Millions of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and Caribbean residents had an old friend help them get through the toughest days of a dangerous 2017 hurricane season: AM/FM radio. Many didn’t have a radio of their own, but instead would gather around a business with one or in someone’s car. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, every day at 3pm, the Governor would share over the radio what resources would be distributed, if any, as well as any new updates with the storms.
In the states, also on battery-powered radios and in cars, Sheriffs and Mayors drove to stations to provide updates and information over the air. It was the only way they could reach the public.
“There are no cell phones. No electricity. No internet. No television. No water. No anything,” Bill Becker, the Florida station’s news director since 1980, WWUS, (better known locally as U.S. 1 Radio), said. “It’s amazing that a 100-year-old technology like broadcast radio is now becoming a main source of information for people who so rely on their digital equipment and their devices.”
“This is what sets radio apart,” said Doug Abernethy, regional vp/GM of Entercom South Florida, whose four Miami stations, including WLYF, kept Irma coverage going until the day after the storm. “In times of crisis, it shows the power of our brand.”
A radio is an essential part of any emergency preparedness kit, whether it’s a regular radio or a (NOAA) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio (ideally both). In an age where we have cellular technology and smartphones with capabilities that far exceed what radio can do, why do we still rely on such old-school tech for relaying information in an emergency?
Simply put: radio travels way farther than an LTE broadcast. That makes it much easier to get a signal and reaching as many people as possible is the first priority with emergency broadcasts.
If you’re in an emergency zone, you’ll want to get a special NOAA Weather Radio to listen in. The agency broadcasts “warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
We recommend our CC Solar Observer AM/FM/Weather Windup Emergency Radio which is a top pick for any Home, RV, extra radio in your vehicle or office – Thanks Wikipedia for the Shout Out on our emergency radio that has strong reception and audio for this type of radio!
A smaller choice to carry along with you is our CC Skywave SSB AM, FM, Shortwave, Weather, Aviation And SSB Bands Portable Travel Radio.
Last on our list to share is our world wide acclaimed radio which made #3 on Wikipedia’s TOP Emergency Radios for 2018 (Play at 3:36-4:15)
CCRadio 2E Enhanced AM/FM/WX 2-Meter Ham Band Radio has evolved into C. Crane’s flagship radio. Our patented Twin-Coil Ferrite® AM Antenna and traditional FM reception is exceptional in its ability to bring in a weak station clearly. The American Red Cross has recognized that the 2-Meter Amateur band is a very effective way of providing communications during times of emergency and Ham radio operators provide 90% of the coordination efforts during a major emergency. During an emergency a 2-Meter band receiver could save your life or that of a loved one.
In the immediate aftermath of the storms, to assist in the recovery efforts, the (National Park Service) NPS provided radio and dispatch support to augment remaining emergency radio services and helped ensure emergency services were available on the 3 U.S. Virgin Islands St. John, St. Thomas & St. Croix.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria dealt a devastating blow to the Caribbean in 2017. The people, land and resources, including areas managed by the NPS, were significantly impacted. On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm with winds reaching 185 miles per hour, caused extensive damage to Virgin Islands National Park, which comprises 73% of St. John. Within two weeks, Hurricane Maria, another Category 5 storm, moved across all three U.S. Virgin Islands, leaving them and all of Puerto Rico without power. Down island St. Barts had recorded winds of 199mph!
St. John, the tiniest of the 3 U.S. Virgin Islands, is from where our newest C.Crane team member resided for over a decade who relocated back to Northern California after Irma & Maria. The storms also displaced a dozen NPS staff members and destroyed or significantly damaged 25 NPS facilities, including the island’s oldest building, erected in the 1600s. The storms caused 90 vessels to wash aground or sink within the park and destroyed stands of Pillar coral, a threatened species. In addition, they substantially damaged the park’s largest concession operation with operations mainly at Cinnamon Bay, as well as Caneel Bay Resort, the largest single employer on the island. Many other islands were in the same shape if not worse. Down island Barbuda had no choice but to evacuate all 1800 residents.
One lesson from the 2017 hurricane season, the most expensive in history, was to show the valuable role AM radio plays as a nexus for coordinated news reporting during a disaster event. WKJB wasn’t the only station to continue broadcasting through Hurricane Maria. In San Juan, WKAQ-AM stayed on the air, pausing momentarily when the wind ripped away part of the roof. On the US mainland, AM radio stations provided real-time news coverage of the hurricanes that struck Texas, in August 2017, and Florida, in September.
In Indian River County, Paul Bartoszewicz, 66, and Willie Thompson, 61, worked 14-hour shifts during Hurricane Irma making hourly calls to fellow amateur radio operators at each of the shelters in Indian River County.
They’re part of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) — a group of licensed radio operators who help with communication during storms.
One phone call from the Red Cross came in late, just as the full scale of Hurricane Maria’s calamity began taking shape.
“We need 50 of your best radio operators to go down to Puerto Rico.”
Often untethered from wires and cables, operators share information by voice, Morse code and other methods on a wide range of frequencies above the AM broadcast band. Such communications were critical during rescue operations after the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
As you can see, this old fashioned but reliable method of communication is truly the answer in times of emergency when outside information is vital.
We wish all of our C.Crane fans a safe Hurricane season if you are East Coast or Caribbean. For all of us Californians and West Side residents, Earthquakes and Fires cause danger and damage too so take note of these radios we offer. No need to wait until a holiday to treat yourself or others for these radios. They may just save your life one day!
In 1996 Hurricane Fran cut the power to my house for a week. The only way for me to get information was from a battery powered radio. I used the Sony ICF 7601 analog AM, FM, SW receiver.
I was not only able to hear the local news, but also heard reports on shortwave!
It was a great radio to have since it was very easy on batteries.
Thanks Fran for sharing what you went though and how radio helped you get through it. Emergency radios are the most valuable thing one can have in times like yours. Glad you made it safe during the Hurricane!
In early March 1991 upstate New York experienced an ice storm that knocked out power to many areas. My neighborhood was without power for 10 days. The local radio station, WHAM, went to all talk, and people called in to report power outages, power line repairs, emergency situations, etc. I was glued to my portable radio, huddled under a blanket, as it occurred in late winter and our furnace was off due to lack of power. Yes, radio is the most important source of news during an emergency, and C Crane sells fine portable radios and emergency equipment.
Thank you David for your story. Sorry you went through such a chilly ordeal but glad you had a radio to listen to! We appreciate your compliments.
I’m concerned about an EMP. Will my radios be safe inside biscuit tins and cookie tins? I also suspect that communications will be the most important thing if an EMP strikes. But will solar panels be effected? Nobody seems to know. What about transistors? Are they heartier than ICs? Seems like they might be but I’d like to know for sure.
Hi Bruce, Thanks for your questions. One of our C.Crane experts shares: The tins will not help. You need conductive shielding. Look for Faraday cages or enclosures. I have even seen videos on how to make Faraday bags (it’s basically a small flexible cage). Transistors will be gone when subjected to an EMP and IC’s are just smaller transistors. Solar panels themselves would not be directly affected. However, any IC’s hooked up to them to regulate power flow would likely be toast and may even cause damage to the panel in the process of being fried if they are connected.