Emergency Ready: Eton FRX5

By , January 23, 2015

Ever since an earthquake near Craig, Alaska spawned tsunami warnings that we missed (see Sleeping Through Another Shakeralso Tsunami Watch) I’ve wanted to keep a weather radio set to automatically turn on when emergency broadcast system alerts activate.

This is sound practice for any household, but particularly for those, like us, who live isolated from others. Had a tsunami hit our region, we would never have known it. We would have been killed in our beds.

Unfortunately,  radios consume power on standby alert. We can’t keep them plugged into the wall socket, as one might on the grid. We would need to run ours on batteries, which can run down without warning.

I’ve worked to overcome that problem, and recently found an excellent solution: the Eton FRX5 Hand Crank Emergency Weather Radio.

Eton FRX5 (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Eton FRX5 (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I ran across the FRX line in a catalog last month. A quick Internet search showed me that the series is currently at number 5; each model in the line comes with smaller or larger improvements. The FRX5, being the latest, costs about twice as much as the earlier models, but I decided that in this case, the extra cost represents a worthy investment. If it saves a life, it would be cheap at any price.

The Eton FRX5 is a weather band, AM/FM radio that can be run on batteries, plugged in, or charged by crank and/or solar panel.

This last feature made the radio valuable to us. Most of the year, we can set it in a window and set it to weather alert. Powered by the sun, it will warn us of dangerous weather and other natural disasters. I say “most of the year,” because currently we don’t have the daylight to power it. Instead, I’ve got it plugged into one of our 12 volt sockets via USB charger to keep it juiced up and on duty.

Besides the NOAA Weather Band alerts, this version of the FRX broadcasts Specific Area Message Encoding alerts (S.A.M.E.). I’d never heard of these before. I understand that it prioritizes alerts for specific listening areas. Our radio’s S.A.M.E. is now set to “Haines.”

I haven’t used it much yet, but the crank on this radio seems hefty enough to survive repeated use. Almost all of our crank radios, including a couple of other Eton models and even my beloved Kaito Voyager (see Getting “Cranky” on the Homestead) have broken cranks, now. The plastic levers give out after a while. I think Eton addresses this weakness with the comparitively massive crank lever on the FRX. Time and the rigors of our “homestead” will tell.

We have already had a few weather alerts since we started using it. Our weather has been bad enough to generate heavy snow warnings in the area and flood watches. We won’t have any trouble hearing alerts, even if we’re asleep! Like a smoke detector, we don’t ever want it to go off, but neither do we want to miss the warnings it offers.

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