If you love wilderness adventures that take you off the grid or live in an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado zone, quality and reliable survival radio are a must-have. We’ve researched the different models on the market and reviewed the ten best emergency radios below. They will deliver important weather alerts and warnings when and where other means have failed and also provide light and a way to charge your phone when you need it most.
In the event of a disaster or emergency, information has life-saving power. No disaster or emergency preparedness kit is complete without a survival radio. The best weather alert radios below have the features and functionality to get you through even the most serious disasters. Our choosing guide explains the most important features a radio should have for it to be useful in dire situations.
How To Choose An Emergency Radio – Buying Guide
Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME)
S.A.M.E stands for Specific Area Message Encoding. This feature enables you to program your survival radio to receive only alerts specific to your location. This saves you time by giving you only relevant information and conserves power.
Water Resistance, LED Lights And Alarm Clocks
For a radio to be used during disasters such as storms and outdoor emergencies, it is important that it is water-resistant and has a built-in LED light that can function as a flashlight or an emergency signal such as a Morse Code. Alarm clocks also come handy as they alert you to incoming warnings and updates.
Charging Ports And Other Extras
A radio that offers additional features that come in handy during an emergency is ideal. First of all, make sure the radio has a working USB output port that will charge your cell phone so you can make emergency calls. Other useful extras to look for including an LED flashlight, headphone jack, SOS siren and signal, reading light, compass, clock, alarm, etc.
The ability to receive and transmit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updates is a necessity in an emergency survival radio. With an NOAA weather radio, you will be able to receive emergency alerts even when and where the reception is poor. To ensure that you get a radio with NOAA receiver, make sure it has AM capability and look for an NOAA sticker.
Good emergency radios have multiple power options: AC adaptor, USB, AAA or AA batteries, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can be charged via AC, USB port, solar panel, and manually by a hand crank. With all these charging options, you will be able to keep your radio working even if the power goes out for an extended duration.
Size And Weight
Size and weight also matter especially when you want a hand-crank radio you can use anywhere. A lightweight and handheld survival hand crank radio is more convenient to keep in an emergency kit and use outdoors and on the move. If you want a survival radio primarily for use indoors, consider a larger model with more features.
Color might not seem like an important consideration for an emergency device. However, it’s a good idea to choose a color that blends with the environment when shopping for a radio to use outdoors. For urban use where you’re sending a signal to be rescued, a highly visible color such as bright red or yellow is a good idea.
In addition to having multiple charging methods, it is important to get a radio with long battery life so you can get a decent amount of listening time and lighting before you have to replace batteries or recharge it. Check the stated playtime by the manufacturer and read survival radio reviews.
Range and Tuning Ability
The best emergency radios offer multiple tuning options, have a wide band range, can pick up plenty of stations, and have a telescoping antenna. Digital tuning is usually easier to use than analog tuning but analog tuning makes it easier to obtain harder to reach signals. Check that the emergency radio you buy has good reception and test it after you get it. It is also smart to have a separate antenna for boosting the reception.
Ease of Operation
In an emergency situation, the ease of operation will be the most important feature. It is important to get the most useful radio that is also easy to use and comes with easy to understand and follow instructions.
Help & Support
Last but not least, look into the kind of customer support the survival radio equipment manufacturer offers. You want to be assured that getting the help and support you need won’t be a hassle. Look at the kind of warranty the brand offers and read consumer survival radio reviews to get an idea of the quality of customer service to expect.
Q: What Is All Hazards And Do I Need It?
An "all-hazards" emergency radio broadcasts all kinds of emergency information from weather warnings, evacuations alerts to civil emergencies. Whenever there is an emergency or life-threatening event, the radio will sound an alert and then deliver real-time information about the hazard. If you live in a disaster-prone area or your wilderness expeditions take you off the grid, you need this feature.
Q: What Do You Do If Your Reception Is Poor?
If there is a National Weather Service (NWS) station covering your area, it is important to know the frequency of the nearest tower. The range for NWR reception is usually about 40 miles from the transmitter. If your reception is poor, what you can do is get a separate antenna to boost the reception.
Q: Please Explain The S.A.M.E. Technology In Some Emergency Radios?
S.A.M.E. stands for Specific Area Message Encoding. An emergency radio with this technology will allow you to program it to receive only emergency alerts meant for your location.
Q: When Will I Need A Survival Radio?
You will need a survival radio when natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornados or adventures in the wilderness take you off the grid and you don’t have access to electricity or cell phone signal. A survival radio will deliver important weather updates, emergency alerts and news broadcast.
Q: Why Cant I Just Use My Smartphone?
A smartphone is often not a viable option in the wilderness and when disasters strike followed by power outages. Batteries die, signals get overloaded, and cell phone towers collapse. You need a backup device that can work off the grid.
Q: What Kind Of Radio Is Used for Emergency?
A battery-powered or hand-cranked radio with the ability to receive NOAA updates as well as FM and FM stations is the best emergency radio to use. This kind of radio can be operated when there’re power outages and receive emergency broadcasts even where and when the reception is poor.
Q: How Long Do Hand Crank Radios Last?
Hand crank emergency radios can last years. Some models come with a one-year warranty while some come with lifetime limited warranties. Play time can vary from about 6 hours to days depending on the power source and level of usage. Cranking the lever for 1 minute can produce 10 - 20 minutes of radio time.
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When disasters or outdoor expeditions take you off the grid, an emergency survival radio will be the most valuable emergency equipment. It will be your only way to get important warnings and news. If you have the best emergency radio, you will also have a way to signal, a flashlight, and a way to charge your phone for emergency use.
Ensure the model you choose has a long battery life, multiple charging methods, access to NOAA channels, and ability to withstand harsh conditions. When you get your radio, we recommend testing its power sources and functions before you actually have to use it in an emergency situation.
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Which of the emergency radios on our list is your top choice? We would love to read your thoughts or experience with the emergency radios we’ve reviewed! Feel free to share in the comment box below!