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.