Best Emergency Radios: Get News When You Need It
Be ready for unforeseen circumstances with these reliable and durable emergency radios.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON June 25, 2021
Being prepared for an emergency means you need to have the right items on hand 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 special 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 an ultra portable and lightweight addition to any outdoor enthusiast’s gear, or a great little radio to stow in your basement or garage to hear up-to-the-minute weather updates.
- Highly affordable
- Equipped with a bright LED flashlight and cell phone charger
- Battery or hand-crank powered
- Hand crank does not produce long-lasting power
- FM antenna is not as receptive as some other models
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
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to 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.
- S.O.S. 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 automatically alerting you to weather advisories or other non-weather-related emergencies by emitting loud sounds, flashing bright lights, or both. These radios issue alerts whether they’re turned on or not. 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. Their drawback is that they have to be turned on in order to issue you vital information. They don’t offer an automatic emergency alert.
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 S.O.S. lighting. They can be stationary desktop models or more portable handheld designs.
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 company, 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 KA650 Emergency Radio, which integrates AM/FM/SW and NOAA weather radio with Bluetooth, real-time alerts, an MP3 Player, a voice 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.
- $50 and up: 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 Radios Reviews & Recommendations
- Always keep spare batteries on hand to power up your emergency radio.
- If you aren’t planning to use your emergency radio for an extended period, store the batteries outside of the radio to prevent any acid from leaking out and damaging the radio’s functionality.
- 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.
Q: What is the best emergency radio?
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.
Q: What should I look for in an emergency radio?
Look for a radio that is manufactured by a known and trusted source that’s been in the industry for a while. Make sure it’s durable, water-resistant, and comes with multiple charging options, emergency light, and alerts. Choose something that’s highly portable that you can take with you in the event of evacuation is also a good feature to look for.
Q: How can I use the emergency radio?
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.
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line emergency radio that won’t let you down when it matters the most, our top pick is the Midland NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio. This radio is public-alert certified and receives seven NOAA channels, providing warnings for issues like floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and more.
For a more budget-friendly but still dependable and durable option, check out the WeatherX Weatherband AM/FM Radio and Flashlight. It’s an ultra-portable and lightweight addition to any outdoor enthusiast’s gear or a great little radio to stow in your basement or garage to hear up-to-the-minute weather updates.