us by phone, pager or e-mail to head to assigned spotting positions," Eisenberg said. "The positions are precise points within a 20 by 40 mile area that have been surveyed and mapped by the county. When the call comes to head to point 42, for instance, you can consult a map and get moving. What the Magellan RoadMate lets me do is store the points in accessible folders so the device can give me turn-by-turn voice and map guidance to the point."

Speed is critical
Speed is important, Eisenberg said. Tornadoes move at 40 to 50 miles per hour. "I sometimes have as little as 20 minutes to get to my assigned point," he said. "I don't want to waste time consulting paper maps."

Once they've reached their points, spotters are then able to report any possible tornadic activity back to the agency. "The whole idea is to shorten the gap between the time the storm is spotted and the time that a warning can go out to the public," Eisenberg said.

Emergency Management Sees Spotters' Locations in Real-Time

Joe Eisenberg also transmits his position from a Magellan Meridian Color handheld GPS receiver via a radio beacon in his car back to the County Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and to local television and radio news outlets. "Let's say the local weather station spots something on radar," Eisenberg said. "They can check their screen and see that I'm a mile west of what they're seeing. They can immediately call me and say, 'take a look to your right and tell us what you see.'"

The media and the county typically get calls from the public about possible sightings, but trained spotters can provide more reliable information. "It's an important thing that we're doing," Eisenberg said. "I'm just happy to have the Magellan because it helps me do my job better."

About the Magellan RoadMate 800 and Meridian Color
The Magellan RoadMate 800 is a color, touch-screen portable vehicle navigation system that provides turn-by-turn voice and text directions to any location in North America using street maps preloaded in its 20 GB hard drive.

The Meridian Color offers superior positioning with 3-meter accuracy and an extensive, 16 MB, built-in mapping database that provides an easy way to view your location, heading and route on a large, high contrast, high-color 120 x 160 pixel display. It also provides NMEA-format position data to a serial cable that can be ported to other electronic devices, including radio transmitters and computers. For more information on Magellan vehicle and outdoor navigation products, visit

About Thales' navigation business
Thales is a leading international electronics and systems group serving defense, aerospace, security and services markets. The Group employs 60,000 people throughout the world and generated revenues of 10.3 billion Euros in 2004.

Thales' navigation business is a global innovator of navigation and positioning solutions. The company markets its Magellan brand GPS products in vehicle navigation and outdoor markets, and its professional GPS and GNSS solutions in the survey, GIS/Mapping, and OEM markets that include consumer electronics, automotive navigation and high-precision applications. Also, through its joint venture with Hertz, Thales Navigation has developed the Hertz NeverLost® vehicle navigation system.

Thales' navigation business is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., with European headquarters in Carquefou, France. For more information, visit

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© 2006 Thales Navigation, Inc. All rights reserved. Magellan, RoadMate and Meridian are trademarks of Thales Navigation.