Emergency Radio - What to buy

Sub_Umbra

Sub_Umbra

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Can anyone recommend a good emergency radio? I've seen the Red Cross one at HomeCheapo, but I think it's a little dinky for being $50
Respectfully, radios are one more subject that the desk jockeys at the Red Cross don't know crap about.
...Anyone have a favorite or a type that's pretty decent?
I'm guessing a good one would have AM/FM, TV & Weather bands.
Good instincts. When the bad gets really deep it'll be AM and TV bands that will give you the most info. After dark AM will reach out 1300-1500 miles...
...Cranky or Battery?
For emergency rigs you just want the box to be a DX rig -- it must be capable of reaching out. In New Orleans after Katrina every single local AM station was gone. GONE. Your emergency rigs should always be able to reach way beyond local. Even if your local broadcasters are up you'll still need a DX capability to get past the local propaganda that your city gov is putting down. If the disaster is big enough and you can only get information from your city gov...it may kill you. In a serious emergency you will be very concerned about what the truth actually is.

Forget crank radios. In the Western World, crank radios are a very complex solution to a problem that does not exist. EXAMPLE: The GE Superadio III costs less than $60 and will run 400 hours on one set of alkalines. Thats 400 hours at decent volume through a very nice speaker. Your primary concern for an emergency radio should be the radio part, not how it's powered -- particularly since the SRIII will already run almost forever right out of the box. EXAMPLE: The CCradio will run 250 hours on one set of cells. These two are the best emergency radios you can get, IMO.

I mention these two radios because they are the finest AM DX rigs available at any price and they just happen to be perfect for emergencies. The SRIII is also probably the best stand alone FM DX rig available at any price.

My point is, don't get hung up with the crank stuff -- get good radios and batteries won't be a problem anyway. In the six week blackout after Katrina when everyone else in town had been forcibly evaced from New Orleans Mrs Umbra and I listened to AM all day every day on batteries during every waking hour, each with our own radio (she with the CCRadio and me with the SRIII) and we still used less than two sets of cells for each rig. For those who get sucked into something longer than the six week duration of the New Orleans Kartina blackout -- something that will require more than two sets of cells for either of the two radios I mentioned -- most are gonna be in really deep kim chee -- way past scrambling for water, food, toilet paper, anti depressants, etc. Some will be prepared and take this in stride and some won't. Really.

Don't go with crank radios -- go with real radios.

Right now we use two SRIIIs and two CCradios all the time -- one of each powered with NiCads and one of each powered with alkys -- and any one of them will outperform any crank radio made and provide more information in an emergency.
...Cell phone charger? At first I thought a cellphone charger was cool... but in a direct hit, I'd guess the cell networks would be swamped/dead...
Text messaging through cell phones will often get out when voice won't. Be sure that you and your's have sent them (text messages) back and forth and know how to do it. The real problem with cell phones is that crazy people (read relatives) can call you and in they're nuttyness, influence your decisions. I've elaborated on this in other posts. Search my posts for details.

I bought a cell phone charger that uses alky or NiMH AAs to charge our Motorola phone. It works 50% of the time -- often the phone claims it is an 'unauthorized charger'. Thanks Motorola. [email protected]#$%
 
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B

BB

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I don't know why this kit cracks me up.
http://www.target.com/gp/detail.htm...0/601-2638095-0997720?ie=UTF8&asin=B000E9DTG4

Maybe it just screams "Baby's First Power outage kit"

They do have one good suggestion in there... In the US, there is no requirement for wireless phones (type you plug a base station into your home phone line) to work if AC power is out. Having a simple plug-in phone may not be a bad idea.

I wonder how many folks out there now only have wireless handsets at home and no POTS phone (Plain Old Telephone Set--is a real telecommunications abbreviation).

-Bill
 
pedalinbob

pedalinbob

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Sub has a lot of experience, and has hit the nail on the head.
The only bummer for me with the Superadio is that it is BIG.

Still, I will be getting a Superadio soon, as they are so well-regarded, and you just can't beat a big speaker for good sound.

But, I currently have two Sony radios that are great for my needs. They don't have shortwave, however.

The first is the Sony ICF-36. AM/FM/TV/weather. Built-in stowed power cord, 4xAA bats, independent volume control, analog tune with LED indicator. It is small, but has surprising sound and volume. Headphone out. The antenna is long, with full swivel, and appears to be pretty easy to replace. Even the battery compartment is well thought-out.
About $20, if you shop around a bit. It runs forever on rechargeables.

The other is the Sony ICF-S10. It takes 2xAA bats, and will fit in a shirt pocket. Extendable antenna, AM/FM, good reception. Mono only. Earphone output. About $10.
This thing is great for baseball games, where you can barely hear what the announcer is saying. It worked great a Comerica Park a few weeks ago.
 
Pistolero

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They do have one good suggestion in there... In the US, there is no requirement for wireless phones (type you plug a base station into your home phone line) to work if AC power is out. Having a simple plug-in phone may not be a bad idea.

I wonder how many folks out there now only have wireless handsets at home and no POTS phone (Plain Old Telephone Set--is a real telecommunications abbreviation).

-Bill

My bedroom nightstand phone uses power, but in the event of a blackout, the phone portion works. The power cord is just for the callerID and other features that I never use anyway.

I think I'd either use my landline or internet for communications. I guess cell texting would work, but I'm not sure how I can charge them (cell phones). I do have those carcharger plugs, so that could work.

How well do those AA battery pack cell chargers work?
 
Pistolero

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Thanks for all the replies and info on this subject.
Pre-PS: What's a DX radio??

Radios in the running. (Prices off Amazon)
Sony ICF-M410V Portable FM/AM/TV/Weather Radio with Sleep/Turn-on Timer $37.

Kaito KA007 - Portable radio. AM/FM/SW/TV/Weather. Dynamo/Batt/Solar/AC $34.95

Kaito Emergency Radio, KA009 AM/FM/SW1-4/TV1-2/Weather/Aviation $39.95

Eton/Grundig FR200 Emergency Radio AM/FM/SW1/SW2 $39.99

Eton FR300 Emergency Crank Radio AM/FM/TV-VHF/NOAA $49.99

Sony ICF-36 Portable AM/FM/TV/Weather Radio AM/FM, TV, weather $17.65

GE Superadio III High Performance AM/FM Portable Radio ~$50


I am curious about this CountyComm Radio.
http://www.countycomm.com/gp4light.htm
I notice you can get an antenna for it.
http://www.countycomm.com/swantenna.htm

What exactly does the shortwave channels pick up (SW1 & SW2)?


As of know, I'm leaning to the Kaito KA009 and the Sony ICF-36. I'm thinking/guessing that TV + Weather bands are a must for me. I don't know about the AM bit. I'm on the Texas/Mexico border and the AM band over here is FLOODED with spanish stations. Even tho I'm hispanic, I never did grasp the language. :|

With the prices where they're at, I might just get both the Kaito and the Sony one. Any other thoughts?
 
pedalinbob

pedalinbob

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I can comment on the Sony ICF-M410V.
I tried it because I liked the digital tuning and small size...however, I found the sound to be only fair, and the volume capability was terrible.
I took it back immediately.

Volume probably isn't a big deal in an emergency, but for around the house, it is nice to have something with some guts to overcome ambient noise.
I couldn't get the volume high enough to hear it well while showering!

The Sony ICF-36 is essentially the same as the 410V, but with analog tuning and a bigger speaker. The sound is definitely nicer.
I almost forgot: it also has a hi-lo switch to give a bit more or less treble.

I have toyed with the Eton FR200. I found it to be pretty nice overall, but, like the Sony 410V, the sound and volume was limited with the tiny speaker.

Solely for emergency use, I think any radio you listed would be fine.
Sub makes some excellent points about the Superadio--it is legendary in its ability to pull in stations.

Just food for thought...good luck, and let us know what you get and how you like it.
 
jtice

jtice

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The SW1 and SW2 channels are for some communications radio freq.
Such as walkie talkies, HAM, etc. But I think its freq. range may be a bit narrow.
Never had any luck with mine for that.
I would much rather it pickup the weather freq. :(

~John
 
Sub_Umbra

Sub_Umbra

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...Pre-PS: What's a DX radio??...
Way, way back in the early days of teletype the operators used abbrieveations all the time and DX was what they used instead of typing DISTANCE. Hams, SWLs (shortwave listeners) and other radio junkys still use the term two ways:
  1. To pick up a normal powered station from much farther away than usual.
  2. To pick up a very low powered station from farther away than usual.
The act of trying to tune very weak or far away stations is often referred to as "chasing DX."

From our location in New Orleans on almost any night we may pick up strong stations from TX, TN, MS, IL, MI, OH, GA, KY, FL, AR, CO and other states with less regularity. You don't need a DX rig to pick up nighttime signals on AM from hundreds of miles away but it will make it easier and more reliable and pleasant.

Also, the runtime of the CCradio and SRIII is so good that instead of just tuning in once a day to catch the news during an emergency you can actually use your radio for entertainment by running it for hours each day during a prolonged crisis if you like without constantly worrying about running down the batteries.

Over the years I've bought five GE SRIIIs and with one of them that I lost (about three SRIIIs back) I put in a set of batteries when it was new and ran it and ran it and ran it so long that when the cells finally died I thought the radio was broken. Really. It sat on a shelf for a few months before it dawned on me that it may just need batteries. I just wasn't used to changing the batteries and it didn't occur to me right away that that was the problem.

IMO almost any quality radio will probably do the job for you in an emergency but the runtime and other features of the SRIII and the CCradio put them out in front of the others. Most go through their entire lives taking radios for granted and they never get the chance to use a really good one.
 
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pedalinbob

pedalinbob

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"It sat on a shelf for a few months before it dawned on me that it may just need batteries. I just wasn't used to changing the batteries and it didn't occur to me right away that that was the problem."

LOL!

It takes a big man to admit this...and, I'm glad I'm not the only one to occasionally overlook the obvious.
 
Flying Turtle

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I guess it may be obvious, but, in general, the best radios for AM dxing are the largest ones, which usually will have the longest (with more windings) internal antenna. The GE Superradio and CCradio are best probably for this reason. Having a tuner that allows fine tuning is also a big help. Attaching a wire to the whip antenna is only going to help with FM and Shortwave. I've never tried making an external AM antenna. One of those circular jobs with a tuning knob that you park next to the radio helps some, at least in the daytime. Radio Shack used to sell them for a reasonable price, unlike CCrane.

I've been tempted by the Superradio many times, but the size has stopped me. And the old SW portables do pretty well. Actually, for AM dxing my old Panasonic boom box and table radios do about as well as any others I have. It's hard to beat the car radio, too.

Geoff
 
Sub_Umbra

Sub_Umbra

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...It's hard to beat the car radio, too.
Yup, car radios make good DX rigs. They are sensitive, designed to work in environments with lots of interference and one more big thing -- they have no internal antenna.

I've built or bought a few 'air core loop' antennas for AM and:
...What makes them work are the deep nulls they provide for blocking signals. The truth is that the cheap antenna on most radios is not very directional. That means that it picks up many things that you don't want to hear. Any add-on antenna will do nothing to reduce the noise brought into the radio by it's own cruddy antenna, no matter how good an add-on antenna it is. The only way to get the most out of an add-on antenna for AM is to use it with something like a car radio that has no antenna of it's own. I've done that with fairly good results, but there are very few AM radios without built in antennas...
If only there was a switch to disconnect the internal antenna...

Even a low end car radio may be turned into a first class DX rig with the addition of a highly directional antenna like the Ramsey SM100 Signal Magnet Noise Reduction Antenna -- you get the full benefit of the antenna's highly directional qualities because the radio has no internal antenna of it's own to add noise to the signal.
 
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D

daloosh

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Wow, the CCradio plus is $165, and runs on D batteries. Sounds huge, like the Superradio, but I guess that's the price you pay for clear consistent sound. I have any number of crappy radios, like the CountyComm, and the Kaito, but I'll have to give some thought to these.
Thanks!
daloosh
 
Sub_Umbra

Sub_Umbra

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Wow, the CCradio plus is $165, and runs on D batteries. Sounds huge, like the Superradio, but I guess that's the price you pay for clear consistent sound....
Before you buy you should know that the CCRadio has been optomized for human voice so nothing comes out of the speaker above 3,000 hz. If you want to listen to lots of music on it that could be a bummer... OTOH the SRIII probably has the best speaker and fullest sound of any mono portable.

It should also be mentioned that there have been reports of quality control inconsistancies with the much lower priced SRIII
but all of mine were OK and I've never heard anyone complain about their particular SRIII.
 
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eluminator

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I don't know about the SR III but I have the original Super Radio and I use it every day. I guess it's about 25 years old.

Lot's of good suggestions here. I think I have another. The Sony Walkman SRF-59 is under $20. It runs for over 100 hours on a single AA cell. It has good reception on AM and FM. Good sound too, and it gets better if you replace the earphones that come with it.

The downside is you need earphones, but that shouldn't be a problem for an emergency radio.

I'm also concerned that I will set it down and forget to turn it off, thus running down the battery. With the earphones out of my ears, there's nothing to remind me that it is on. With a few spare cells it ought to last as long as you do, in an emergency.
 
D

daloosh

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Thanks Sub Umbra, there was something about that on the crane site, but I guess I'd want the radio to be more multipurpose, so the CCradio is out (besides being kinda pricey). I have yet to put an antenna on the Countycomm radio to see what kinda reception is possible, that radio has a nice small footprint (and the LED, as others have pointed out)!

daloosh
 

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