You need a radio for when bad weather comes

This storm season has been unique with two hurricanes hitting the US mainland so close together. While it looks like Florida was spared the worst of Hurricane Irma,[/size] there’s still a lot of work to be done and millions of people are still without power as I write this article. Whole areas of South Florida look like they’ll be suffering the humidity of the late summer without any relief for days.

Perhaps more noteworthy in today’s smartphone-obsessed world, they may be without internet or cell service. Most cell towers have battery backups that can keep them up for several hours in the case of an outage, but few have generators that can keep them up for even longer. More importantly, if the tower was flooded or just blew over, it’s not coming back for a while. Perhaps that explains why most of my Floridian facebook friends are a little quiet this morning.

You know what works almost all the time, covers a large area, and is a form of communication that’s almost always served by a generator? Radio. Radio stations stay on in the worst possible weather and unless their towers fall down they’ll keep broadcasting emergency information 24/7 in cases of emergency. See, it’s not just for listening to music when you’re out of cell range. Radio is a great thing to have in emergencies.

Radio broadcasting takes place in a very low frequency part of the broadcast spectrum. AM is 550-1600khZ (.5 – 1.6MHz) and FM is 88-109MHz. Of course at some level you knew that since those frequencies are shown when you tune. Those frequencies travel further with less power, so a radio station can cover a very large area. In fact, in each market there is one designated AM station that is allowed to have more power so it can cover an area often spreading to several states.

Facebook is great, and even I’ll admit that Twitter’s a great resource for breaking news, when it’s up and running. But natural disasters often destroy the very infrastructure that cell phones need and that means that it sometimes becomes impossible to tweet, just as others are hungry for the sort of information that Twitter so capably provides. At times like that, when you need official word from the government on when to evacuate or what emergency services will be available, you need a reliable medium that is easy to receive, even in the worst weather and even with a very inexpensive and power-efficient receiver. You need something that can keep giving you information when the power goes out, when the phone goes out, and when the internet goes out.

Of course I’m talking about radio, a broadcast medium that has existed in the United States for almost 100 years, but is almost forgotten by today’s stream-hungry young people. It’s a times like this that radio really shines. If you haven’t listened to broadcast radio in a while, I don’t blame you. On most days it’s a cesspool of useless blather with infrequent bouts of incorrect news, weather and traffic thrown in to distract you from the roughly 26 minutes of commercials each hour. On a sunny day there’s nothing that radio can do that the combination of Google News, Waze, and Spotify can’t do better. Of course on a sunny day you get great cell service. When those hurricanes come slamming into town it’s a different story.

I don’t recommend you force yourself into becoming a radio afficionado, especially with so many better alternatives. Frankly I’m surprised most stations stay in business, because I don’t know that many people who listen anymore. However, I do think you should have an emergency radio in your home. Of course, has a ton of them available including models that can be cranked up by hand and others that provide power to your portable devices so you’ll be ready when the cell towers come back online.

It’s not just this kind of emergency that you’ll need a radio for. Winter will be here before you know it and right on schedule, winter storms will knock down power lines and cell towers will be affected. While it’s still reasonably warm, pick up an emergency radio or two at Solid Signal!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.