How To Buy an Emergency Radio

An emer­gency radio is a device that has been specif­i­cal­ly designed to receive impor­tant alerts and updates from the Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion (NOAA). In times of cri­sis, NOAA can acti­vate its own net­work of emer­gency trans­mit­ters in order to alert the pub­lic to poten­tial prob­lems. Those trans­mis­sions can involve warn­ings about severe weath­er, for­est fires, earth­quakes, amber alerts and a vari­ety of oth­er pos­si­ble dis­as­ters, both nat­ur­al and man­made. Should such a dis­as­ter arise, an emer­gency radio could poten­tial­ly become your only source of infor­ma­tion, which makes it an indis­pens­able piece of gear for any home.

AM, FM and Beyond: In addi­tion to pick­ing up trans­mis­sions from NOAA, most emer­gency radios will also sup­port a vari­ety of oth­er bands includ­ing AM, FM, and short­wave radio. In times of emer­gency, the AM band can prove very use­ful for get­ting local updates, as the sig­nal is gen­er­al­ly more pow­er­ful and capa­ble of car­ry­ing much fur­ther than FM. Addi­tion­al­ly, AM radio remains the pre­ferred band for most talk and news sta­tions, which will like­ly be impor­tant sources of infor­ma­tion dur­ing a cri­sis. Depend­ing on your loca­tion and the nature of the emer­gency, short­wave radio can be use­ful for pulling in inter­na­tion­al news as well. Some emer­gency radios will even allow you to lis­ten to the audio feeds from local tele­vi­sion sta­tions giv­ing you yet anoth­er option for up to date information.

Alter­na­tive Pow­er Sources: When pur­chas­ing an emer­gency radio it’s impor­tant to con­sid­er buy­ing one that has mul­ti­ple options for keep­ing it pow­ered. Near­ly all radios will have the abil­i­ty to plug into a wall out­let or run on bat­ter­ies of course but what if those options aren’t enough? If the area you’re trav­el­ing through is prone to hur­ri­canes or bliz­zards for exam­ple, it is pos­si­ble that you could face pow­er out­ages that last for days. If that is a pos­si­bil­i­ty, you’ll def­i­nite­ly want to pur­chase a radio that can use an alter­na­tive ener­gy source. For instance, many emer­gency radios now incor­po­rate a hand crank that can be turned to gen­er­ate enough elec­tric­i­ty to pow­er the radio for brief peri­ods of time. Oth­ers fea­ture built-in solar cells that can use light from the sun to keep the device oper­at­ing long after the bat­ter­ies have died. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple ways of keep­ing your radio pow­ered dur­ing a pro­longed black­out could prove vital dur­ing times of emergency.

SAME Tech­nol­o­gy: Some of the more advanced emer­gency radios incor­po­rate a fea­ture known as “Spe­cif­ic Area Mes­sage Encod­ing” or SAME tech­nol­o­gy. This option allows the radio to alert you to issues in your area even when the device is com­plete­ly pow­ered off. It does so by flash­ing a col­ored light or acti­vat­ing an LCD screen with an indi­ca­tor of the nature of the emer­gency. Addi­tion­al­ly, SAME will let you pro­gram your radio to ignore noti­fi­ca­tions that aren’t meant for your city or coun­ty, great­ly reduc­ing the num­ber of alerts that poten­tial­ly get sent your way.

Water Resis­tant and Durable: Since you nev­er know what con­di­tions will prompt your need for an emer­gency radio, it is impor­tant that you pur­chase one that is durable and water resis­tant. After all, the radio won’t be of much use if it shuts down after being exposed to a lit­tle mois­ture or breaks if it gets jos­tled about a bit too rough­ly. For­tu­nate­ly most emer­gency radios are ruggedi­zed to a degree, mak­ing them safe to use in demand­ing envi­ron­ments. Not all of them are water resis­tant how­ev­er, so if that is impor­tant to you, you’ll want to make sure it’s list­ed as a fea­ture on the box.

Oth­er Fea­tures: Sur­pris­ing­ly, emer­gency radios can come with a host of oth­er fea­tures that you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly asso­ciate with a radio of any type. Those fea­tures can include every­thing from bot­tle open­ers to a ther­mome­ter and com­pass. Two fea­tures that can come in par­tic­u­lar­ly handy dur­ing an emer­gency are built-in LED lights and a USB charg­ing port.  The lights allow the radio to act as a flash­light in times of need while the USB port can help keep cell phones or oth­er gad­gets charged. Both of these fea­tures are nice to have when the pow­er is out for longer than expected.