How to Choose a Reliable Emergency Radio and Some Models to Consider


Hopefully you’ll never need your emergency radio, but if the time comes that you do, you’ll be glad to have one.

It will be the difference between knowing it’s safe to go out after an earthquake or tornado versus just hoping that it is.

How to Choose a Reliable Emergency Radio and Some Models to Consider
How to Choose a Reliable Emergency Radio and Some Models to Consider

Emergency radios come in all sizes and shapes, and if you don’t look closely, you might think they’re a commodity and that you can grab any one and be prepared for an emergency.

But there are things to consider.

Things that emergency radios should do


Most people will need a radio that will deliver NOAA alerts and other warnings to them, so before you spend a ton of money on a two-way or shortwave radio, consider whether you’ll need those other bands. If you plan to communicate with others, you may want one, but if the primary purpose of your emergency radio is to be a power-sipping connection to the outside world in an emergency, consider a standalone AM/FM receiver. The AM is important: NOAA alerts are sent via AM radio.

Now look at this list of the best AM FM portable radios in 2020:

Look for the “Public Alert” and/or “NOAA NWR All Hazards” Logos

The two standards compete, but both were developed with the input and evaluation of NOAA and the National Weather Service. The Public Alert sticker in particular however notes that the radio meets specific technical standards, including the ability to receive area specific alerts, hear a tone before an alert comes through, and plug in external devices, like lights for the hearing impaired or vibration devices for people who are visually impaired. In any case, make sure your radio is branded with one or both of these.

Search for Radios that Offer Specific Alert Message Encoding (SAME)

SAME is the technology that we just alluded to. It allows you to specify specific areas for emergency warnings. This way you’ll get notified when there are disaster warnings for your specific city, or for your county or region, as opposed to a multi-county area or state.

Buy a Radio that Supports Multiple Power Sources

Battery operated radios are a must, of course, as long as you stock additional batteries for them in your disaster kit. However, consider a radio that also accepts power from an external source, like an AC adapter for when you have power, and has a hand-crank or other manual charger for when you don’t. Emergency radios generally sip power and don’t take much to run, but as you add features, you increase the power draw. If yours has extra add-ons that you want, you’ll need to make sure you can keep it alive so it fan fill its primary duty: Keeping you aware of alerts meant for you. If nothing else, make sure your model can be charged by hand-crank.

Choose Your Optional Features

Finally, look for additional features that you may want in an emergency radio. Like we mentioned earlier, some of the best also charge your devices and have on-board battery packs you can use to power phones, tablets, or other gadgets. That may seem like overkill in an emergency—until you have a child you want to relax and calm down while you try to think clearly about what’s happening. Others feature flashlights, solar panels for extra charging, multiple programmable stations and locations, and even ruggedized exteriors to survive drops and falls. Some have built-in speakers, others are designed to be portable and used with earphones only, reducing power consumption.

Some Emergency Radios to Consider

The criteria for choosing a good emergency radio generally comes down to basic features, power consumption, and how right the radio is for you specifically. With that in mind though, let’s take a look at some good, all-around options you can buy online easily that will serve you well in just about any situation.

American Red Cross FRX3 Hand Crank NOAA AM/FM Weather Alert Radio with Smartphone Charger: This radio features a nice large hand crank on the side to keep the internal NiMH battery charged. If you have power, you can connect it to a wall socket to charge or keep you up to date, and it has a solar panel for when your hands get tired. It has USB ports to keep your gadgets charged, a flashlight for when the lights go out, and of course, it gets AM and FM, as well as all 7 NOAA Weather bands.

Midland WR120 NOAA Weather and All Hazard Public Alert Certified Radio with SAME, Trilingual Display and Alarm Clock – Box Packaging: If you want something a little higher tech, this portable emergency radio supports all of the features we’ve highlighted above, including SAME (with a 25 county memory), digital programming, and all 7 NOAA weather bands, complete with a bright, lit display warning you visually to what kind of issue you should be aware of. It doesn’t sport a hand crank for manual charging, but it takes AA batteries (so remember to pack plenty in your emergency kit!)

Epica Digital Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Radio, Flashlight, Smartphone Charger with NOAA Certified Weather Alert & Cable-ONE CABLE DOES ALL: If you’re looking for something a little larger (which is saying a lot—this model is flashlight sized, while the Red Cross model is palm-sized), this Epica model also comes with a hand crank and solar panel for when the batteries need recharging, a powerful flashlight for when the lights go out, USB porta for charging your devices or for charging the radio’s batteries, a waterproof case, and of course an AM/FM tuner capable of picking up all 7 NOAA weather bands.

These are just a few of many available, but they’re all well reviewed and well liked, sip power, and keep you up to speed if there’s an event in your area that you need to know about.

Now look at this list of the best AM FM portable radios in 2020:

So which Emergency radio do you have at home?

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