The COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders are a painful reminder that you can never be too prepared. Our infrastructure—and lifesaving advice it provides through the Internet, cable and TV—remains remarkably intact, but there’s no guarantee the same will be true the next time, particularly if you live in an area prone to harsh weather, fires or other natural disasters.
Thankfully, when the lights go out and cell towers topple, Midland’s ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio bridges the gap by wirelessly providing critical information in a battery powered, hand-cranked, solar manner. It’s a great backup when other lines of communication go down. Shooting Illustrated ran a unit through testing and its performance was excellent.
All Hazards Radio
The radio’s critical function is the ability to monitor National Weather Service “All Hazards” warnings and notifications in real time. For those unfamiliar with the system, the government maintains a network of towers and transmitters across the nation and a computerized-sounding voice reads weather reports 24 hours a day. Reception is possible nearly anywhere in the country. There are seven different frequencies used and tuning into the clearest signal usually ensures the information is specific to your surrounding area.
After 9/11 the system expanded. It now includes non-weather emergency information, when requested by federal, state or local authorities—chemical spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, AMBER alerts and even pandemic notifications.
To monitor “All Hazards” channels on this Midland radio you first turn it on by pressing the “band” button on the front panel once. Volume adjustment controls are at the right. If the radio is on the AM or FM broadcast channels press “band” again until WX appears in the LCD display. If there is no signal, touch either of the “tune” buttons and it toggles to all seven of the frequencies one at a time. During testing the antenna (which rotates, too) didn’t have to be extended, but it may need to be in some regions.
The information is lifesaving, but even if you live in tornado alley listening to a robotlike voice for 24 hours a day isn’t exactly entertaining. To ensure timely distribution of the critical alerts a tone precedes emergency notifications through the system. It wakes up properly equipped receivers that wait otherwise silently.
Midland’s ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio has that feature. Press the WX Alert button on the front panel to start monitoring. Then confirm the letters “WX” are visible in the LCD display. When an alert is issued the radio sounds an alarm and the flashlight blinks for a minute. Touch any button to silence before then.
The receiver’s sensitivity in the weather bands is worth noting. The broadcasts were crystal clear from nearby towers, better than dedicated handheld scanners with rubber ducky antennas attached.
AM and FM radio are accessed by depressing the “band” button until the preferred broadcast frequency is selected. Letters on the LCD display indicate choice so you can find your favorite tunes until the power comes back on.
Frequencies change by pressing up or down buttons on the front face. AM broadcasts were received solidly during testing and, as is the case with most receivers, the antenna needed to be extended for acceptable FM signal. The single front-facing speaker, obviously, is mono not stereo. This is an emergency backup, after all.
Pressing and holding the “band” button down for two seconds powers down the unit. Time of day remains visible even when the radio is off and is easily set.
Battery status is indicated in a small, three bar icon on the radio’s front LCD panel.The radio ships with a rechargeable 3.7-volt Li-ion call, and it needed charging when the test united arrived. That was four-hour fast through the USB connection. If you have a smart phone with an Android operating system, odds are good that cable will work. The radio comes with one, nonetheless.
A red light over the “band” button and LCD battery meter blink while taking a charge. Both stay on constantly when the process is complete.
The built-in solar panel atop the radio failed to add a single bar to charge status after four hours in direct sunlight. It’s a trickle charge, enough to keep things going, but not enough for reliable music after a lot of long overcast days.
Deploying and cranking a large lever that folds flat against the back of the radio rotates an internal dynamo that can also recharge the Li-ion battery. The company estimates one minute of cranking will yield enough power to run the radio for nine minutes. It worked much better than its sun-powered alternative.
Another backup is the ability to change from Li-ion power to six AA batteries (not provided). To do so you move a small switch next to the USB port after inserting the cells.
Oddly, the solar cell and hand crank would not generate any charge to the AA cells. That would have added an unusual versatility to the system with high-quality rechargeable NiMhs. It likely wouldn’t require much modification either, since those batteries are wired in such a way to produce 3.6 volts.
Sharing, or Not
A separate USB port allows the radio’s battery to share energy with cell phones or other devices, an unusual advantage in an emergency. Collect enough solar power or crank, connect, and you can make that emergency call.
There’s also a headphone jack next to the USB connections, if you decide it’s best those young ears don’t hear yet another emergency alert.
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A carry handle on one end is convenient, but the odds are good you’ll find more use for the LED flashlight on the other side of the radio. It’s activated by a pressure switch atop the unit. One press and operates on low power. Another and it yields a room-filling 1,400 lux. Hit it a third time and it taps out S.O.S.
Hold pressure on the button for two seconds and it activates an ultrasonic dog whistle to attract search and rescue canines.
The Midland ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio is an ideal addition to anyone’s disaster “kit,” mainly because it can be used in nearly any emergency and eliminates the need for multiple items. Streamlining and reduced confusion are decided advantages, but the rechargeable system also reduces maintenance headaches and dead batteries that result from neglect.
That said, you might want to remove the Li-ion battery before storage. It runs the clock non-stop, radio on or off. Rather than let it discharge in your go bag, remove it, or keep and reinsert the red plastic tape it shipped with to accomplish the same task.
Midland ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio
Length: 8 inches
Height: 3.4 inches
Width: 2.4 inches
Weight: 16.53 ounces (Li-ion battery only)
Batteries: One 3.7-volt Li-ion (supplied), six AA (optional)
Energy Generation: Solar panel, hand-cranked dynamo
Accessories: USB recharging cord