Article submitted by Brian S. Kiefat @ The Ready Center
I wonder if this situation will end up being a long term event. …Or will it be over in matter of days or hours? Should I be rationing our water supplies? …Or our food supplies? I’m not even sure I have enough to do that. Either way, I just hope they have some sort of professionals working on this. This isn’t as easy as I thought it would be… And I can’t let the others know I feel this way. I need to look like I know what’s going on here. I mean after all, they’re all looking to me for leadership and guidance. This is really tough. No power, no heat, no water, and I haven’t seen a police officer or government official since this thing hit. Speaking of…. I wonder if we’re even safe in our own home right now. Last night I heard multiple gunshots and a lot of screaming afterward. This is not a good feeling. I just wish I had an idea of what was going on out there….
These are thoughts that should never, ever, EVER go through our mind while enduring an emergency or hardship. Not being “in the know” is not an option when lives are at stake. Communication is a must. Especially so when it is so easily preventable. In part 8 of “Prepping on $20 a Paycheck” we recommend you purchase a an emergency radio. And we have a few suggestions as to what features you should be looking for… 🙂
When it comes to emergency radios, there are a lot of features that would be nice to have. But not all of them are a total necessity either. In a true SHTF situation, any voice over any receiver at any time with any information will put you in a better position to make real-life decisions. And that’s regardless to what model, brand, color, or frequency you used to get that info. However, that being said, if you can get additional features within the price range that you are shopping, by all means get them. More bang for the buck is always a good thing. And if you’re wondering what features can be found on an emergency radio now days and which ones will give you that extra bang for your buck, settle in your seat and buckle up because here we go…
These are a few things you should consider when shopping around for your new emergency radio.
- FM Band – The FM band is by far the more popular of the two basic radio bands that you find in your automobiles, mp3 players, alarm clocks, and home radios. Much information will be put out over this band, so assure you have access to it.
- AM Band – This band is already greatly known for disseminating information on a daily basis through various national and local talk radio shows. Chances are that if you had been listening to talk radio prior to whatever event transpires, you more than likely would have been warned about it. Again, assure you have access to it.
- WB (NOAA) Radio – Weather Band (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Radio. The NOAA is a US agency that does many things, including conduct constant research of the Ocean and Atmosphere to broadcast warnings to citizens to potentially reduce losses of property and life. If you can get this weather band on your radio, it is a really good thing.
- Retractable Antenna – Definitely not a must, but it sure won’t hurt you. Having a retractable antenna can and will provide you better reception. Period. But then again so will getting off your rear end and placing the radio near a window or other unobstructed area. The upside to having a retractable antenna is that you won’t have to spend as much time “searching” for reception when the chips are down. And anything that frees your time to perform other tasks (even the task of relaxing) isn’t a bad thing. If you can get one – do so.
- 3 LED (or more) Flashlight – Enough ink has been spilled on the value of having a flashlight during any and all disasters. LED flashlights are even better and often have twice the brightness, twice the effective range, and twice the battery life of conventional flashlights.
- 1 LED flashlight – When electricity and power in general are scarce, having the option to reduce energy consumption is just plain smart. You don’t always need 3 super bright LED lights to see in low light situations. More often than not, 1 LED will do the trick. And reducing your energy expenditure means you’ll have light and radio signal for even longer, which is a big plus.
- Red Lens LED Flashlight – With a red lens option you will be able to see in low light situation while greatly reducing the chances of anyone seeing you use it. This is so because “red light” is not as bright, not as noticeable, and doesn’t travel as far as the “white light” that we are all accustomed to seeing come from our flashlights. This feature can also be a plus when you are in a room of sleeping people and simply want to walk across a room or even do some reading without waking anyone. It’s not as common as it should be, but some radios do have it. Mine does. 🙂
- Flash Beacon – Again, this feature is not as common as it should be. With the flick of a switch or turn of a dial this essentially turns your super bright flashlight into a self-pulsating emergency signal beacon to attract help when needed. The flashing of light acts like an emergency signal to rescue teams without you having to do the work. This frees you up to build a signal fire, make noise by banging metal objects together, signal with other flashlights, or to simply wave your hands and scream for help. It’s a very nice option to have.
- Emergency Siren – This is just what it sounds like – a very loud and distinct siren that attracts attention at a volume and rate that your lungs could not. Combined with a flash beacon, your chances of being rescued by any nearby search team is almost 100% certain.
- Battery Powered – Not having to rely on the delicate power grid for everything is a good feeling. Making sure your radio works when that power grid is down is an even better thing. As a matter of fact, it’s a must.
- AC Powered – this means that if you don’t have any batteries you can plug it into a wall, power strip, or fossil fuel generator and still have a working radio. This is a good option to have even if you are fortunate enough to get power temporarily. Saving your precious batteries and only using them when you have to is just plain common sense. So make sure your emergency radio comes with a wall charger. If you have the fortune of coming across any form of grid power, you won’t regret it.
- Crank Powered – Having a hand crank power generator for your radio is beyond awesome. This means that you will never need to rely on battery or AC power to get the information that you’ll so desperately need. No power gird = No Problem. Batteries went dead = No Problem. Yes, using a hand crank power generator is work, but cranking for only 1 minute and receiving 20 minutes of radio time is pretty dang good if you have to endure a power outage for any substantial amount of time. Without a doubt, having a hand crank powered radio is very much so worth it.
- Solar Powered – Yep, many of the radios you can purchase today come with a small solar charging panel mounted atop the upside of the radio. This is another great option for assuring sustainable access to vital information while the chips are down. With enough sunlight, the radio can almost play forever.
- Glow-In-The-Dark Controls – Again, not a necessity – but sure is handy. Not having to use the flashlight on your radio (if it has one) to find the controls on your radio is a good thing. This is also beneficial if you don’t want to give away your location to potentially mis-guided onlookers who are not in your group, or if you simply want to find the radio controls in the dark when everyone else is sleeping. Some manufacturers use thick glow-in-the-dark lines while others use hefty glow-in-the-dark dots. Both are equally useful and do the trick. They are handy if the radio you’re looking at has them, but not a deal breaker if it doesn’t.
- Headphone Jack – This good if you want to keep someone awake on radio watch. This way they can monitor current developments on behalf of the group without keeping others awake. Also, there may be some individuals in your group who get “uneasy” or “squeamish” with some information that may be released. On top of that, some news may simply be inappropriate for younger listeners. So depending on the type of disaster you have to endure (as well as your group dynamic and make-up), having the ability to “filter” news for younger or “squeamish” listeners can be quite beneficial.
- USB Port – This is useful for 2 reasons. First, you can use a USB cord to connect your radio to any wall charger that has a USB inlet and use it to charge your radio (examples would be the wall adapter from your iPad or iPod). Second, you can use your radio as a charging center for your small electronics (iPad, iPhone, mp3 player, etc). And these little items can really do a lot to increase morale, as well as help your group members to feel “human” again when things are particularly difficult. If you can find a radio that has this option, it’s not a bad thing to have.
- Phone Charger – Very similar to some of what is discussed in #16. Some radios have their own “special” port for this and will send you the “phone specific” cord that fits your device. What’s even cooler is that more often than not, they will send it to you for FREE. 🙂
- Mini & Micro USB Port – This kind of builds off of a previous features. Where as #11 noted the importance of making sure your radio came with a charger for wall power, this option is similar to #16 in that it wants you to have the same availability to wall power, yet provides another avenue to do so. Having a mini or micro USB port built into your radio allows for the option of taking the exact same wall charger cord that you use for your mobile phone and using it to power your emergency radio. This option makes life a bit easier if you ever misplace the original charging cord for your radio. Good stuff.
- Water Resistant – Having anything that is water resistant is good thing. Water resistant clothing, shoes, backpacks, and yes… even radios are available nowadays. Not exactly a necessity, but still a good feature.
- Rubberized Exterior – This feature helps keep the radio from falling out of your hand or off of smooth and/or wet surfaces regardless of which side of the radio you put facing down. I like this inovation. Very useful. But don’t let the lack of this feature be a deal breaker for you.
- Wrist Lanyard – As if you couldn’t figure this one out on your own, I’ll explain it to ya. Sheesh! A wrist lanyard is a usually a nylon cord that is attached to the radio. You place this cord around your wrist while holding or transporting the radio so that in the event it slips out of your hand, the attached nylon cord will stop the radio from falling to the ground and possibly breaking to many pieces. Simple and effective. My only advice is this – if your radio comes with one, use it. It would suck beyond measure to break your only means of communication because you were “too cool” to wear the wrist lanyard.
Well, ya never knew there was so much to consider when it came to emergency radios, did ya? Don’t be overwhelmed. Remember that you don’t need all of these overly-impressive features. And with the assigned budget of only $20 you won’t be able to afford all of them anyways. However, the upside is that 20 big ones will probably get you close to 75% of these options. And that’s nothing to complain about.
All that aside, remember this – WHAT YOU NEED IS A RADIO. You don’t “need” a glow-in-the-dark controls, a rubberized exterior, emergency sirens, and red lens flashlights. They are options and only options. You need something that will keep you informed and aware of what is going on outside of your immediate area so that you can make better decisions regarding your safety and the safety of your survival group.
So get to it. Don’t over think it. And get something sooner than later. Until next time,
The Ready Center
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