LAST UPDATED: November 2, 2020
The Best Emergency Radios (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Be ready for unforeseen circumstances with these reliable and durable emergency radios.
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PUBLISHED ON November 2, 2020
Being prepared for an emergency means you need to have the right items stashed away, ready to be grabbed and used in a moment’s notice. While first-aid supplies, water, and food are critical in any emergency, so is a way to learn about what’s happening in the world. And that’s why every survival kit or emergency kit should have an emergency radio. These unique radios are designed to work even when there’s no power, no contact with civilization, and limited radio coverage. Available in many different styles, emergency radios can run on renewable power sources like solar or hand cranking, cover standard AM/FM bands as well as weather radio, and potentially even broadcast important emergency alerts.
Whether on land or at sea, having access to a working emergency radio can mean the difference between life and death for either yourself or a friend or family member. Don’t be caught without one.
This radio is public-alert certified and receives seven NOAA channels, providing warnings for issues like floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and more. You’ll get S.A.M.E. programming via this radio, with over 60 emergency alerts.
- 25-country memory system
- 90 dB siren
- Flashing LED warning system
- Voice alert for added functionality
- Reviewers express concern over the radio’s ability to receive emergency warning stations reliably
This is a highly portable, three-way rechargeable emergency radio that is capable of receiving AM/FM signals, as well as seven bands of NOAA emergency broadcast signals.
- Can be recharged via USB cable, solar power, or hand crank
- Comes equipped with a very bright flashlight
- AM/FM radio reception
- Water-resistant, not fully waterproof
- Depending on the location of the radio, it may not receive all emergency weather stations
This unit offers an impressive six-way charging capability and is equipped with AM/FM, two bands of shortwave, and seven bands of pre-programmed NOAA emergency weather stations, making it one of the most comprehensive radios available.
- 14.5-foot telescoping antenna allows you to get the best reception in emergencies
- Can be used as a mobile battery charger
- Comes equipped with a reading light and SOS beacon
- Pricier than some other models
- Crank option for recharging could be more sensitive and conductive
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Emergency Radio
- Access to information. A good quality emergency radio gives you continual access to the most up to date weather and emergency alert information. Many are equipped with the ability to monitor seven different NOAA emergency radio stations, as well as local AM/FM channels so that you can have access to several different sources to get the most complete view of what’s going on.
- Emergency alerts. Emergency radios will loudly and frequently send you notifications about not only critical weather events but also public and civil crises. These alerts are crucial when determining what course of action will be best for you and your family. Even if your local radio stations stop broadcasting, emergency radios will continue to send you up-to-date information.
- SOS. alerts. Emergency radios aren’t just helpful for you to get up-to-the-minute information, many of them can also be used to send S.O.S. signals and bright light beacons to alert authorities and help when you are caught in an emergency situation and can’t get yourself to safety.
- Portable. Emergency radios are very lightweight and highly portable, allowing you to take them anywhere you need to go. If you decide that a place you are located is no longer safe and you need to move, it’s easy to bring your emergency radio with you in a bag, backpack, or even your pocket. That way, you never have to be without access to critical information.
- Rechargeable. Good emergency radios don’t rely on electricity to power them. Many use batteries, solar power, USB cords, hand cranks, or a combination of all in order to get enough power to work when you need them most.
Types of Emergency Radios
Weather Alert Radios
Weather radios are the most basic type of emergency radio. They work similarly to smoke detectors, by alerting you to weather advisories or other non-weather-related emergencies by emitting loud sounds, flashing bright lights, or both. The drawback to this type of radio is that many models need a reliable power source to function properly, so it’s not ideal in a climate with frequent and prolonged power outages. Consider buying one with a hand-crank as a back-up power source.
These radios are a step up from weather alert radios. They’re usually equipped with pre-programmed stations that specifically access NOAA emergency alert broadcasts, allowing you to get up-to-date information on weather-related emergencies, mandatory evacuations, power outages, flooding, and civil or public emergencies. These radios will also provide information about weather warnings and watches in non-emergent situations. They usually have multiple methods of recharging, so you don’t need electricity to run them.
AM/FM Emergency Radios
These emergency radios take the weather radio one step further. They can access local AM/FM radio stations and some are capable of accessing short sideband, or SSB radio channels, making them the most complete source of emergency information. They usually have multiple methods of charging, as well as added features, such as flashlights and SOS lighting.
Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., Midland has been pioneering two-way radio and emergency radio technology for over 50 years. Midland has actually been credited with bringing CB radio and 14-channel FRS radio technology to the consumer market. It’s known for producing reliable and durable products like the X-TALKER T71VP3 Two-Way Radio and the WR400 Deluxe NOAA Weather Radio. Explore more of the best CB radio options here.
California-based Kaito Electronics was the first company to integrate a solar panel into a portable radio as a charging method. The company creates such versatile products as the Kaito KA900 Emergency Radio Voyager Max, which integrates AM/FM/SW and NOAA weather radio with Bluetooth, real-time alerts, an MP3 Player, recorder, and phone charger all in one compact unit.
FosPower, Inc. was founded in 2014 and has its headquarters in Minnesota. It’s a company that prides itself on making high-tech gadgets that are intuitive and easy to use by the average person. Some of its more popular products include the Fospower Emergency Survival Sleeping Bag and the 7 Day Digital Outlet Timer. Learn more about the best two-way radio choices here.
Emergency Radio Pricing
- Under $20: This price range will get you a compact emergency radio that may or may not have AM/FM capabilities. They will occasionally have added features, such as flashlights, and solar charging capabilities, but their reception capability isn’t usually as strong as some higher-end models.
- $20 to $50: You will be able to find a wide selection of reliable emergency radios in this price range. This is one of the most commonly purchased from price ranges since it offers a good mix of affordability and reliability.
- Over $50: This is where you will find the top-of-the-line emergency radios. They will often be equipped with AM/FM and shortwave radio capabilities, as well as NOAA weather, emergency lighting, SOS, phone chargers, and will offer multiple ways to recharge the batteries.
Some emergency radios are particularly large and bulky and can be tough to take along with you in case of a rushed exit or forced evacuation. Consider getting a smaller tabletop model or even one that will easily fit inside a purse or backpack. That way, you’ll have the luxury of being able to have access to the most up-to-date information when it really counts.
Multiple Recharging Capabilities
In a true emergency situation, in which access to reliable power might be prohibited for days or weeks, having multiple ways to recharge your radio is of the utmost importance. Many models will offer the standard hand-crank, but newer and more technologically advanced radios will have the ability to be charged by solar power, USB cable, batteries, or AC outlet.
Emergency Alert Options
A good quality emergency radio will have customizable alerts that produce a loud sound, bright light, or both during specified situations, from floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, avalanches, and thunderstorms, to weather watches and warnings. You can pick and choose which events to receive alerts for, and which ones to mute.
Look for an emergency radio that also offers the luxury of AM/FM station reception. This way, you can get the most comprehensive picture of what is going on around you, when to expect help, where to go to evacuate, and much more. Shortwave capabilities are also an added benefit in a case where radio towers may be damaged.
The most durable and dependable emergency radios will come with some kind of waterproof capabilities. At the very least, be sure to get an emergency radio that is water-resistant, so that it can withstand heavy rain and thunderstorms, or won’t completely malfunction should you accidentally drop it in a puddle on your way out the door.
It’s nice to be able to plug in a set of earbuds or headphones in order to hear pertinent information without worrying about disturbing others around you who may be trying to sleep or just get a break from frequent radio broadcasts. Of course, this isn’t a necessity, but just personal preference.
- Digital or Analog Tuner. This is usually a choice of personal preference. Selecting a digitally tuned station ensures you get the best signal possible. However, often with digital stations, they will cut out altogether if static is too great, whereas, with analog stations, you can still hear them through some static, which may be of more benefit in a true emergency.
- Power Bank. Some newer emergency radios allow you to charge your cell phone via a built-in USB outlet on the radio. This is a great feature for prolonged power outages in which you would otherwise be cut off from communicating with friends and family.
- Accessory Options. Is it important to you to have an emergency radio that comes equipped with a super bright flashlight or reading light to illuminate dark spaces, or do you want S.O.S. capabilities? Maybe you want to get an emergency radio that has an extra-long, telescoping antenna for maximum reception. All these are great accessory options that are available on many emergency radios.
Check out our favorite police scanners here.
Best Emergency Radio Reviews & Recommendations
The Midland NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio is versatile, helpful, and perfectly suited for any kind of emergency. This radio is public-alert certified and receives seven NOAA channels, providing warnings for issues like floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, and more. You get S.A.M.E. programming via this radio with more than 60 emergency alerts as well as alert override functionality that automatically tunes you into critical announcements. It runs on three AA batteries, features a built-in clock, and measures 6 x 1.5 x 5 inches. This emergency radio even includes a voice alert, siren, and flashing LED light to give you emergency notifications.
The one drawback to this emergency radio is that it doesn’t have AM/FM radio capability. It would be a nice option to be able to receive information from NOAA and your local radio stations at the same time.
The Kaito Voyager 5-Way Powered Emergency Radio rolls everything you need and want in an emergency radio into one premium product. This emergency radio can be powered in multiple ways — by hand crank generator, solar panels, AA batteries, 5V USB input, 5V AC/DC input, and a rechargeable battery. It offers comprehensive coverage of AM/FM radio as well as seven pre-programmed NOAA weather channels, so you can capture real-time alerts and updates. It takes preparedness a step further with an LED reading lamp, LED flashlight, and an LED SOS beacon light. This emergency radio will even function as an emergency charger, providing a USB port that allows you to plug in your smartphone, GPS device, and more.
Our only complaint with this radio is that we wish the battery life was longer, but it can be greatly conserved by not overusing it to provide light, charge your phone, and perform other non-essential activities.
The RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Radio is a great choice for anyone who wants an emergency radio that can be trusted to work in a variety of conditions. It can be powered and recharged by hand cranking, freeing you from needing a power source, batteries, or other items that you might not have on hand in an emergency. This emergency radio delivers both standard AM/FM frequencies and stations as well as NOAA weather radio, so you can stay updated with emergency alerts, weather hazards, and more in a crisis. This compact radio also includes a bright, long-lasting LED flashlight built into its casing.
While the hand crank does take some serious effort to charge the battery, it’s a great option for prolonged emergency situations. It definitely wouldn’t be our first choice for regularly powering an emergency radio, however.
The FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio offers just about everything you could need in one compact package. This single device is also an emergency flashlight, an emergency charger for smartphones and other critical tech gadgets, and an emergency SOS alert. It can operate on hand cranking, solar power, or a set of AAA batteries. It delivers both AM/FM radio stations and NOAA weather alerts, giving you access to the latest updates and critical warnings. A four-LED reading light and one-watt flashlight built into this emergency radio provide light just in case you need it.
Just about the only thing missing in this emergency radio is shortwave capability. We also would like to see an upgraded solar panel that could provide just a touch more charging capacity to charge the radio more quickly during daylight hours.
The Esky Emergency Radio is a great pick for a durable, tough radio that can withstand both emergency situations as well as weather elements. It’s a capable little radio — you get AM/FM and NOAA weather radio stations to keep you in the loop about emergency updates and critical weather reports. It’s easy to carry thanks to an included lanyard and perfectly compact sizing, so it’ll fit inside your pocket. In addition, this emergency radio is tough enough to withstand anything that comes its way. It’s water-resistant and able to keep moisture away, and it’s durable enough to survive the unpredictable events of an emergency.
One improvement that would make this emergency radio even better would be a stronger built-in receiver and taller antenna. It would allow the radio to more reliably access all the NOAA stations from a further distance.
The Puiuisoul Emergency-Hand-Crank-Radio deserves an honorable mention for adding in all our favorite options and taking them one step further. While most rechargeable radios come equipped with 1,000 or 2,000 mAh batteries, this model features 4,000 mAh 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable batteries for maximum battery life. It also features an adjustable three-mode flashlight that is equipped with a motion sensor for added safety and peace of mind in unpredictable circumstances. Its powerful beam will illuminate up to 10 meters away, which is stronger than many other models on the market.
While this radio comes equipped with NOAA weather radio access and AM/FM capabilities, it is missing a shortwave option, but with all the other upgrades, you probably won’t even miss it.
The Mesqool 5-Way Powered Solar Hand Crank NOAA Weather Alert Radio combines AM/FM capabilities with shortwave and NOAA emergency weather station access to allow you to get the most comprehensive and up-to-date picture of emergency situations and public alerts. It’s equipped with 5 separate power sources and a long-lasting 2500 mAh battery bank. Solar charging, a crank handle, a micro USB input, and rechargeable batteries offer a plethora of options to keep your radio powered on. The USB charger can also be used to charge your cell phone, so you never have to be out of communication with your friends and family. This radio even comes equipped with a compass in case you need to find your way on foot.
One thing that would make this radio even better would be if it was fully waterproof. It is water-resistant, however, so it should stand up well to occasional exposure to rain or moisture.
The Raynic Solar Hand Crank Emergency Radio will provide you peace of mind in emergency situations by providing reliable access to NOAA weather stations as well as AM/FM and shortwave radio stations. It’s equipped with a 2.5-watt reading lamp to illuminate dark spaces without being overly bright or obnoxious. It also comes with a three-watt integrated flashlight if you need a little extra brightness. This model comes equipped with a compass and a handy carrying strap for portability. Five ways to power your radio ensure that you will have access to it during the most critical times.
One thing to note is that the power will drain down quickly on this unit depending on how long you leave the flashlight or reading light on, so it’s best to use it for short periods only if you want the radio to last through the night.
If you want a dependable and super durable emergency radio, consider the American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio. Its name says it all. No one knows emergency or disaster preparedness better than the Red Cross. This rechargeable weather alert radio is powered by rechargeable batteries, solar, or a hand-crank to provide access to public alerts and emergency procedures when it counts the most. It provides information from all NOAA weather stations as well as AM/FM local stations. It also features a USB charging port to power your cell phone and a programmable alarm clock. The digital display and tuner is a nice touch.
This radio could be improved by offering shortwave access and a stronger flashlight, but overall, this is a dependable radio that will get the job done.
Next on our list is the SYIHLON Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio. This radio comes equipped with many of the same features as a lot of other radios on our list, including AM/FM capability, seven NOAA weather stations, a USB charging port for your mobile phone, and a headphone jack to allow you to listen to stations without disturbing others. It features a handy solar-powered reading light and a bright flashlight located separately on the unit. It can be powered up in four different ways: by batteries, solar, USB, or a hand-crank, so that you can be sure of having reliable service whenever you need it.
A longer antenna for clearer reception and a more substantial hand crank would make this model even better. Be careful when using the hand crank option that you aren’t too rough, as it could damage the mechanism.
- Always keep spare batteries on hand to power up your emergency radio.
- Be sure to store your emergency radio in an easily accessible area of your home. You don’t want to be running around looking for it when time is of the essence.
- Also, make sure to store the radio in an air- and water-tight container to prevent accidental damage and malfunction when not in use.
- Be sure to read online user reviews to see where your emergency radio may need to be improved, or what kinds of experiences other users have had prior to committing to your purchase.
- Check out what kind of warranty is offered with your emergency radio. A reliable and trustworthy company will stand behind its product and replace any manufacturer’s defects or malfunctions without a lot of hassle.
What is the best emergency radio?
A: The best emergency radio is one that has multiple methods of recharging, and multiple sources through which to get your emergency information and alerts. It will also come equipped with sound and light alert modes to make sure you don’t miss anything important.
What should I look for in an emergency radio?
A: Look for a radio that is durable, water-resistant, and comes with multiple charging options, emergency light, and alerts.
How can I use the emergency radio?
A: If your emergency radio comes equipped with AM/FM capabilities, you can use it to listen to local stations. Otherwise, whenever there is a weather event or public alert, turn your emergency radio on to hear up-to-date information and instruction.
Now that you know what to look for in a good emergency radio, don’t wait to decide which one is best for you. Whether you go for the Midland NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio or the Esky Emergency Radio, getting a reliable radio now will ensure that you are prepared the next time an emergency hits.