Natural calamities often hit without any warning. And sometimes the warnings do not prepare you for being cut off from the world. At times like these you need two things: the comfort of your family and regular updates on when the situation will be over. Emergency radios are those which can effectively receive weather alerts from designated governmental agencies during distress and can power up from more than one source. When the mobile network is down, the good ol’ radio waves can still catch the weather news and keep you informed of the latest developments. The best emergency radios do much more than communicate within a reasonable budget. We have handpicked the top 10 survival radios that offer whatever solace they can during a natural disaster.
- 1 Who relays weather radio alerts?
- 2 How do emergency radios receive the weather radio alerts?
- 3 How do the emergency radios power up during emergencies?
- 4 Which are the best emergency radios?
- 5 Top 10 Best Emergency Radios in 2017 – Chart
- 6 1. Crane CCRadio-2E Enhanced Portable AM FM Weather and 2-Meter Ham Band CC2BE
- 7 2. Sangean CL-100 S.A.M.E. Table-Top Weather Hazard Alert with AM / FM-RBDS Alarm Clock Radio
- 8 3. Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power,Dynamo Crank, Wind Up Emergency NOAA Weather Alert Radio
- 9 4. Crane CC Pocket AM FM and NOAA Weather Radio with Clock and Sleep Timer
- 10 5. Ambient Weather WR-111B Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Digital Radio
- 11 6. Midland WR120EZ NOAA Weather and All Hazard Public Alert Certified Radio with SAME
- 12 7. Eton American Red Cross FRX3 Hand Crank NOAA AM/FM Weather Alert Radio
- 13 8. Epica Digital Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Radio
- 14 9. iRonsnow Dynamo Emergency Solar Hand Crank Self Powered AM/FM NOAA Weather Radio
- 15 10. RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio For Emergency
Who relays weather radio alerts?
In US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) controls the National Weather Radio(NWR) network which broadcasts all weather-related information through National Weather Service(NWS) offices. As of now, almost 95% of the US population can be reached via this network and all 50 states are covered. It also issues alerts for national security issues and natural, public and environmental safety warnings. AMBER alerts are covered in these.
NWS suggests that you check out the frequency used for your specific area for these radio alerts to receive weather information pertaining to your locations. The best emergency radios can receive more than one of the seven emergency channels in your area.
How do emergency radios receive the weather radio alerts?
When a weather alert is issued via the NWS network, the emergency radios that have an ‘alert’ feature will assert an alarm and/or turn on. A 1050Hz attention tone is sent before the message. The alert is announced as a voice message next. The alert tone is sounded for 10s and the receiver should react to it within 5s. If there’s no ‘alert feature’, you need to be tuned to the NOAA channels to receive the alert.
The modern emergency radios are capable of detecting, decoding and responding to SAME, Specific Area Message Encoding. This allows users to receiver alerts pertaining only to specific areas like their place or their friends/family’s place. Many of the emergency radios can make SAME messages discriminate according to the type of message as well, apart from the location.
SAME radios often have LED lights that indicate the severity of the natural hazard or alert. Sometimes there’s a port on the radio for connecting additional alarm devices like strobe lights or sirens. The LEDs and the extra noises are useful to the hearing-impaired or visually-impaired folks.
These radios don’t just alert you before the disaster, they keep you updated once the calamity unleashes. When the phone line, TV and power are down, the emergency radio will help you at least receive updates of the situation. Some of them will also let you transmit and inform authorities of your location and states. They might also receive FM radio which keeps your spirits up during distress. The best emergency radios have features like flashlight that comes in handy at night or when you are trapped in the dark.
Many of these emergency radios also act as power banks. They charge other devices with their own power like flashlight, phones, MP3 players etc. These radios have a healthy battery life themselves and can afford to charge the other devices without draining themselves too much.
How do the emergency radios power up during emergencies?
Emergency radios usually have rechargeable batteries inside which charge via AC power. In the event you have access to power, use the AC power cord to charge these.
Some of these are solar-powered. They can be charged in the sun. An emergency might not deprive you of sun and it offers an eco-conscious way of charging the device.
Most of the best emergency radios are capable of being hand-cranked. Such radios have a lever which can be rotated to induce power into the radio and use it during emergency. Granted, this way of cranking the radio generates very less power. But this is a great help when no other source of power is available.
Some emergency radios can be powered by non-rechargeable AA battery sets.
Which are the best emergency radios?
For emergencies, you require a reliable and sturdy emergency radio. And you need to look out for some important parameters:
Frequency Reception: For an emergency radio, you should look for a capable AM/FM receiver. The good ones also have HAM bands that receive alerts from volunteer amateur radio operators. AM reception is the most important factor. NOAA alerts are received over AM and these have a longer reach than FM. But ability to tune into local FM stations is also appreciated in the best emergency radios.
Reception: Check that the radio clearly receives the broadcast from the nearest NWS stations. If the received message is not clear, you might miss out important search-and-rescue details. The best emergency radios covered here performed admirably when it came to receiving detailed messages.
Power Sources: An emergency radio can never have enough power sources. The best emergency radios here have 2 or more charging sources, usually the more reliable ones like solar power and hand-cranking. If the usual sources of power fail, these will help you crank the radio back up.
Durability: Emergency radios by definition should be capable of surviving through an emergency situation. We looked for shock-proof and possibly waterproof system that will battle on through the tough situations.
Features: You want to keep your emergency kit as compact as possible to be able to make a quick getaway. So we prefer that emergency radio replaces as many other devices as possible. Some of them have in-built flashlights, battery chargers, 3.5mm headphone jack etc..
SAME: We looked for radios that can issue area-specific SAME messages that will save time and be less alarming to you. Add-ons that come with such advanced radios like LEDs, ports to connect sirens and strobe lights earned brownie points.
Budget: We have covered a wide price-range of the emergency radios. If you live in an area prone to natural hazards, you must invest in a reliable emergency radio with SAME alerts. This might cost more. We have covered some budget-oriented emergency radios too. These are durable but may not be as sturdy as the more expensive ones.
Top 10 Best Emergency Radios in 2017 – Chart
The C.Crane CCRadio-2E survival radio is the best AM radio in the market and certainly the clearest out of CC’s indomitable CCRadio line. This radio looks much like CCRadio-2 but it has undergone major under-the-hood changes. The AM performance has notably improved and set a high standard for the market. The audio has also been tuned to be pleasing to the ears with an energetic mix of bass and treble. It is undoubtedly the star attraction of our best emergency radios list.
Design and Features
The C.Crane CCRadio-2E Enhanced emergency radio is an old-fashioned little box that looks like it means business. The front side of the radio has the speaker grill, the LCD display, the tuning up/down buttons, bass and treble knobs and clock-related buttons. The side has a Squelch knob. It weighs around 4 lbs without the batteries and measures 11” x 6.5” x 4”.
This emergency radio is extremely responsive to AM. It is one of the most sensitive AM receivers in the market. It can pick up nearby stations within 50-60 miles easily without even extending the stock antenna. It can easily hear the stations that are not even picked up by the earlier versions like CCRadio. It also has high selectivity. That is, while hearing a certain station , it focuses on getting that audio and doesn’t let other stations interfere with their splatter. The local FM radio stations are also quickly acquired without the need for external antenna. You might not even need to bring the stock antenna out of its case. The audio signature of CC2E is perfect to enjoy FM audio just for entertainment. There’s more focus on bass and treble which can be altered with the knobs.
With its excellent reception capabilities, CCRadio-2E survival radio can lock on multiple NOAA weather channels. The closest will be easily picked up. Other stations up to 70 miles may be heard on it. You can set 5 memory presets per band by a single button tap on the top. You cannot key in the frequencies, you have to use the up/down tuning buttons. It is capable of covering the 2m ham band. A squelch control for the same is provided. You can scan the entire band or just the channels stored as presets. When you are tuning frequencies, CC2E auto fine-tunes as soon as you stop on an active frequency and locks in. The signal icon flashes to show that the radio is fine-tuning. The process takes 1-2s.
This survival radio works either on direct AC power or four ‘D’ batteries. The display can have 3 levels of brightness and the ‘off’ setting. This radio also packs a clock, an alarm, sleep timer, headphone jack and autoscan facilities. We expected more presets per band from the radio especially since you cannot key in the frequencies.
- Outstanding AM reception
- Good FM range and reception
- Excellent audio quality with punchy bass
- 2m ham coverage
- Auto scan and fine-tuning
- Only 5 presets per band at the price
Sangean CL-100 emergency radio is an SAME radio which can be programmed to issue radio alerts only for your area. It is a certified Public Alert weather radio which is specialized at picking up the relevant NOAA weather radio frequencies in your area. Like any emergency device, it is built to be as compact and as sturdy as possible. The radio reception is very reliable. It has an innovative scrolling display and number of extras like sleep timer, wakeup alarm, clock etc. This is a set designed keeping the best emergency radios in mind.
Design and Features
The Sangean CL-100 Survival radio is a compact and highly portable device measuring 7.1”x 5.17” x 2.63”. It is quite lightweight at 12.4 ounces. Half of the front face carries a speaker grille. The rest has an LCD screen slanting at 45° from the vertical. The SAME event information scrolls across the LCD as it’s received. The buttons rest just below the screen. It has contrast and dimmer adjustments. A panel runs at the lower portion of the face with preset buttons and snooze button. All the ports are on the top side. These include a headphone jack, an auxiliary input, port for external alert device like a siren, and external antenna port.
This emergency radio is capable of issuing Specific Area Message Encoding(SAME) alert pertaining to a particular area. You can find the SAME county codes on NOAA website and program up to 25 in the memory. If you store your county and the surrounding areas, you will get alerts specific to these counties. You can also log up to the last 20 messages in the memory. You can use the external alert jack to sound a siren or light up a strobe light as soon as the alert is raised. You can use either the embedded antenna on the radio or connect an external antenna on the top.
You can set up to 5 FM and 5 AM presets on the CL-100 emergency radio. You have the option to turn off an alarm and ‘Defeat’ the voice alert of emergency transmission. You may still have the warning LED on. It also has an end-of-message tone after which the radio mutes itself. The AM reception is clear with the local weather station. FM reception is strong enough to let you enjoy the songs and entertaining shows. It has an auto-scan feature which scans all the available frequencies and finds the strongest AM/FM reception.
It has a sleep timer that can be set to 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 and 120 mins. The radio turns off and gently wakes you with the media you set like songs, news etc.. Portable media players can be connected to the radio via an aux-in jack. Bass and treble are adjustable to get the sound signature you like. It works on AC power or via backup batteries.
- SAME radio alerts with 25 memory spaces for saving counties
- Alert and Alarm tone can be silenced
- External alarm port
- Scrolling display shows SAME text
- Sleep timer and human wake-up system
- 45° slanted screen may not be visible in all situations
Kaito KA500 is a certified NOAA weather alert radio that satisfies all the parameters of success for emergency radios. And it falls under a very reasonable budget. Its poppy color makes it easy to spot in dim light or amongst other things. It has the capability to work on five types of power sources. It has a number of emergency facilities to substantiate your emergency kit. Combined with its trusty reception, these perks land it in the best emergency radios list.
Design and Features
Kaito KA500 emergency radio looks like a beast machine capable of taking over the world. It is constructed of shock-resistant and water-resistant ABS material. It measures 8.25”x 5.25” x2.5” in all directions. A detachable solar panel is mounted on the top of this radio. The left side has a lever to crank the radio up manually. A meter in the front shows the frequency tuning. There are knobs for selecting the frequencies. A fabric handle with a plastic grip is attached to the top.
This is a 5-way powered survival radio. You can use it with a set of three AA batteries, plug it to an AC source, plug it to a USB power cord, hand crank it or use solar power. The hand crank can power it up for approx 40 mins per 10 mins of chanking. It covers AM, FM and shortwave frequencies in reception. It has all 7 NOAA channels pre-programmed, so much so, it has been thus certified by the National Weather Service itself. It can be set in standby status and it powers up automatically as NOAA alerts come through. FM in the 88-108 MHz range and AM in 530-1710kHzz can be heard on it. The audio response is tuned such that you can actually enjoy music from the received FM stations. Its telescoping antenna extends 14.5” for highly sensitive reception.
The KA500 emergency radio packs a USB mobile charger which serves devices like smartphones, mp3 players, tablet etc which have a corresponding port. An LED flashlight allows you to get around in the dark if your torch dies. A red LED with blinker function on this radio can be used as an SOS flashing signal. It also packs a reading lamp to keep you engaged at night or to calm down the kids. It is available in 5 attractive colors. This is a great unit for outdoor recreational activities like camping as well.
- 5-way powered radio
- AM/FM/shortwave/NOAA coverage
- Power bank, LED flashlight, reading light, red blinker
- 5 attractive colors
- Coatings on some pieces have been reported to become sticky over time
The C. Crane CC Pocket emergency radio is a little marvel. It features CC’s incorrigible capability of drawing in the AM/FM signals in a pocket-ready size. This is costlier than the average pocket radios but it is worth every dime with its features and performance. Even as a device as small as this packs excellent battery life, clock and alarm functions and memory presets. Its reception and selectivity are the final embellishments on its place in the best emergency radios aisle.
Design and Features
The C. Crane CC Pocket survival radio is a suave-looking device done up in grey. It measures barely 4.25 inches in height, 2.5 inches in width and 1 inch in depth. The total weight comes to a mere 4 ounces. It can easily fit inside a short pocket as the name intends. It has rubber coatings in the sides and bottom to provide a good grip. They also make it shock-resistant in case it falls on any of these sides. The front side has a speaker grille, a backlit LCD display, 5 memory preset buttons and tuning buttons. The band, alert and lock buttons are on the side.
This emergency radio picks up AM and FM stations with ease. Switching to NOAA weather alert mode disables AM/FM. With the local stations, you will not require an antenna. The reception of CC Pocket radio during day and night time is that good. But if you want more distant FM or NOAA stations, you can connect earphones to the headphones jack of the unit. The earphones double as antenna. Or you can use the FM antenna extension. A pair of earbuds is shipped with the set. Once you are tuned to the desired frequency, you can switch on the lock from the side panel so that you don’t change frequencies accidentally.
The CC Pocket emergency radio is powered by 2 AA batteries. If you use the earbuds to listen to the radio, it will last 75 hours. If you use the speakers, one set of batteries last around 25 hours. Apart from a clock and alarm, this has sleep timer too. It has a battery meter, a signal meter and stereo/mono FM reception indicator. You can disable the display screen while listening to AM which improves the radio reception in some situations. The 1.25” speaker has a rich dynamic sound but there’s no way to improve bass or regulate treble.
- Pocket-sized and ultra-lightweight
- 75 hour battery life with earbuds
- AM, FM, NOAA alerts
- Intuitive operation
- Earbuds act as antenna
- Battery door looks fragile
Ambient Weather WR-111B emergency radio is a compact certified NOAA alert radio. This 5-way powered radio provides reliable service during emergencies. The digital readout makes its abundantly easy to use AM/FM/NOAA weather radio. All the ports and buttons have been placed intuitively for easy access. It has a few other emergency features as well like a sizeable flashlight. Its durability and seamless operation rake up its price, but not high enough to keep it out of the best emergency radios list.
Design and Features
The Ambient Weather WR-111B survival radio is a highly portable device. It measures 5.5 inches in width, 3 inches in height and 2 inches in depth. It weighs 8 ounces approximately. The front side has the speaker and the digital display. The buttons on either side of the screen are used for tuning and changing volume. There’s a blinker up front which provides a visual alert of the weather warning. A flashlight goes to one side. The top side has the solar panel which allows WR-111B to be charged in the sun. The back side has a hand cranker to manually charge the radio. There are power, headphone and charging ports to the side.
This emergency hand crank radio is 5-way powered. It can charge from a USB outlet, an AC outlet, from batteries, by hand crank or by solar power. USB charging cable and adapter are included. Do note that the power drains quite fast if the radio is on NOAA Alert mode. You can use it in the AM/FM mode or receive the NOAA weather band with all 7 channels. It has a retractable antenna which allows you to pull in the distant stations more efficiently too. The AM auto scan is quite sensitive and even picks up some weak stations. The NOAA reception is strong for stations up to 50 miles away. The weather alert feature works smoothly except for the power draining.
The WR-111B survival radio has a strong flashlight with a bright beam. There’s an auxiliary input port for plugging in media-playing devices. This unit acts as a power bank through the USB charging port in the middle. All three ports on the side are covered with rubber covers. ‘Ed’ The Weatherman provides excellent customer service on the company’s behalf to its online buyers.
- Very compact and lightweight
- Digital NOAA tuning
- 5-way powered
- Bright flashlight
- Excellent customer service
- No headphone jack
- USB AC adapter should be included at the price
Midland WR120 NOAA emergency radio is a specialized device for receiving only alerts from the NOAA. This is not an AM/FM radio. But at a budget, it’s a very useful weather radio which keeps you updated on any imminent hazards in your area. The WB120EZ is the latest model with SAME alert capability and many more programmable options to set which alerts you want to hear. This dedicated weather radio is a relevant addition to the best emergency radios list.
Design and Features
The Midland WR120EZ emergency radio is often confused with the WR120 as they look so alike. Make sure you get the WR120EZ, the model number will be mentioned on the cover. This is a Pubic alert- and NOAA-certified radio. The speaker covers most of the top face. It measures 6” x 5” x 1.5” and weighs around a pound. It has a digital screen with 9 buttons below it. The retractable antenna rests on the front side.
The SAME alert can be programmed to sound for your specific county and surrounding counties. You can store up to 25 counties for which alerts can be received. The rest of the areas will be ignored. This way you aren’t alarmed for emergencies 100 miles away from you. It received 7 NOAA channels with flood, tornado, hurricane and other warnings. It can receive over 60+ types of alerts from which you can choose which ones you want to hear like flash floods, hurricanes etc.. Color-coded alert indicators tell you which is which. You can select between voice alert, flashing display lights or 90dB for warning. If you have a large house, we suggest you switch on the alarm.
This emergency radio works on either AC power or batteries. It features a clock with alarm and snooze button.
- Dedicated weather radio
- SAME alerts
- Select type of situation for which alert should be sounded
- Compact and inexpensive
- Siren/voice/LED alerts
- Easily confused with model 120, 120C etc.
The Eton America Red Cross FRX3 emergency radio is named after its architecture. It literally is a red cross enclosed in a square. This is a 4-way powered AM/FM/NOAA receiver. It has other emergency features like flashlight and power bank which help you survive if there’s no power. It is a petite device that’s easy to pack and carry. For its convenience and trusty service in distress, we raced it straight to the best emergency radios list.
Design and Features
The Eton American Red Cross FRX3 survival radio is an odd-looking unit measuring 5.8” x 6.9” x2.6”. It can be packed flat with your stuff. The front side has the crank shaft at the center. There’s an LCD display above it with minimal button controls. The preset buttons go over the middle panel. The photovoltaic cells go over the top panel. The flashlight rests on the side and the antenna is at the back of the radio.
This emergency hand cranked radio receives AM/FM stations digitally based in the vicinity. It hears the NOAA weather band based on the weather station in your area. With the ‘Alert’ function switched on, the radio automatically broadcasts weather alerts in your area. It can be powered in 4 ways: AC charger, AA batteries, solar power and hand crank. The bright LED flashlight on the side is very useful when your flashlight runs out of charge. A red flashing beacon is available when you want to signal in distress. An aux input port allows you to connect other media players to it.
This emergency radio can charge your smartphone like a power bank. It also has clock and alarm functions.
- 4-way powered
- NOAA alert mode
- Red flashing beacon
- Ni-mh battery deteriorates if this is not used for long periods
The Epica Digital emergency radio is a handy device roughly the size of a large flashlight. This 3-way power device uses space innovatively to pack all its emergency functions. With a digital display you never have to worry about the analog imprecision. The controls are straightforward and to-the-point. This is an inexpensive device given all its features. Since it bangs so big for bucks, it finds a place straight in the best emergency radios list.
Design and Features
The Epica emergency radio is a tubular structure measuring 5” x 2” X 1.6”. It weighs only 13.5 ounces. It is small enough to slip into a jacket pocket. A handle protrudes from the back of the unit which can also be used to hang it off a carabiner hook. The front side consists of the speaker grille and the solar panel for charging. The left side carries a sizeable LED flashlight. The top side has the digital display and tuning buttons. The back side has the hand crank.
This is a 5-way powered radio with a hand crank, a solar panel and AC power port. It can also hold batteries and be powered by a USB cable. Epica claims that 2 minutes of cranking yields you 20 mins of power. You can simply leave it on the windowsill while you watch for weather alerts. It receives AM, FM and NOAA weather band frequencies. Weather alerts will draw your attention even when you aren’t focusing on the unit. The screen is backlit for use in the dark.
This emergency hand crank radio acts as a power bank and allows you to charge your smartphone from it. It can be hand cranked and used to power up the cellphone. This is a neat way of charging the cellphone when the power is out but mobile towers are still working. The speaker sounds decent. It does get a little tinny but given the price and size of the radio, this was expected.
- 5-way charging
- LED Flashlight
- AM/FM/NOAA reception
- Solar panel may be scratched in some pieces
iRonsnow emergency radio is a good ol’ traditional-looking radio with an analog display. And it is as reliable as the radio gets at twice its price. The reception capability of this compact radio surprised us. AM/FM/NOAA from local and other stations at some distance sound crystal clear on this unit. It has all the bells and whistles of the more expensive radios as well. We beamed it into our best emergency radios list without a second thought.
Design and Features
The iRonsnow emergency hand crank radio measures 5” x2.4”x1.6” unit. It’s not just compact, it weighs less than 8 ounces too. The front side has a speaker, the tuner display and the tuning buttons. Off to one side you have a set of three bright LEDs. The top side has a solar panel which can be used in emergencies. The backside has a hand crank. An antenna also retracts to the edge of the top side. It has a mini USB jack and an SV output option.
This emergency radio receives AM/FM and NOAA radio bands. You need to be tuned to the NOAA channel to get the alerts. Its reception is its biggest strength. The local stations are received clearly and articulately. The speaker quality is good for the price.
This survival radio is 3-way powered. It can be charged via micro-USB, hand crank or the solar panel. The fact that it doesn’t support AA batteries is slightly annoying. But this is an issue with the IS-088 model. If you want AA batteries as a power source, you can check out the IS-090 model. One minute of hand cranking chugs out 5 minutes of radio time and 30 mins of light. You can also use the iRonsnow IS-088 to charge other devices like cellphones. It comes with a wrist lanyard.
- Excellent reception for the price
- AM/FM/NOAA reception
- 3-way powered
- Battery bank and flash light
- No AA battery support or headphone jack.
The RunningSnail emergency radio looks as funky as it sounds. This black/green design has an innovative architecture and makes good use of space on its small body. It can be charged from multiple sources. The FM reception is a little weak but the AM/weather band reception is adequate for your area. Extra distress features like flashlight and reading lamp are a big plus. It’s hard to keep such talent out of the best emergency radios list.
Design and Features
The RenningSnail emergency hand crank radio measures 6.2” x2.1”x2.9” in dimensions. It weighs only 14.2 ounces. The entire front face is covered in speaker grille. The left out space has the tuner display and tuning knobs. The flashlight goes on the left side. A retractable solar panel peaks front the top. The underside of the solar panel holds the reading light at an angle. A hand crank goes at the back. This is an IPX3-rated water-resistant radio.
This survival radio can receive AM, FM and NOAA weather bands. The reception is good and it picks up many channels. The audio is decent and makes the station worth listening to. It has a 1W bright LED flashlight to illuminate your path in the dark. The 4-LED reading lamp comes in handy when you want to pass time in the camp or in the shelter from a hazard. It charges via solar power, hand crank, USB charger and AAA batteries. RunningSnail claims that 1 min of hand cranking supports 25 mins of light and 10-15 mins radio.
- 4-way powered
- Flashlight and reading lamp
- FM reception could be better