Do you live in an area that's prone to severe weather? A weather radio is useful wherever you live, but if you live in a region that's prone to hurricanes, tornados or other extreme storms, it can be a literal lifesaver. In this situation, it makes sense to choose a weather radio with a strong reputation for durability and ease of use. It's also more important to have selective alert blocking, since being constantly peppered with irrelevant alerts might lead you to switch the radio off, defeating its entire purpose.
Do you need a weather radio or an emergency radio? A weather radio warns you -- hopefully well in advance -- of an impending weather event. An emergency radio, by contrast, is designed to see you through an event, especially situations where the power is out. Emergency radios often lack SAME technology and aren't Public Alert certified, so they aren't ideal as primary source of weather alerts. If you live in an area that often sees extreme storms, it may make sense to have both.
Are prolonged power outages common where you live? In any emergency, counting on electrical power is a bad idea. However, batteries can only keep you going for so long. If you live in an area where the power tends to stay out for hours or days at a time, a crank-powered emergency radio can provide a lifeline. Some can also charge a cellphone, a huge benefit for those who might otherwise have no way to seek help.
What kind of radio reception do you get? Most weather and emergency radios have a built-in, extendable "whip" antenna. However, in areas where receiving National Weather Service broadcasts can be a challenge, you may need to add an external antenna. A radio with an external antenna jack will allow you to hook up a larger antenna either indoors or outdoors. You can buy antennas in nearly any store with an electronics department—or use these plans from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make your own.
Does anyone in your home have special needs? For users who are deaf or hearing impaired, an audible alarm won't work. If your radio has an external device jack, you can plug in special devices such as strobe lights or bed shakers to enhance the built-in alarm. All Public Alert-certified radios for institutional use have this feature, but it's optional on consumer radios.
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