With any luck, you will never find yourself in need of an emergency radio. But if you do find yourself in dire circumstances, an emergency radio can keep you up-to-date on what is going on in your area. With multiple power options, you can keep it charged even when the power grid is down. It can provide you with continuous updates on the weather, fires, natural disasters, chemical spills, Amber Alerts, and other emergencies. Many emergency radios also include extra features like a light or the option to charge up smartphones and other devices.
If you are thinking about purchasing an emergency radio but are not sure where to begin your search, check out the table below.
|Kaito KA500||View on Amazon|
|iRonsnow IS-088||View on Amazon|
|American Red Cross FRX3||View on Amazon|
|Sangean MMR-88||View on Amazon|
|Midland ER310||View on Amazon|
|La Crosse 810-805||View on Amazon|
Still want to learn more about emergency radios before making your purchase? Read on to learn what they are, how they work, questions to ask, and features to look for when you are shopping.
What is an Emergency Radio?
Say you are stuck in your basement waiting out a tornado and need to know when it is safe to go outside. Or maybe you are snowed or flooded into your house—or perhaps there is a forest fire raging nearby and you do not know which roads are safe.
The purpose of an emergency radio is to bring you these vital updates when you need them, even if the main power grid is down.
Emergency radios are designed to sip power, and usually offer several different power options (including sometimes a hand crank). Some models also include a number of bells and whistles, providing you with additional functionality when you need it most.
Questions to Ask When Shopping for an Emergency Radio
Do you need a two-way radio?
Most emergency radios are designed as standalone devices which provide you with critical updates as needed. They are not built for two-way communication. If you do need a two-way radio, you might want to consider a more expensive device which offers you both capabilities.
What devices will you use with it?
If you purchase an emergency radio which can charge other devices, you may need to purchase adaptors for some of them.
What kind of reception do you need?
You have the option of shopping for aftermarket antennas to boost the reception of your emergency radio. There are cases where you will get the best value choosing a device with high reception right from the off, but other scenarios where it may make more sense to augment reception later.
Features and Add-Ons to Look For When Shopping for an Emergency Radio
This is a sticker which tells you that a radio can both receive public alerts and relay them to you effectively. A Public Alert radio can play a tone preceding an alert to get your attention. If you are hearing-impaired, you can buy a radio which flashes a light or vibrates instead.
“NOAA NWR All Hazards”
When you see this logo on an emergency radio, it means that it can receive alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service. This is a must-have feature since a large part of the reason you are buying an emergency radio is to keep you safe during inclement weather conditions and natural disasters.
This stands for “Specific Area Message Encoding.” It is a feature which allows you to get warnings which are specific to your region. This is not necessarily a must-have feature, but it can be very helpful because it screens out alerts which do not apply to you. This conserves power, reduces the number of false alarms you have to deal with, and ensures that you take alerts seriously when they do come in.
You want an AC adaptor for your emergency radio, but you also want it to be able to draw power from other sources in case your grid goes down. Power options to look for include batteries, solar panels, and the ability to plug into the cigarette lighter socket in your car. Some models even include a hand crank. Keep in mind that many users report that hand cranking emergency radios is a pain—but in a survival situation, it could make all the difference in the world.
You will be hard-pressed to find an emergency radio which is actually waterproof, but water resistance is a common feature. This is very important if you live in an area which receives a lot of rainfall and where flooding is a possibility. It is also vital if you plan to bring the emergency radio with you on a boat.
You may also want to look for a unit which offers you some level of dust-resistance. If you live in a dry area which is subject to dust storms (like a desert), this could be an essential feature.
Bells and Whistles
There are so many cool optional features which you can find on emergency radios. While these features tend to increase the cost, you will discover that many emergency radios with these extras are still quite reasonably priced. Examples include:
- A built-in flashlight
- Extra battery packs and ports to recharge smartphones, tablets, and other devices
- Programmable stations
- Built-in speakers and/or headphone ports
- A reading lamp
Keep in mind that extras like these do add another cost in the form of power drain. You will need to decide what is more important to you—being able to read in the dark or charge your tablet, or having longer battery life. Of course, if you have enough power options, the added drain of these features may not be a problem.
You now know the most important features to shop for in an emergency radio and some of the added extras you can shop for if you have the budget and the need. Still need help making a purchase decision? Scroll back up to the top of this page to view our product comparison chart. We have already done the legwork for you and have compiled a list of the top-rated, best-selling emergency radios on Amazon.com!
Kaito KA500: a Solar Powered Radio That Works Without Batteries
The Kaito KA500 is one of the best shortwave capable emergency radios on the market today. If you expose this amazing little radio to the sun, you’ll be able to pick up radio signals– even if there are no batteries inside it. If its plastic crank arm was made out of sturdier stuff, the KA500 would be just about perfect.
- Solar powered. The KA500 works without batteries if you expose the solar panels to direct sunlight.
- Built-in flashlight. The highly efficient LED lamp lasts a very long time.
- Versatile. You can listen to NOAA weather alerts, AM/FM radio and shortwave radio broadcasts.
- Multiple charging options. Power up via solar rays, mechanical energy, USB or A/C adaptor.
- Affordable price. This radio is surprisingly cheap, considering all the features you get with it.
- It’s quiet. The crank doesn’t make much noise at all when you use it.
- Decent shortwave reception. Dedicated shortwave radios outperform the KA500. However, its reception is still pretty good for an emergency radio.
- The plastic crank arm isn’t very sturdy.
- You have to use a Kaito brand A/C charger with it. Non-Kaito charging equipment will damage the circuit board.
American Red Cross FRX3: the Emergency Radio the Pros Trust
The official emergency radio of the American Red Cross lives up to its name. FRX3 is very reliable and comes with a wide array of useful features. This is one of the few emergency radios on the market that’s capable of quickly “dump” charging personal electronic devices.
- Super efficient hand crank. One minute of hand cranking produces enough energy to power a 5 minute phone call.
- Many ways to charge it. You can use an USB connection, the crank, solar power or standard batteries to charge this radio.
- Charges electronic devices quickly. Once you fill it with enough electricity, you can quickly “dump” charge your cellphone if you want to make a quick call.
- Excellent speakers. Music sounds surprisingly good coming out of this radio.
- Aux input. If you’re stuck in a disaster, hook up your mp3 player and listen to some tunes while you wait to be rescued.
- Trusted by Red Cross. Professional search and rescue teams rely on this radio.
- Headphone jack. You can plug in and listen at night without disturbing anyone.
- A/C charger and batteries are not included.
- No shortwave radio capability.
La Crosse 810-805: a Small, Portable Emergency Radio With Great Battery Life
La Crosse 810-805 simple yet effective little emergency radio is small and compact enough to be used at the gym. Its speakers and antenna are a cut above what you’d find in a normal portable radio. Plus, the 810-805’s shock resistant rubber shell protects it from wear and tear.
- Loud and clear audio quality. Music, news and weather reports come in crystal clear.
- Display changes color after a weather alert. You’ll instantly know if NOAA sent out an alert just by glancing at the display.
- Adjustable flashlight. You can dim the light if you want to save power.
- Rugged rubber shell. This little radio is practically indestructible.
- Comes with a lanyard. This handy feature allows you to tie the radio to your waist or hitch it to your backpack.
- Excellent battery life. One set of batteries will power the radio for several months.
- Small and compact. This radio is small enough to fit in your hand.
- You need electricity to use it. It doesn’t have a crank or solar panels.
- The NOAA weather notification system doesn’t work if you’re listening to music.
Midland ER310: A Powerful Emergency Radio With Alternate Charging Options
Looking for an emergency radio which can function long after its batteries first run out of charge? Consider the Midland ER310, a highly regarded AM/FM digital weather radio which includes multiple charging options.
- Alternative charging options available. The Midland ER310 comes with a replaceable 2600 mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery. But the radio does not rely solely on the mini-USB charging cable to keep the batteries full of juice. The attached solar panel can charge the batteries, as can the hand crank. That means even if you have nowhere to plug in, you can continue to operate the radio.
- Use alternate batteries. Don’t want to use the rechargeable batteries? 6 AA batteries can also be used to power the device.
- Flashlight included. This is not just a standard flashlight either; it is a bright LED light which produces 130 lumens. Not only that, but it can be used as an SOS beacon which spells out your distress signal in Morse code.
- Ultrasonic dog whistle. Need more than a flashlight beacon to call rescue teams in your direction? The radio includes an ultrasonic dog whistle.
- NOAA weather alerts. Receive continuous updates on inclement weather in your area.
- Charge other devices. You can use the power in your emergency radio to charge external devices.
- Lots of other great features. The Midland ER310 also includes a telescopic antenna, a large backlit LCD display, a digital clock, and a headphone jack.
- The charging port has some design flaws. It is not very strongly constructed, so it can break easily if you are not careful.