Weather radios are special devices designed to receive emergency warnings for various life-threatening weather events such cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis and other weather disasters. The U.S and Canadian governments are responsible for broadcasting these alerts by using high-frequency unique radio networks. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates this network in the US. For this reason, weather radios are often referred to the term NOAA.
Different types of weather radios are available now. They are found with varieties of features and functionalities, and available in numerous shapes and sizes. It’s very difficult to select the best among so many choices. Many buyers get confused and end up buying a wrong unit. To avoid this you must consider some factors so that you can understand your requirement. To help you in selecting the ultimate weather radio, I have listed some of the basic factors;
All weather radios are capable of receiving NWR or NOAA Weather Radio Signal that is broadcasted during the emergency by the NOAA. Weather radios generally come in two designs; weather band radio and weather alert radio. Before going for the purchase, first, you must decide which type of weather radio you need.
1. Weather Band Radio
A Weather band radio must be tuned to a particular weather station in order to get the information and alerts regarding weather. These radios have many limitations in emergency situations. If the power goes off while tuning to your favorite station or even when the device is not at all turned on, this type of radio is unable to provide weather alerts. Most of the buyers don’t use radios regularly, and they end up missing the emergency warnings. In case you are living in a safer zone and you just need a weather radio to plan your day then this is a smart choice.
2. Weather Alert Radio
Weather alert radios are specially designed for emergency need. They will automatically alert you if any emergency warning is issued. The only limitation about this type of weather radio is that if you are listening to FM or AM, these functions will be overridden when the radio receives any alert as the device will be temporarily tuned to the NWR. At times of power outages weather alert radios with backup battery feature can alert you during emergencies. They are available as standalone or in multi-featured devices.
Before going for the purchase of a weather radio, you must decide if you want the device for home/office or outdoor use. If you need a weather radio for your home or office only to monitor silently and let the alarm go off when any hazard alert is detected, then a desktop weather alert radio is an ideal choice. This type of weather radio is designed to remain stationary and primarily run on AC power. Most of them come with SAME feature.
SAME or Specific Area Message Encoding is a cutting-edge technology that allows you to set your weather radio to receive alerts only of your county rather than the entire location served by the weather radio station. To trigger this function in your weather radio all you need to do is set the device to a particular county.
For the outdoor application like hiking or moving out to safety during threats like earthquake, portable weather radios or emergency radios that function on rechargeable or replaceable batteries is perfect. Emergency radios are not specifically designed for weather alerts, but they also work well during emergencies. However, this type of radio is not featured with SAME technology and isn’t certified for the public alert. It would be better to have a weather radio with emergency radio feature for alerts about other events apart from the weather.
Portability could be a concern if you need the device for outdoor use. Generally, portable radios are designed small and light. Carrying around a large unit is quite difficult when you have to move around during emergencies. Desktop weather radios are considerably huge and they also require AC power source and hence they aren’t at all portable. Some desktop radios can alternately operate on rechargeable batteries, but their size might constrict outdoor application. There are many pocket-sized portable weather radios that are surprisingly small. For hiking or trekking purpose this type of radio is a smart choice. Choose according to your need.
Event Alert Choice
Weather alert radios are designed to go off whenever a weather alert is broadcasted by the NOAA. It’s not always necessary that the alert has been issued for a life-threatening disaster. It can be quite annoying when the alarm is triggered in the middle of the night for the unnecessary reason. For example, if you are living in a costal country but not near the beach, you wouldn’t want to set the alarm for coastal cyclones as these will hardly affect your residential area.
To avoid this type of problem, some high-end weather radios are available that can be set to trigger only when any life threatening hazard approaches. For example, you can block the alarm of your weather radio from going off during thunderstorms, while still providing alarm on dangerous hurricanes or tornados.
Almost all the weather and emergency radios come with a built-in whip antenna that receives the signals, but there are areas where receiving the NWR could be challenging. For this, you might require an additional external antenna. Some weather radios come with external antenna jack that allows the user to attach a larger antenna to the radio to make it possible to receive advanced signals. Consider buying this type of device if you live in the similar area. All public-alert certified radios have this feature but some consumer radios may not.
If you reside in a location with frequent power outages or disaster-prone area, you would need a weather radio with battery backup to keep on running, which also operates on AC power source in order to preserve batteries when AC power is available.
Many weather radios come with hand-crank generators and solar panels. If you are a hardcore camper or hunter, then these units are the ideal choice. Also, there are radios that run on replaceable batteries like AA or AAA, but this type of unit is good only during emergencies. AC power adapters are important if you need the weather alert radios to function for prolonged periods. Weather radios with multiple power backup options are the best.
Most of the weather radios are able to provide alerts even if the audio is turned off. You would want to consider the audibility of the alarm tone. Some units come with a single tone and some models have different tones for different alerts. The pitch of the alarm tone also varies according to devices. Remember to check the audibility before selecting a particular weather radio.
You might need to carry your unit around. A weather radio can be a lifesaver during dangerous disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes. It makes sense in this situation, to choose a unit that is durable and easy to use. Always go for the device that has been manufactured by a reputed brand.
Apart from the factors discussed above, there are a few additional and useful features that you might want your device to have;
- Mobile Charger: This handy technology allows the user to charge their cell phone directly from the weather radio during the emergency.
- Tuning: Now you can find some expensive and advanced weather radios featured with easy access digital or LCD tuning. The inexpensive models have standard analog tuning.
- Lights: Weather radios with integrated flashlights are very useful during emergency power cuts to see and signal in the dark.
- Special Alert: Some weather radios are designed for people with hearing disability. They come with the special external jack that allows the user to connect other devices like bed shakers or strobe lights that can enhance the built-in alarm of the unit.
Price and Warranty
Fix a budget before going for the purchase. Weather radios for residential use or the standalone models that have been designed only with radio and alert function are available with prices ranging form $15 to $100 depending on the number of features included. There are some multi-band units that have weather radio feature, such as digital scanners. These units range from $100 to $500. Choose the best one available in your budget that suits your lifestyle and requirement.
All weather radio manufacturing brands offer a warranty of at least 1 year to their products. These are technical tools and warranty always makes sense. Best weather radios come with a warranty of 2 years or more. This will ensure protection to your investment on a particular product. Select a weather radio with considerable warranty time.
Once you know the differences among the various types of weather radios it becomes easier for you to choose. Your lifestyle and need will help you decide. Some may need a multifunction device that can work for both outdoors and indoors, while others will need only for one purpose. If you consider all the factors that I mentioned above, it won’t take you much time to select the best weather radio. If you are still in a dilemma, going through the reviews provided by other users can be very helpful.