Category Archives: Emergency Preparedness

The 1770 solar storm that turned the skies red for a week

(Source: Wired UK via Mark Hirst)

Records kept by people living in Korea, China and Japan in 1770 have revealed evidence for the longest geomagnetic storm in recorded history

Almost 250 years ago, for over two weeks, the skies above parts of Asia lit up in what looked like a burst of fiery red. Those who saw the strange phenomenon kept notes of the event, and now it has been identified as potentially the longest geomagnetic storm ever recorded.

A dim red sky reported to have been observed between the September 16 to 18, 1770 in East Asia was considered one of history’s greatest geomagnetic storms. But now, new materials have come to light suggesting the storm lasted much longer, for nine nights, and covered an area twice as large as originally thought.

A group of Japanese scientists led by Hisashi Hayakawa from Osaka University studied hundreds of historical records dating between September and October 1770, including government records and people’s personal diaries. Using these records, they were able to piece together what happened during the event, and link this to sunspot drawings from the time.[…]

Continue reading at the Wired UK website.

Thanks for the tip, Mark–fascinating!

Of course, I’ve read in-depth information about the Carrington Event, but was completely unaware of the 1770 event.  I’ve always said the biggest EMP threat will come from our local star. Frankly, it’s just a matter of time.  I hope we’re ready!

Weather Radio Review: Grant recommends the Reecom R-1650

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Grant, who comments on our recent post about weather radios:

I’ve been pretty happy with the Reecom R-1650.

I’ve had it over 10 years and it’s been a solid performer. It has a long battery backup on 4 AA’s. It also does AM/FM, has alarm out, antenna in, audio out etc.

It’s fairly smart and doesn’t alert me when the Wednesday tests are happening but does light up during the test so it’s easy to see that it’s working and receiving alerts as it should. Getting through the programming menu is a little weird (as it is with most weather radios) but I can usually figure it out with having to hunt down the manual even though I haven’t been in the menu in years.

With the advent of the cell phone, where no one thinks they need a radio anymore for anything, the best deal in weather radios is often found at Goodwill or your local thrift shop. You can often find models with S.A.M.E for $2-3.

Thank you for the recommendation, Grant! I was not familiar with Reecom weather products. I’m especially impressed with the 185 hour backup time from a set of four AA cells! Impressive. I doubt other models can claim that amount of backup power time–a full week.

Even eHam has positive reviews of Reecom dating back to 2006.

It appears Reecom only distributes their products through Amazon.com, but I discovered a load of Reecom radios on eBay, many at prices well below $30 shipped. 

Grant, you also make a great point about checking out thrift stores. Many people don’t know what a weather radio is, so thrift stores sell them for $2.00 or $3.00 in their electronics pile. Just make sure you find the matching power supply.

NOAA Weather Radio Review: three excellent choices under $90

The Midland WR120 weather radio.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Jim T, who writes with the following inquiry:

Wondering if you can give me some guidance re: NOAA weather radios.

We’re looking to be better prepared for disasters, bad weather etc. and have narrowed our radio candidates to CC Crane, Sangean and Kaito.

AM/FM would be nice, hand cranking and solar as well, but just want to get NOAA alerts should we have an earthquake here in the NW. Willing to spend $50-100 for something quality with relevant features to it. Your thoughts would be appreciated!

Thanks for your message, Jim. There are dozens of inexpensive weather radio models on the market, but I know a few good options based on my personal experience.

Note that all of these radios work in both the US (via NOAA) and Canada (via Environment Canada)–both countries have been using the S.A.M.E. (Specific Area Message Encoding) weather alert system since 2004.

The Midland WR120: A dedicated weather radio

If you’re looking for a weather radio to plug in and continuously monitor weather alerts through the S.A.M.E. system, I recommend a dedicated weather radio like theMidland WR120. These radios don’t typically have AM/FM functions, but are entirely devoted to the seven weather radio frequencies in the US and Canada (162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, and 162.550 MHz). They plug into mains power and the better ones have battery backup in case of power outages.

I have family that own the Midland WR120. They’ve used it for years and it’s worked flawlessly. Once you set up the radio with your preferred NOAA frequency and SAME alert regions, it will alarm and automatically play NOAA weather radio alerts when they’re issued for your area.  My family use this for tornado and storm alerts.

The Midland WR120 uses three AA alkaline cells for emergency power back-up. It’s very much a “set it and forget it” radio and, in my opinion, a bargain at $29.99.

As with any SAME alert radio, be aware that sometimes the alarm can be annoying. Depending on where you live and how the alert system is set up, you might get notifications for isolated weather events on the other side of your county–the S.A.M.E. system cannot pinpoint your neighborhood.

Still, I believe S.A.M.E. notifications are worth any extra inconvenience, especially if you live in an area prone to sudden storms and earthquakes.

Purchase options:

C. Crane CC Skywave: A portable shortwave radio with excellent NOAA weather reception

The C.Crane CC Skywave

If you’re looking for a battery powered radio to use during emergencies that has much more than NOAA weather radio, I’d recommend the C.Crane CC Skywave. Not only is it a full-fledged AM/FM/Shortwave and Air band radio, but it has exceptional NOAA weather radio reception with a weather alert function. The CC Skywave is a great radio to take on travels or keep in the home in case of an emergency. It’ll operate for ages on a set of two AA batteries, though I always keep a pack of four on standby just in case.

You can read a thorough review of the CC Skywave by clicking here. Note that C. Crane is also taking orders for their new CC Skywave SSB which is an upgraded version of the original CC Skywave and includes SSB mode, but costs $80 more than the original.

Purchase options:

C. Crane CC Solar Observer: A self-powered AM/FM NOAA weather radio

There are a number of self-powered NOAA weather radios out there, but frankly, many are very cheap and the mechanical action of the hand crank are prone to fail early.

I believe one of the best is the CC Solar Observer by C. Crane. It’s durable, and can also run on three AA cells, and is an overall great radio in terms of sensitivity on AM/FM as well. Unique in the world of self-powered radios, it also has a backlit display (which can be turned off or on)–a fantastic feature if the power is out.

Like other self-powered analog radios, the CC Solar Observer has no S.A.M.E. alert functionality.

Purchase options:

One more option: Eton self-powered weather radios

The Eton FRX5 sport weather alert, a digital display and futuristic design.

I would also encourage you to check out the wide selection of self-powered weather radios through Eton Corporation.

Many are digital and even have S.A.M.E. weather alerts. I haven’t commented on performance since I haven’t personally tested the 2016 and later models.

Eton typically packs a lot of features in their self-powered radios–having manufactured them for well over a decade, they’ve implemented iterative improvements along the way.

I have tested previous models extensively.

I particularly like the Eton FRX5 although being a digital radio, you get less play time per hand-powered crank–that’s why I prefer analog self-powered radios. The CC Solar Observer, for example, will yield roughly 40 minutes of listening time (at moderate volume levels) on 2-4 minutes of cranking.

Still, if charged fully in advance, I’m sure the FRX5 will play for hours. Note that using S.A.M.E. functionality in standby mode will deplete batteries more quickly.

Click here to view Eton’s full Red Cross radio line on the Eton Corporation website.

Any other recommendations?

Post readers, if I’ve omitted a worthy receiver, please comment with your recommendation.

I hope this helps with your decision, Jim! Thanks for the question!

HFCC: International Radio for Disaster Relief (IRDR) schedule

(Source: HFCC via Larry W)

International Radio for Disaster Relief (IRDR)

Humanitarian Aspects of HFCC Activities

From its infancy since 1920s shortwave radio has been associated with its potential of being a communication tool in emergencies. This use of shortwave radio is still very much present among amateur radio enthusiasts for example, who discovered its long distance properties early in the twentieth century. Amateur radio provides a means of communication on shortwaves and other frequencies “when all else fails”. This role of amateur radio is well recognised, valued and appreciated both by the public and by the world institutions managing and regulating the use of the radio spectrum.

In contrast the huge technical potential of international shortwave broadcasting that operates transmitter facilities tens, or hundred times, more powerful than those of amateur radio, remains almost unused in emergencies. At the moment when local and even regional communication and information networks are needed most, they are destroyed or overloaded and the population suffers from an information blackout. Shortwave radio is capable of remaining the only source of information.

Although the life-saving role of radio broadcasting is widely recognised by the public, and confirmed by surveys conducted after the recent disasters – and even acknowledged by world leaders – no concrete projects have been ever designed and no regulatory framework has been developed.

That is why the HFCC – International Broadcasting Delivery in co-operation with the Arab States and Asia-Pacific broadcasting unions are working on an International Radio for Disaster Relief (IRDR) project that is based on the system of online co-ordination of frequencies managed by the HFCC in accordance with International Radio Regulations.

The HFCC is aware of the humanitarian aspects of international broadcasting. It pointed out in 2012 – as the UNESCO partner for the preparation of the World Radio Day – that terrestrial shortwave radio in particular is still considered as a powerful communication and information tool during emergency situations. Read more >>

Receivers are inexpensive and require no access fees. Shortwave radio is important for people living in remote and isolated regions of the world. It reaches across the digital divide to the most disadvantaged and marginalised societies. This is also in keeping with the Declaration and Action Plan of the World Summit on the Information Society.

The annual edition of the World Disasters Report of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) issued in October 2013 stressed again that with only 6 percent of people in low-income countries using the internet in 2011 the digital divide is still stark, and access to low cost media technology is really the key.

The HFCC is a strong advocate for incorporating terrestrial broadcasting permanently on the disaster risk reduction agendas of the ITU and other UN agencies and institutions. It submitted two documents for the ITU-R Working Party 6A November 2013 meeting:

HFCC – The Importance of Terrestrial radio in International Broadcasting
HFCC – The International Radio for Disaster Relief Project

Both documents are annexes in Section 8 of the ITU-R Study Group 6 Report BT.2266 “Broadcasting for public warning, disaster mitigation and relief”. The report can be downloaded via this link.

A workshop was held during the November 2013 meeting addressing these issues. The web site of the Emergency Broadcasting Workshop can be accessed here. The web site also contains copies of all the presentations that were made at the workshop, and a Video interview with Christoph Dosch, Chairman of ITU-R Study Group 6 (Broadcasting service)

The HFCC has applied for membership in the CDAC (Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities) Network in keeping with the conclusion of the debate on emergency communication during the Bratislava B13 Conference. Read more >>

The HFCC is staying in touch with the Information and Communication Sector of the UNESCO agency on the preparation of the World Radio Days that are celebrated each year on February 13th.

Humanitarian aspects of terrestrial broadcasting were also on the agenda of the Global Kuala Lumpur conference in January 2014. Read Opening Remarks.

Click here to view this information on the HFCC website.

NPR: Amateur Radio Operators Stepped In To Help Communications With Puerto Rico

(Source: NPR via Eric, WD8RIF)

Volunteer HAM operators have set up informal radio networks to connect family and friends with their loved ones in Puerto Rico. NPR’s Kelly McEvers talks to one of those volunteers, Greg Dober.

Click here to listen via NPR.