The 5 best emergency radios

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In this article, I review the best emergency radios:

If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here are my recommendations:

For outdoor use and if alternative power sources are important to you (solar power, hand crank etc), then I’d recommend the Kaito Voyager KA500

For indoor use, I’d recommend the C. Crane CCRadio-2E with its excellent radio quality.

What are emergency radios and why do I need one?

An emergency radio is a special type of radio that will keep you informed of weather reports and critical news and information before, during and after an emergency situation.  Normal radios do not have the special frequencies needed to listen to the official emergency weather alerts. Only an emergency radio can do the job.

The most common use of an emergency radio is to be able to listen to weather reports and emergency news bulletins in an area where a hurricane alert has been given. Emergency radios have many different alternative power sources to electricity (solar, hand crank / wind-up, battery) so that the radio will still work when there is no power. If a hurricane hits and you have no power for several days, an emergency radio will still work. It could literally save your life.

Emergency radios aren’t just for hurricanes though. They can be used in any emergency situation that has resulted in a power outage and where it’s essential to stay informed with what is going on (terrorist attack, war, earthquake, riots) These events might seem unlikely but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Emergency radios are also useful for camping trips or when hiking or mountaineering. Don’t make the mistake of thinking “Oh I’ve got my smart phone to stay informed.”!  Wireless and 4G coverage are non-existent in many remote areas and are not reliable enough anyway. Also, the battery life of most smart phones is about a day at most.  An emergency radio with its AM radio and alternative power sources is a much better option.

Things to look for in an emergency radio

Power sources

If there is an emergency, then chances are there is no electricity due to a power failure. It is essential therefore that an emergency radio has some alternative power sources as a backup. The most common power sources of an emergency radio are: electricity (via a power cord), battery, solar power, hand crank / wind-up (via a mechanical handle.)

The battery life is important – The longer the better.

NOAA weather alerts

The NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere. 

The NOAA has a weather alert service that keeps you informed of weather conditions 24/7, and in particular, keeps you informed of emergency weather conditions like hurricanes, tornadoes etc.  The name of this service is the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (or “NWR” for short)

NWR is an “All Hazards” radio network. As well as emergency weather reports, it also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards – including natural (such as earthquakes or avalanches), environmental (such as chemical releases or oil spills), and public safety (such as AMBER alerts or 911 Telephone outages).

NWR includes more than 1000 transmitters, covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories. NWR requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal. Broadcasts are found in the VHF public service band at these seven frequencies:

162.400 MHz, 162.425 MHz, 162.450 MHz, 162.475 MHz, 162.500 MHz, 162.525 MHz and 162.550 MHz

If these NOAA weather alerts are important for you, make sure your emergency radio has those frequencies.

Power bank

A power bank allows you to plug other devices into your radio in order to charge them. So for example, you can plug your phone into the power bank in order to charge it. Again, this is very useful in case of a power cut / power outage.

AM/FM radio

FM radio is essentially what most local radio stations use to transmit. FM radio is ideal for music. The frequency is 88 to 108 MHz and the range is typically a maximum of 100 miles.

AM radio’s frequency is 530 to 1710 kHz. AM radio is “talk radio” (ie news, talk shows, weather.) During the day, the range is also a maximum of around 100 miles.  However, at night the range of AM increases dramatically due to how signals are refracted from the ionosphere layers. At night, it’s possible to pick up radio stations being broadcast thousands of miles away.  That is why AM radio is a very valuable feature of any emergency radio.

Flashlight

Some emergency radios have a built-in flashlight as standard. This is very useful if using the radio on a camping trip, hiking at night or in any emergency situation where there is no power.

Audio alarm

Some radios have an “ultrasonic dog whistle” feature which will emit a high pitched audio alert that only dogs can hear. This will help search dogs find you.

2 meter HAM band

The 2 meter amateur radio band is a portion of the VHF (very high frequency) Spectrum, comprising of frequencies stretching from 144.000 MHz to 148.000 MHz.

Only licensed Amateur Radio Operators may transmit on the 2 meter amateur radio band. They use the 2-meter band for general conversations as well as for emergency communications. However, although you cannot transmit on these frequencies, some emergency radios will have the 2 meter radio bands so that you can monitor these emergency communications. Often you will hear a ham operator reporting on conditions long before the general public has been advised of the situation via the normal news media.

The five emergency radios that I recommend

Kaito Voyager KA500

The Kaito Voyager KA500 is made of strong premium impact-resistant and water-resistant ABS material and it is suitable for both indoors and outdoors use. It is the best hand crank radio that we reviewed.

It has several choices of power source including an AC/DC adapter (sold separately), a built-in rechargeable battery (NiMH rechargeable battery pack) that can be charged by the optional AC adapter, hand cranking dynamo or a USB power source, and the patented flip-up 180-degree adjustable solar panel provides power for the radio even when no battery is installed. The radio can also be powered by 3x AA batteries (not included).

This emergency radio has AM, FM, shortwave and NOAA weather stations. The 7-weather channels are pre-set and numbered from 1-7. The radio has an alert mode whereby it will be automatically activated when it receives the alert signals from the NOAA weather stations. All these features make it the best weather radio.

This radio has a power bank which orks as an emergency mobile battery charger with built-in standard DC 5V USB output port for charging mobile devices, such as smart phones, GPS units, MP3 players, digital cameras etc. Other features include a 5-LED reading lamp, LED flashlight and a red LED S.O.S. beacon light.

The Kaito Voyager KA500 is perfect for traveling, camping, backpacking and other outdoor activities.

Pros

  • Multiple power sources (solar, hand crank, AA batteries, USB adapter, AC adapter).
  • Replaceable rechargeable battery pack.
  • Power bank to charge mobile devices
  • NOAA weather alert setting.
  • AM/FM, weather, and SW1 & 2 bands included.
  • Rubberized case is very sturdy.

Cons

  • Size. This is quite a big radio. Too big for backpacking.
  • Antenna. The antenna does not swivel left to right at all and is quite flimsy.
  • The AC adaptor is not included and has to be purchased separately.

FosPower emergency portable radio

The FosPower emergency portable radio has 3 power sources:  3x AAA batteries (not included), a solar panel, and a crank lever provide full battery power. The solar panel and crank are regenerative so you will have power whenever you need it.

FosPower’s emergency radio will give you dependable access to emergency NOAA weather broadcasts. The AM/FM function provides full access to all AM or FM radio broadcasts.

The radio also comes with lots of extra features such as an integrated 1W LED flashlight with zoom, an SOS alarm, 2000mAh power bank, an LED reading light and radio broadcasts access.

The 2000mAh power bank provides enough emergency power to any USB-powered mobile device in emergency situations.

Pros

  • SOS alarm – Emits a very loud audio alarm.
  • Multiple power sources (solar, hand crank, AAA batteries).
  • NOAA weather broadcasts
  • Power bank – to charge your mobile devices
  • LED reading light and an LED flashlight.

Cons

  • The hand-crank has to be cranked a lot to generate power.
  • No jack for an earplug.

C. Crane CCRadio-2E weather radio

The C. Crane CCRadio-2E is a portable weather radio that has 2 power sources: AC power cord or battery-powered (4x D sized batteries) – It has a long battery life of 250 hours (equivalent of 2 months if it’s in use for 4 hours per day.)

It has AM and FM reception. The AM reception is particularly strong with its twin-coil ferrite antenna. After you select a station, the CCRadio-2E evaluates the signal for several seconds and then locks it in for the best possible signal.

The radio has NOAA weather alerts via the NOAA weather bands and also has 2-Meter Amateur radio (Ham) band which picks up life-saving information transmitted by amateur radio enthusiasts.

Finally the radio also has other features such as a clock, alarm, sleep timer, headphone jack, display light and 5 one touch memory presets.

Pros

  • Excellent radio reception and audio quality
  • NOAA weather broadcasts
  • 2-Meter Amateur radio (to monitor emergency information transmitted by Amateur radio enthusiasts)
  • 5x radio presets – Save and listen to your favourite stations at the touch of a button.

Cons

  • Only 2 power sources – AC power cord and battery.
  • Big size – This is not a radio for backpacking.
  • No advanced features like lights or audio alarms.

Midland ER310 emergency crank radio

The Midland ER310 has a choice of several power sources: Solar Panel, hand crank (wind-up) and rechargeable 2600 mAh Battery. This rechargeable & replaceable long life battery provides up to 32 hours of radio operation. Alternatively, the radio can also be powered by 6x AA Batteries (not included).

NOAA WEATHER SCAN + ALERT – NOAA Weather Scan will automatically scan through 7 available weather (WX) band channels and locks onto the strongest weather channel to alert you of severe weather updates. NOAA Weather Alert will sound an alarm indicating that there is a risk of severe weather in your area. AM/FM radio is also available.

The SOS FLASHLIGHT beacon flashes Morse code in an emergency scenario and the Bright CREE LED (130 Lumens) can be used to signal for help.

CHARGE EXTERNAL DEVICES – Quickly charge your portable devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) using the USB charging cable (included).

ULTRASONIC DOG WHISTLE – Use the dog whistle to assist search and rescue teams in locating individuals during an emergency situation.

Pros

  • Ultrasonic dog whistle – Helps search and rescue teams locate you.
  • Multiple power sources (solar, hand crank, rechargeable 2600 mAh battery and 6x AA batteries).
  • NOAA weather broadcasts
  • Power bank – to charge your mobile devices
  • LED flashlight with morse code feature

Cons

  • Not very sturdy compared to other models.
  • Not waterproof
  • The controls are not very intuitive but fine once you are used to them.

RunningSnail emergency radio

The RunningSnail emergency radio is a small waterproof radio that has a built-in rechargeable battery that can be recharged in 3 ways: Micro USB,  solar charging or manual hand crank.

The radio’s internal rechargeable battery can be used as a power bank to recharge your USB-powered mobile devices via the micro USB port.

The radio has AM, FM and NOAA weather channels.

This radio has an integrated flashlight with 1W LED.

Due to its compact size and waterproof (splash proof) design, this is ideal for camping, backpacking and outdoor use.

Pros

  • Built-in rechargeable battery can be recharged 3 ways: Micro USB, solar charging or manual hand crank.
  • AM, FM and NOAA weather radio
  • Power bank – to charge your mobile devices via the micro USB port
  • LED flashlight
  • Very compact – ideal for backpacking
  • Waterproof (splash proof)

Cons

  • Can’t be powered using standard batteries
  • Radio quality not very good
  • Doesn’t hold charge very well

Conclusion

So what is the best emergency radio?  Well it depends! 

For outdoor use and if alternative power sources are important to you (solar power, hand crank etc), then I’d recommend the Kaito Voyager KA500

For indoor use, I’d recommend the C. Crane CCRadio-2E with its excellent radio quality.

My final word of advice – Don’t wait for an emergency to happen to buy an emergency radio. It will be too late!  An emergency radio is like insurance – Make sure you buy one BEFORE disaster strikes.

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