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6 best weather radios for emergencies

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Weather reporting has come a long way. Google, for example, has been developing an AI system that can predict highly localized weather patterns in as little as five to 10 minutes. And while predictions are getting increasingly more accurate, weather radios are still essential for getting in-the-moment updates, even when the power gets knocked out. For ultimate Boy Scout preparedness, the best weather radios use specialized services to update or alert you of inclement weather, and since many of them use alternative sources of power, you can still use them if the electricity goes out. Plus, some have built-in extras, like flashlights, SOS beacons, and power banks to charge your phone.

To keep you informed about inclement weather, each of these weather radios receives both NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and AM/FM radio stations. And while some of these radios only provide updates when you’re tuned in, others are programmed to automatically alert you of weather shifts with a tone, light, or text display. For even more fine-tuning, choose a radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), which lets you set up alerts specifically for the counties you want to track.

Because power outages can occur during major storms, most weather radios use multiple power sources to keep working through it all. Many radios use hand crank and solar power, but some also use rechargeable or alkaline batteries or a micro-USB port to power up - your choice will depend on what works best for you.

You’ll also want to consider extra features, like a flashlight, SOS beacon, or a built-in power bank that can charge your phone or tablet. No matter how many bells and whistles you want, these are the best weather radios on Amazon that’ll help keep you safe and informed, no matter what the report calls for.

1. The overall best

When bad weather arrives, this emergency weather radio has all the essential features you’ll want during the storm. It has three power sources to keep you covered in case of outages — hand crank, solar, and AAA batteries — and the built-in power bank can be used to charge your phone or tablet. The radio receives broadcasts from NOAA and AM/FM radio stations so you can stay informed on current weather conditions, but it won’t automatically alert you of impending weather, so you'll have to tune in. As far as extras, there's a reading light, 1-watt flashlight, and a loud SOS alarm that alerts anyone nearby if you need help. This rugged option is IPX3 water-resistant so it’ll withstand water sprays during the storm.

According to a reviewer: “When Hurricane Florence came into SE North Carolina we lost all power and for a couple days couldn't even fire up the generators. During that period that little hand cranked radio was our lifeline to NOAA weather, local radio reports, keeping our phones charged in hopes of returning cell service and light during the scary screaming winds at night. I must have turned that crank a million times, but it never failed us, and when it was all over it went right into the emergency supplies to be ready for the next one.”

2. The best budget

This affordable emergency radio boasts basic safety features at a budget-friendly price. It can be operated via three power sources — hand crank, solar, and micro-USB — and it's outfitted with a 1-watt LED flashlight and a power bank to charge your phone. The radio receives NOAA and AM/FM radio stations to keep you up-to-date on weather conditions, but there are no automatic alerts. However, it is IPX3 water-resistant so it’ll hold up in wet conditions. Choose from three colors: blue, red, and yellow.

According to a reviewer: “Takes a while to crank up to full power but works amazingly when you need it!”

3. The most comprehensive

If you're looking for the most comprehensive safety features, it’s worth spending a bit more for the Midland ER310 weather radio. It has four power sources — hand crank, solar, rechargeable battery, and six AA batteries — and an LED screen that shows you how much battery life is left before you need to recharge. The built-in LED flashlight features two brightness settings, and an SOS beacon flashes Morse code during emergencies (or if you get stuck on a deserted island). Plus, you can also use the radio to charge your phone or tablet using the included USB cable.

It receives AM/FM radio and scans through all available NOAA weather channels to find the strongest signal. Plus, the NOAA weather alert feature automatically sounds an alarm to let you know of severe impending weather in your area. Another helpful feature: An ultrasonic dog whistle helps canine search and rescue teams locate you in emergency situations. However, this radio isn’t tested for water-resistance, so take extra care with it in wet weather.

According to a reviewer: “I decided to write this review after using this for the first time during Hurricane Barry [… ] At one point during the night the radio let out an ear piercing siren when important updates from the national weather service were released so we'd wake up to listen to the emergency weather alert. When the lights went out, it was great to have an extra light source on the Midland (along with our other emergency lights) as we sat around listening to the weather updates on the radio. I appreciated how this radio had a button you could push that would take you directly to the emergency weather station instead of having to hunt around for it through the radio stations.”

4. A basic pocket radio

If you just want a compact radio that gives you alerts for your area, this basic weather radio is the perfect pocket-sized option. The NOAA weather radio delivers important weather updates from AM, FM, and WB frequencies and uses two AA batteries — but be advised this is its only power source. And while this radio doesn’t boast as many features as other options (and it’s not water-resistant), it’s great for staying tuned in to weather updates when you’re off the grid.

According to a reviewer: “This little guy gets great reception, even in our heavily wooded, mountainous area. It has good quality sound. Nice to have the Weather Band.”

5. A radio with SAME programming

This weather alert radio has an easy-to-read LED screen that automatically displays NOAA weather alerts from seven channels — or if you prefer, you can opt for automatic voice or tone alert warnings. This is the only option on the list with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) programming, which alerts you only when there’s a warning for specific counties, and you can program up to 25 locations. Color-coded alert level indicators let you know whether there’s an advisory, watch, or warning, and when it’s not tuning into the weather, this radio doubles as an alarm clock. It plugs into a standard wall outlet and uses three AA batteries for backup power, which are sold separately.

According to a reviewer: “SAME technology lets me narrow down to my county or counties - so I can keep an ear out for both me and my widespread family. Blue backlight on the display lights up during a new alert even if I do not have the alarm enabled for that alert. For example I disabled the audio alert for severe thunderstorm warnings, but the display lights up anyway and I like that. For those who want to change that, the backlight can be set to be always enabled or always disabled.”

6. The radio recommended by the Red Cross

This emergency weather radio boasts approval from the American Red Cross, which might give you extra peace of mind in emergency situations. There are three power sources — hand crank, solar, and a built-in rechargeable battery — and the radio receives NOAA, FM, and AM radio station. An alert function automatically warns you of impending severe weather in your area, and there’s an LED flashlight and flashing SOS beacon for emergencies. The digital display has a battery life indicator and an alarm clock, plus you can use the radio to charge your phone. However, there’s no specified water-resistance rating, so take care with this radio in wet weather.

According to a reviewer: “This radio is great! So glad we finally purchased one, it will come in handy for emergencies. Stations come in clear, the speaker is pretty good for being so tiny too, the flashlight feature is really nice too (not the brightest but it works well), it's also very light.”

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