You should consider whether your radio will sit in your home as an alert system or you’ll take it outdoors or on the road during emergencies. There is plenty to think about when choosing a weather radio, and you want the right combination of features that will protect you and your family during an emergency.
To learn more about weather radios, continue reading our guide, and when you’re ready to buy, check out our favorites. A weather radio is a device that alerts you to severe weather warnings from NOAA or a network of weather alert radio stations called the NOAA WeatherRadio All Hazards (Nor) that broadcast continuously.
These are often used by people who don’t live in disaster-prone areas who want to get regular weather updates rather than emergency alerts. The primary differences between indoor and outdoor radios are power source and portability.
A weather radio is a tool that can provide invaluable aid before or during a disaster, so it’s important to plan ahead and know what you need. The types of alerts a radio receives and its alarm system vary from one model to the next.
You may not want to receive every NOAA alert for your region because a radio with a loud alarm could wake you up in the middle of the night for a non-dangerous weather event. This event- and area-specific alerts are convenient as well as safe because they may prevent you from turning off your potentially lifesaving device when you go to sleep.
A comfortable handle, lightweight design, and durable materials add up to a radio that can survive rough treatment. Desktop weather radios aren’t designed to be portable and so tend to be heavier and bulkier.
AC adapter: These radios can be plugged into any wall outlet, which can provide power or recharge the battery. Since using the flashlight function drains the battery quickly, you should use alternative light sources as often as possible, but this is an excellent feature to have in a weather radio.
Your area may have varying signal strength, which you should bear in mind if you opt for an AM/FM model. Some models have LCDs with digital tuning to quickly and accurately pick up signals.
These convenient screens may also display information like date, time, and battery level. Some weather radios can connect to a smartphone, computer, or other device to play music or other media.
Inexpensive: Weather alert radios that cost $20 to $35 are typically portable and may include a hand crank or solar panel, AM/FM receiver, as well as a flashlight and USB port. Mid-range: For $35 to $60 you’ll find more versatile weather alert radios that may be designed for desktop or portable use.
These often include a handful of features like SAME technology, alarm programming, and backup batteries. Expensive: For $60 to $180 are radios that range from durable pocket models to feature-packed desktop designs.
Digital tuning and display screens are common in this price range, and many models are weatherproof. A battery backup is a great feature, but don’t rely on it when you have an available power source.
While our top recommendations are reliable radios to help you cope with a variety of weather disasters, there are a few other standout options available. While it depends on two AA batteries, we love this radio for its intuitive design and built-in speaker and headphone jack.
If you’re looking for loud, high-quality sound, this is a great choice that also provides NOAA weather alerts. Cell towers can be damaged in severe weather, but NOAA transmitters are less likely to be knocked out during disasters.
Some models may feature additional languages, and the Nor broadcasts in Spanish in some locations. NOAA WeatherRadio All Hazards (Nor) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.
Known as the “Voice of NOAA's National Weather Service,” Nor is provided as a public service by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce. Nor 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.
The Midland WR-120 desktop NOAA weather radio knows it is supposed to receive a weekly test from the National Weather Service every seven days. Wait approximately 10-15 seconds, then replace the battery and plug the radio back in.
The settings on the radio will NOT be affected by this, as the SAME county code, and all other information is stored on a flash memory chip. The ten-day missed test alarm is a way to assure viewers that their weather radio is performing properly.
NOTE: The previous version of this radio, the Midland WR-100 does not make an audible beep. (1/7/2021) WNG521 Bogus, LA on the frequency 162.525 is out of service due to an antenna replacement.
(12/18/2020) WXK31 Wichita Falls, TX on the frequency 162.475 is out of service due to a collapsed tower. The cooperator providing the transmitter is in the process of obtaining a replacement but does not have an estimated time for a return to service.
McArthur, AK transmitter on frequency 162.525 MHz is out of service due to an intermittent broadcast. WXJ76 Champaign, IL transmitter on frequency 162.550 MHz is out of service due to a damaged coax antenna cable.
(11/1/17) WNG677 St. Croix (Christians ted), VI, is out of service due to wind damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Weather information is available on the News San Juan website at: http://www.
After 12 hours of research, considering dozens of emergency weather radios and testing eight popular models, we’re confident the Midland ER210 is the best choice for most people. In addition to its impressive usability features, the Midland ER210 has built-in weather alerts that give you advanced warning of impending inclement weather, and its convenient size makes it comfortable to carry, which means that it’s easier to grab on the go in the case of an imminent storm.
Plus, its durable body means that it can stand up to rainy weather or a drop onto a hard surface. The RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA WeatherRadio is a good, affordable alternative to the ER210 if you are willing to give up automatic weather alerts.
The flashlight isn’t quite as strong as a Midland’s, but it does have an adjustable focus on the lens, and there’s a handy “reading lamp” underneath the pivotable solar panel. The lack of proactive alerts may be a deal breaker depending on where you live, but it’s a decent alternative if the Midlands are unavailable.
Construction-quality issues aside, it works fine enough and plays surprisingly loudly, albeit harshly, for its size, and beats anything you’d find in a preassembled emergency survival kit. He spent close to a decade as a site medic for a number of high-profile organizations in Ontario and British Columbia, Canada.
Them Dunn is an updates' writer for Wire cutter and has spent the past 15 years working with audio behind the scenes in the performing arts, which gives him reliable insight into sound (and flashlights). Weather radios are an essential part of any emergency survival kit, and even if you don’t live in an area that’s particularly prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, being prepared is still a good idea.
Those of you who are accustomed to in climate conditions might already have a desktop radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) to alert you in the case of an impending storm, but if you’re looking for a reliable battery-operated alternative to get you through a blackout or worse, a battery-powered, waterproof weather radio is ideal. Left column (top to bottom): CompassCulture WeatherRadio, Epic Emergency Radio, Aegean MMR-88.
The signal covers all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and US Pacific Territories, and is much more reliable than standard AM/FM radio or cell service. These messages, which are broadcast over the weather -band frequencies, automatically turn the radio into a siren of flashing lights and sounds to warn of upcoming storms or other crucial information that could affect the general area.
There are also hyper-specific Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) alerts, which require you to manually program your location and then transmit a series of codes that are relevant to only that exact position (SAME-enabled radios tend to be stationary, rather than portable). This is primarily an issue for people in tornado- or flood-prone areas where sudden weather events are more of a concern, but it’s a good peace-of-mind feature to have regardless of your geographic location.
A pair of AA batteries alone won’t get you through a serious storm (neither will a USB wall charger), so we looked for models with solar panels and/or hand-cranked generators. Price should fall between $25 and $60 ; any lower, and you probably won’t find the power and radio /alert options that make it useful.
As long as you’re in that price range, it should (and probably will) include at least one built-in flashlight option as well, to secure its status as an invaluable survival tool. In that same basement, with the windows covered, we measured the foot-candles produced by the flashlights on each weather radio, using the Light Meter iPhone app.
Once the batteries were entirely depleted, we tested how well the weather radios could charge from dead using just their solar panels and/or built-in hand-cranked generator. Finally, we tested each radio ’s resilience by dropping it onto a concrete surface from 5 feet above, and then exposed it to three seconds under a running shower head to simulate getting caught in the rain.
The Midland ER210 is the best emergency weather radio for most people because it has all the charging options you need, the radio and weather alerts ring loud and clear with fantastic reception regardless of location, and its flashlight is significantly brighter than anything else we tested. The pivoting antenna makes homing in on radio signals everywhere from a basement in Boston to the middle of the woods in Tompkins County, New York, easy.
We also like that the antenna folds out of the way when not in use, so you can easily read the LCD screen, crank the battery, use the flashlight, or collect solar power. One of the distinguishing features of the Midland radios compared with cheaper models is the ability to remain in battery-sipping standby mode for weeks at a time (or while plugged into power) in order to receive advance weather alerts as they come through.
If there’s a weather alert in your area, the ER210’s built-in audio/visual NOAA audible alarm and flashing display will make sure you notice. When the ER210’s siren sounds and the lights begin flashing, you can press any button to switch to your favorite (preprogrammed) NOAA weather channel to give you the news.
If you fail to turn on the radio before a minute goes by, the weather memory indicator will flash every five seconds to let you know that an alert has been issued. In our initial tests, the Midland ER210 easily overpowered every other radio ’s alert, except the ER310, which is made with similar components.
At one point after initial testing, I neglected to turn off the weather alert feature and was greeted by a real-life tornado warning from the ER210 while I was on the phone with my insurance company. The Midland ER210 comes with a large, easy-to-read backlit LCD screen, and its rubber buttons are easy to locate but still difficult to press accidentally, even when it’s bouncing around in your bag.
It operates on a replaceable, rechargeable 2,600 mAh lithium-ion battery pack that you can juice up via the built-in hand crank, top-mounted solar panel, or Micro-USB port. Weather radios come in many shapes and sizes, and at 2¾ by 9 by 6½ inches, the ER210 fits comfortably into most people’s hands without feeling overly awkward; by comparison, the ER310 feels like a commitment to carry, and the crossbars on the Eton/Red Cross FRX3 are too small and rigid for some hands to fit through.
Several other models we tested came with canvas straps, which were also fine, but we still preferred the size, comfort, and durability of the ER210’s plastic handle. As a Midland representative said over email, “If you’re leaning on the unit to charge devices, the ER310 packs more power, but otherwise they’re very similar.” If you don’t want to spend the extra $20, or deal with the ER310’s bulkier weight and size, the ER210’s smaller battery is a fair compromise.
The radio relies on manual rather than digital tuning, but this can also give you a little more control to find the right frequency, especially if you use it in conjunction with the pivoting antenna. But if things really hit the fan, its built-in SOS siren is bright enough and loud enough to lead a search party right to you.
The Midland ER310 offers everything the ER210 does, with three times the battery life (18 hours total), an even sturdier build, and an ultrasonic dog whistle to help rescue workers find you if things go really wrong. Like the ER210, the Epic Emergency Radio features a durable, weather -resistant enclosure and multiple charging options.
Unfortunately, that same carabiner clip snapped clean off when we performed our drop test onto concrete from 5 feet up. The Epic’s cheaper construction showed in a few other ways as well: The solar panel cover actually peeled right off when we removed the protective film that came in its packaging (other Amazon reviewers have noted the same problem, as did Wire cutter writer Seamus Bellamy when he tested it back in 2015).
But most people looking to buy a weather radio aren’t too concerned with crisp tones and solid bass response. The Kieth KA-500 has a great reading light that’s similar to the RunningSnail’s, and the manual tuning is split into separate bands for AM/FM and NOAA, so you can have two different presets, depending on your needs.