Best Emergency Radios
How many times in your life do you think you will need an emergency radio? To be honest, the answer is probably “not very much.” But the funny thing about emergencies is they don’t wait for you to be ready. As such, an emergency radio is a device that everyone should own and due to their design, they are ready for just about anything. This includes a power outage as most will have solar and hand-cranking capabilities, but an emergency radio will have you covered for any emergency you find yourself in. But, just like any other radio, in the case of an emergency, you want a radio with good-to-excellent reception. After all, it’s better to have one and not need it, than it is to need one and not have it. At least, that’s what my mother always told me.
Given the importance of having one, there are a lot of emergency radios on that market, and sorting through all of the options can be overwhelming. But don’t panic, as we have done the research and listed the top ten emergency radios on the market, and why they are the best of the best. We have also listed some criteria to keep in mind when looking for your perfect emergency radio, and if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation you will be ready.
- Kaito KA500
- Several power sources
- Clear reception
- Midland WR120
- Three alert methods
- SAME programming
- Epica Digital
- Five charging options
- Backlit display
10 Best Emergency Radios
There is no shortage of broadcasts and channels that you can receive with AM and FM reception, seven pre-programmed NOAA weather channels, PEAS, and 24/7 real-time weather forecast.
Any possible way you can imagine powering a radio, this has the capability. This includes a hand crank generator, 5V AC/DC input (with a wall power adapter sold separately), solar panels, 5V USB input, and a compartment for three AA batteries.
Thanks to the telescopic antenna that extends up to 14.5-inches for a high-sensitivity reception, the signal strength is enhanced. Even though, however, some have proclaimed the FM reception leaves a lot to be desired.
Besides a LED flashlight, LED reading lamp, and red LED SOS beacon light, the 5V USB port can also be used to charge your smartphones, MP3 players, and various other USB devices.
While the hand crank system is a little on the flimsy side, everything else is suitable for outdoor use; including water-resistant and premium impact-resistant ABS material.
Is it a perfect radio? Of course not, but you can’t deny or overlook all this radio does right. Sure, better FM reception and a superior hand crank would have been nice but at this price point, its worth an investment.
- It is certified by the National Weather Service
- Has a 3-inch dynamic speaker that outputs crisp and clear audio
- Features several sources of power
- A more heavy-duty crank system would have been nice
- Not the best FM reception
Indeed, Midland decided to add SAME programming to their WR120 Radio. However, past this, it is programmed with over 60 alerts when natural disasters are on the horizon.
Unfortunately, this is where this radio is limited. Its backup power source is via three AA Alkaline batteries. While it is nice to have, it does not provide that much power.
Overall, the radio reception appears to be solid and not too many users have commented otherwise.
Besides a radio, you could feasibly utilize this as an alarm clock as it is equipped with a clock and an alarm system. In addition, it notifies you of emergencies via a voice alert, blinking LED light, and 90 dB siren.
As opposed to various other radios on this list, the WR120 is not the ruggedest. With that being said, it is a solid construction but just know, the top of the antennae can easily snap off.
What is terrific about the WR120 Radio is its integration of SAME programming and its alert system. It is a bit limited in terms of power and its sources but overall, it is a highly-competent piece of technology.
- Features SAME programming
- It is programmed with over 60 alerts for natural disasters such as flash flooding and hurricanes
- Will alert you in three ways (a siren, blinking LED light and voice alert)
- The backup power source is the use of 3AA Alkaline batteries (which is not that great)
What you would expect from an emergency radio, in terms of its broadcasting, is present with Epica’s radio. This includes NOAA VHF weather frequencies and, of course, standard AM and FM reception.
While it does not have the option for battery power, you can charge and power it one of five ways. Including via the solar panel, hand crank, USB port, and AC or DC output.
About the only issue with the reception is there is not a retractable antenna. In highly-covered or difficult locations, it can be hard to land a strong signal.
On the front of the radio, there is an implemented 3-LED flashlight for lighting in dark environments. Due to the USB port, as well, you can charge your smartphone and other devices.
Clearly, the standout feature here is the radio’s portability. Epica designed it to be as compact as possible and with the sturdy carabiner, you can also clip it.
When analyzed against the rest of the pack, it is easy to see why you may look past this model. Certainly, it has its limitations but at its core, it is a high-quality emergency radio that could end up saving your backside.
- Is backed by Epica’s 100 percent refund guarantee
- Features five different ways of charging
- The backlight and digital display allow you to view the radio in pitch darkness
- Does not have the option of battery power
- Due to the lack of a retractable antenna, the reception can be shaky at times
With the use of AM and FM broadcasting and also NOAA weather alert, you will be informed of upcoming disasters and weather alerts such as severe storms and tornadoes.
The 2000 mAh battery provides enough juice to run the radio for around four to six hours. To power it, you can spin the hand crank, use the sun in conjunction with the solar panel, charge via a micro USB cable, and also use three AAA batteries.
When you are able to find a radio station, which can be a bit more annoying due to the analog tuner, the reception is fairly good. It may be a bit fuzzy, but you should still be able to hear adequately enough.
Both the table lamp and LED flashlight can be used in survival situations when all you see is total darkness. Even more so, it has the capability of charging USB devices.
Most notable here is the fact that it does sport a waterproof rating of IPX3. As such, it can still be operated under inclement weather.
For an emergency radio at this price range, the RunningSnail MD-090 is the best option, period. There are clearly better options available but those on a budget will appreciate this radio.
- Features above-average reception
- Is waterproof per IPX3 standards
- Outputs a high-pitch siren to alert people of your location
- The analog tuner makes picking up specific stations difficult
- Not the best sounding speaker
To keep you informed of upcoming weather alerts and all news updates, you can broadcast either FM or AM radio. In addition, it has NOAA reception.
In an emergency situation, you will be able to charge this device. Even if the sun is not out for the solar panel or you do not have access to USB charging, the hand crank can generate necessary juice.
The analog tuner does not help when needing to find a specific station and overall, the reception is decent and nothing more.
You can both charge your external devices with the USB port and when the night comes, the 140 lumens of light will come in handy for you.
This is definitely a high-note of this radio as it is durable, lightweight enough for easy transport, and also water-resistant.
Securing a spot on a top 10 list is an achievement in its own right (granted there are several options to consider). But, just understand, this is not quite up-to-par with others.
- Its 1000mAh lithium battery provides enough juice to power your external devices
- Features a solar panel, hand-cranking and conventional charging
- Is water-resistant for up to IPX-3 standards
- Can be difficult to find specific radio stations because of the analog tuner
- It can be awkward to turn the crank
With AM/FM/NOAA weather alerts, you can stay up-to-date on all the whereabouts around your area. In addition to this, this also features SAME programming for further convenience.
There are a few ways that you can charge the lithium battery and the two most common, in emergencies, will be via the solar panel and hand crank. Speaking of which, the FRX5-BT’s hand crank is one of the most efficient versions out there.
Of all the other areas, this is where this radio shines the brightest. No matter if you are in the backcountry or utilizing the FM or AM broadcast, the reception is amazing and about as good as it gets.
Equipped with a USB port, you can charge your external devices with this radio (including smartphones). However, truly remarkable here is the integration of Bluetooth technology. If desired, you can stream podcasts and music anytime you want.
Because of its hard-plastic case and IPX4 splash-proof rating, this is designed to withstand anything the outdoors can throw at it (relatively speaking).
There are just times where you must sit back and marvel at greatness; this is one of those times. Anyone who is anyone will be proud to own this device and besides the obvious of being handy in emergencies, it truly is the best of its kind.
- Features Bluetooth technology for streaming your music and podcasts
- As compared to the competition, has the best hand-crank out there
- The reception is unbelievable and as clear as it gets
- Eton could have added a compass
Eton Scorpion II
Thanks to the high-quality digital tuner for both AM and FM reception, you are provided with the essential news and information you need. Adding on to this is an NOAA weather band receiver for additional weather alerts and warnings.
Before you begin your adventure, if the situation allows it, you can charge the lithium battery with an external power source. However, a hand crank and solar panels are also integrated for further charging options.
Despite the radio being relatively small, the reception is not indicative of this. As compared to the competition, both the AM and FM reception, sound, and backcountry reception are superb.
This sports all the gadgets that make it a multifunctional device. For example, it sports a bottle opener, a USB charger to charge your external handheld devices, and a ½-watt LED flashlight.
What is so fascinating about this radio is it is compact enough to easily fit inside of a safety kit, yet rugged enough to handle most elements that Mother Nature throws your way.
Just like the previous emergency radio, there really is not much that Eton could have improved on with this model. Its efficient hand crank, superior physical design and exceptional reception make it a no-brainer.
- Features a rugged exterior skin with an aluminum carabiner for transport
- Has excellent reception no matter the location
- Sports a very efficient hand crank
- Could have integrated a siren as a warning system
The MMR-88 Radio is equipped with a digital tuner of AM/FM/WX reception. All in all, you will be alerted of severe weather warnings and be able to react accordingly.
In any given time, you can charge the 850mAh lithium-ion battery in one of three ways. Firstly, would be via USB and an appropriate power source. But, for convenience, you can also charge it via a hand crank and from the sun with solar power.
While the signal is not quite as good as the previous two radios, it is still above-average and feasible for just about everyone’s standards. In times when you need the reception the most, it should be strong enough for you to understand what is being said.
In times of darkness, this radio also acts as a flashlight with its implemented LED lighting. Plus, a loud buzzer will sound-off in times of emergency. Also, you can charge compatible USB devices.
If you are oftentimes careless with your devices, you will appreciate the ultra-strong casing of the MMR-88. It is designed from hard plastic with rubber corners to add impact-resistance. To top it off, the casing is also water-resistant.
Impressive, that is the best way to describe this device. Even though it did not secure the top spot, if Eton did not exist, then this would be the king of emergency radios; that is for sure.
- The battery has a very quick charge
- Features an extremely durable casing and one of the best available
- Backed up by a one-year warranty
- It is not possible to use disposable batteries as a backup power source
American Red Cross FRX3+
This is a fully-functional radio that features AM/FM broadcast reception and all seven NOAA weather band stations. In addition, there is an Alert system and when it is enabled it will broadcast weather warnings in your area.
Besides the AAA battery and DC power options, you can also spin the turbine for power and also allow the sun to charge the radio.
Included on the American Red Cross FRX3 Radio is an internal ferrite antenna for AM reception and a telescoping antenna for FM reception. In conjunction with the clear sound from the front speaker, the experience is above-average.
Two main extra functionalities are present. One of which is its ability to act as a renewable power source for your external USB devices. The other is its white LED lights which can act as a flashlight.
Various users have griped about the construction and while it is not the best (the nobs being a primary source), the plastic is durable enough to handle a majority of accidents.
This radio delivers the goods that you come to expect from a radio of its caliber. But, not all positives can be taken away from this device as the battery life can be questionable.
- Features a headphone jack for individual listening
- The monophonic front speaker delivers clear and stellar audio
- Can be powered multiple ways
- Does not have the best battery life
- It should come with a plug to gather power from an outlet
Midland added an NOAA weather band receiver that features all seven channels for emergency messages, weather alerts and forecasts. In addition, the AM/FM receiver allows you to listen and tune-in to your favorite radio stations.
Along the line of other emergency radios, you are provided with three charging options. All of which, will charge the included lithium-ion battery. These include via the solar panel, hand crank, or USB port.
Overall, the signal you receive for both AM and FM broadcasts is strong and you should be able to pick up all necessary information. However, it has an exceptionally strong signal in the backwoods.
The integrated flashlight is not only useful in normal situations, and comes with a low/high option, but it can also be used as an SOS beacon to flash a Morse code distress signal. In addition, you can charge your smartphones via the USB port.
While this radio is not resistant to water, making it unsuitable for bad weather, the casing is that of hard plastic and rubber. Thus, it will adequately withstand accidental drops and bumps.
When it comes to emergency situations, the Midland ER310 is as prepared as any other radio on the market. This is thanks to its flashlight that can be utilized as a Morse code distress signal and ultrasonic dog whistle for search and rescue dogs to know your whereabouts.
- Features a backlit LCD display
- Incorporates an ultrasonic dog whistle for extra precaution
- Backed by Midland’s one-year warranty
- Does not have the best hand crank, in terms of power produced
Criteria Used For The Evaluation
What It Can Broadcast
At the heart of every radio in the world is its broadcasting capabilities. After all, without it, they would simply be clocks (if they even have that function). Everyone should be accustomed to both AM and FM and if nothing else, you have heard of these acronyms. These two broadcasts deliver radio stations that you are accustomed to listening to. Whether you listen to them for their music, news, or talk, they are there for your entertainment. However, emergency radios would not be complete with just this broadcasting. Instead, most will implement an NOAA weather band receiver.
The NOAA Weather Radio is an automated network of radio stations throughout the United States that runs 24 hours a day. They broadcast weather information directly from the nearest service office. This can include basic weather updates and in more severe cases, potential natural disasters. But, it does not end there as you can also look out for radios that employ SAME programming. This allows you to program the radio to only playback alerts in your current county or city, so you don’t have to listen to any alerts that are meaningless to you at the moment.
The Variety of Ways to Power the Radio
Probably more than anything else, besides the integration of weather alert systems, the power sources are what make emergency radios special. Oftentimes, when a disaster strikes, you will not have access to electrical power. In the event of a power outage, a radio that relies on electricity is effectively useless. To make them prepared for anything, manufacturers will implement backup power sources. This can vary from solar energy to hand generated power to juice from external batteries. However, solar energy and external batteries can also be limited. After all, you need the sunlight to generate power from the solar panel and on a stormy day, this is not feasible. Same goes for batteries; once you run out of them, it’s game over.
This is where a hand crank comes into play and overall, it is the most reliable form of power. All it takes is a little elbow grease on your part as you must manually spin the crank for power. Of course, the amount of juice you generate from a few minutes of cranking will vary from radio to radio. Clearly, you will want to prioritize those that provide more battery life.
The Radio Reception
Is there anything more annoying than when your favorite radio station’s signal keeps going in and out? Now, take that nuisance and imagine you need to hear essential information that could determine your safety. The ineptitude of this is much worse as your life could be in the balance. Yes, this is extreme but remember, these radios are designed for just that. So, do not underestimate how crucial the reception is. When it comes to the reception, a few factors will determine how superb it is.
First off is the signal strength from your radio to the tower that is broadcasting the station. Secondly is the type of receiver and antenna that is utilized in the radio itself. Even more so is when you are under heavy tree cover or obstacles in the air. In this case, attempt to point the antenna to minimize the number of obstructions that are in the way. As you can’t physically test the reception without actually buying the radio, reference websites online that have manually tested the reception. This information can be key for you.
Emergency Radios Other Functions
In the modern world, technology devices seem to never be designed to complete just one task. Instead, more and more manufacturers are implementing the notion that the world has moved on from devices that serve one purpose. Thankfully, this is not a bad thing; not at all. Emergency radios are certainly no different and besides their main functionality, most come equipped with several other functionalities. The two most common integrations are the ability to charge your USB devices and an LED flashlight. Clearly, the former is a pure convenience but it can also be a lifesaver. If your smartphone is out of juice and you need to call or text someone for assistance but you do not have any means of charging it, the radio can be the answer.
As for an LED flashlight, it can come in handy at night or possibly during a power outage. Of course, some can also be utilized to send out an SOS beacon to act as a Morse code distress signal.
Its Durability and Overall Construction
No technology device is intended to be thrown around vigorously and abused. However, humans are not perfect and sometimes accidents happen. Things fall and slip from your hands and when this occurs, you would like whatever falls to withstand it. This is where a durable casing comes into play and even more so, rubber corners to add shock and impact resistance. Given that emergencies can oftentimes be caused by severe storms or you being lost, you can also never predict the weather. Thus, water-resistance can also be a key factor. Now, remember one aspect of water-resistance and that is it is different than waterproof. As such, a water-resistant radio could still be prone to malfunction during a torrential downpour.
Q: How Close to the NOAA Towers Do You Need to Be?
Just like FM and AM broadcasting, NOAA reception is not magically provided from the sky. On the contrary, NOAA has there towers everywhere around the United States and you must be within a specific range to receive the signal. Question is, how close do you need to be? For an accurate and clear signal, you should be within 40 miles of the nearest tower. However, this is going to vary based on your terrain and the quality of the receiver integrated into the radio. The goal of the NOAA is to provide as many towers as physically possible to account for as many people as they can.
Before you invest in an emergency radio, do some research to find out where the nearest NOAA tower is located in conjunction with your current residence.
Q: What to do If You Have Reception Problems?
Even the best receivers in the world will experience signal issues from time to time. Why so? Well, as was already documented, the signal can be affected by the distance of the receiver from the tower. So what can you do? Well, if you are constantly receiving a poor signal then you should probably invest in a radio with a superior receiver. Remember, reception is everything. However, what if you have the best emergency radio and the signal is still cutting in and out? If you are using it in your home, try and move the radio near a window or in a different location altogether.
As this method will not work all the time, you could also invest in an external antenna if the radio does not already have one. Check in with your local electronics store and see if they have any good models available. If need be, you can also ask for the personnel’s assistance.
Q: Where Should You Keep an Emergency Radio?
This is a good, no, terrific question that needs to be addressed. Emergency radios can be used for many purposes but their main design is to alert you of upcoming storms and potential natural disasters. In order for you to receive the alert for it, you must know you are being sent an alert. In other words, it needs to be placed in an area where you will hear the alert. This will vary from person to person but at night, your bedroom is a logical choice. If something occurs at night, the only way you will know is if the radio wakes you from your stupor.
But, at the end of the day, it should be placed in an area that produces an optimal amount of reception. Wherever this happens to be, leave it there as a weak signal can render the radio essentially useless.
Q: How Do You Find the Location of an NOAA Tower?
Alright, so it has already been addressed multiple times that in order to receive an NOAA signal you must be within a certain number of miles (40) from an appropriate tower. What you now may be wondering is how you find out if there is an NOAA tower in your area. Thankfully, the NOAA makes this very easy for you and all you need to do is visit their official webpage. When you do so, you will have to navigate to their NWR Transmitter Search page. Here, simply click on the search icon and enter your location. From there, you must click on the transmitter icon to view the details of the specific transmitter.
The NOAA makes a note that the transmitters that show up on their webpage are within a 40-mile radius. Also, they also mention that you can reset the map by simply pressing the reset button.
Q: Why Are Alerts Not Being Sent to the Radio?
This is where SAME programming comes in handy and when you try it out, you will understand why it is so amazing. However, if you are discovering that you are not receiving alerts that you should, you could be doing something wrong. First off, you must ensure that you have entered the appropriate codes for your specific city or county. To access them, you need to reference the database of NOAA (which can be accessed online by anyone). As simple as it sounds, this could be the only problem you are having.
But, if you still are having issues then ensure that the Alert switch is turned to the on position. Again, a simple mistake but a common one. Finally, if this fails, it could simply be your reception is poor and if so, reference the other question that addressed this issue.
Q: Should You Own an Emergency Radio?
As soon as this guide was started, it was briefly mentioned that you may never see the need for an investment like this. But, you never know when disaster will strike and when it does, you want to be adequately prepared. However, the naysayers will simply ask why they can’t just use another device. The reality is, no other device works as well as emergency radios do when an emergency strikes. It is almost like their name implies so! Plus, if you rely on other devices, will they work during a power outage? No, because these types of radios will. Just another reason for you to spend some money (even the best ones are not too much money) on one as no money in the world can replace a human life.
Can you really put a price on a device that can potentially save your life? Look, emergency radios are probably not going to be an every-day device or even an every-month device, for that matter. In those times where disaster strikes, though, it is better to be prepared than not. Granted you now understand the key design features to look out for, you can keep you and your family protected.