Where would you go first for information in times of emergency? For me, it’s radio.  When the power’s out, no problem…it’s battery powered. When we’re in the basement bathroom waiting for the tornado to pass, there’s no TV in there…there’s radio.  For me, it’s radio. Then again, I’m a “radio guy”! But I’m also a research guy, so consumers can set me straight…

And they did.  In a telephone survey of 707 18-64’s in the U.S.(conducted 2/26-3/1), we asked them:

Let’s talk about sources of information about emergencies that could affect a local community – like severe weather, flooding, power outages, gas leaks, chemical spills, fires, tainted water supplies and major accidents. Where would you go to FIRST for information in the event of an emergency? Would you turn to…

We then read six choices: AM or FM radio? The internet? Newspapers? Smartphone apps? TV? Or some other source of information? And we rotated the first five to avoid order bias.

We found that radio soundly trounces…newspapers, at 0%!  (It’s hard to keep up with tornadoes in the paper, I’m sure 😉 ) But radio is well behind TV and behind the internet as well:

TV 37%
Internet 25%
AM or FM Radio  17%
Smartphone Apps          . 13%     .
Police/Fire/911    2%
Other   4%
Don’t know/Refused      .   1%

Demographically, we find a huge divide between 18-44’s and 45-64’s, but relative to TV and new tech, not radio. Half of 45-64’s would turn first to TV, while only 28% of 18-44’s would. A third of 18-44’s would go to the internet, while only 14% of 45-64’s would. And use of smartphone apps among the younger group is almost double that of the older group:

18-44 45-64
TV 28%      . 51%      .
Internet 34% 14%
AM or FM Radio 15% 18%
Smartphone Apps         . 17%   9%
Police/Fire/911   3%   2%
Other   3%   5%
Don’t know/Refused   1%   2%

Radio’s demo divide is based on gender, not age.  Men are more likely to turn to radio during emergencies than women are:

TV 35% 41%
Internet 24% 26%
AM or FM Radio 20% 12%
Smartphone Apps        . 13% 14%
Police/Fire/911   2%   2%
Other   3%   4%
Don’t know/Refused   1%   1%

Most likely to turn to radio are 45-64 men…24% say they would go to radio.  But, that’s still half of the 45-54 men that would turn to TV.

I must admit I was surprised that radio isn’t the “go to” for more consumers during an emergency. But I shouldn’t have been…

Two years ago, a tornado bore down on Dexter, Michigan…just 10 miles away from my home in Ann Arbor and moving in our direction. I was in the basement with my daughter and she was giving me constant updates from her classmates on Twitter: Dad, it’s on Huron River Drive. Dad, they can see it from Walnut Ridge! Dad, it’s at Baker Road!!!

I turned on our local “community” station and all it had to offer was a Talk radio blowhard from more than a thousand miles away, and even further from our very real concerns at that moment.

So it’s not so hard to understand, is it? At a time with more competition than ever, too many stations have cut and cut and cut personnel until there’s no one in the stations who can serve their communities when they’re needed most. And we see the results.