The Best Emergency and Shortwave Radios for Every Type of Disaster

When I was a kid, our emergency radio was an AM radio that my mom kept in the basement along with some spare batteries.  This radio was supposed to be our lifeline to the outside world should a major disaster strike. I’m glad to say that emergency radios have come a long way since then!

Luckily we never needed that emergency radio in a true disaster situation.  If we had, we would have been at the mercy of its limited range, the fact that AM broadcasters might be out of service due to the emergency, and the fact that it didn’t pick up NOAA weather frequencies.

So what emergency radio should you be using?

Here is my completely unbiased input on the best emergency radios for your money that everyone (not just disaster preppers) should have.

Recommended Radios

  1. Sangean MMR-88
  2. Midland WR-120
  3. Kaito voyager Pro
  4. Ambient WR-099

Features to Look for in an Emergency Radio

Confused about emergency radios?  Don’t worry!  The way that radios are marketed is really confusing.  Before I tell you the top emergency radios, I’m going to give you an overview of the features you should be looking at.

NOAA NWR All Hazards or Public Alert Certified

NOAA public alert certified labels

Your emergency radio MUST be able to pick up the NOAA NWR broadcasting.  These are broadcast on seven different VHF frequencies and not all standard AM/FM radios pick up on them.

In addition to broadcasting alerts about weather-related disasters, they also issue alerts for:

  • Shelter in Place warnings
  • Volcano warnings
  • Fire warnings
  • Earthquake warnings
  • Civil Emergency warnings

Only buy an emergency radio with the NOAA label!

Alternatively, you can look for an emergency radio with the “Public Alert” label.  These radios also get NOAA frequencies.   Some radios even carry both labels.

Alarm Tone Feature

The alarm tone feature of emergency radio allows you to keep your emergency radio turned on 24/7 but in silent mode.  If a major emergency occurs, the NWR will send out alerts using a special tone.  This special tone will activate your emergency radio and cause it to turn on.

There are also emergency radios which have alarm features for disabled people.  Instead of a sound alarm, they might vibrate or use a visual signal like a flashing light.

SAME Alerts

You can find the SAME feature on some emergency radios with Alarm Tones.  It allows you to choose which alerts trigger your alarm to turn on.

For example, you could set your emergency radio alarm to only turn on for emergencies in your area or certain areas nearby.

You’ll have to program the SAME codes into your emergency radio.  It is pretty easy to do.  You can read more about What Is SAME here at the NOAA website.

Power Source

For what should be obvious reasons, the power source of your emergency radio really matters. Luckily, there are now a lot of options beyond just having some spare batteries.  Here are some of the options:

  • Solar power
  • Hand-crank
  • AA or AAA batteries
  • USB charging
  • Standard outlet charging

Ideally, your emergency radio will have multiple power sources!


There are a lot of tradeoffs which come with radio size.  A small emergency radio is great for situations where you have to flee, such as for keeping in your Bug Out Bag.  However, smaller emergency radios usually lack features and may only have one power source.

Larger emergency radios tend to have more features and are built to be more durable, but you won’t be able to carry these with you.

Other Emergency Radio Features

When looking at emergency radios, you’ll see a lot of extra features.  Some of these might seem excessive or gimmicky, but they could also be very useful in a disaster situation.  Here are some that are worth considering.

  • Built-in flashlight: If your shelter-in-place location is in a basement, having an extra flashlight in your radio can make a big difference.
  • Power supply outlets: Many models have outlets which let you charge devices like phones and tablets through the emergency radio.
  • Rubber exterior: This will protect the radio if it gets banged or hit by debris.
  • Waterproof casing: This is very important for flooding and hurricanes.
  • Digital programming: It is easier to use a digital programmer than trying to manually tune into the right stations.
  • Headphone jack: There may be some situations where you want to listen to the radio quietly, such as if your kids are sleeping in the shelter with you. Headphones also use less power than speakers.
  • Two-way communication: A two-way radio is great for emergency communication when phones might not be working. Some two-way radios pick up NOAA frequencies.  These radios are pricier, but you’ll take care of your emergency radio and emergency communication device with one piece of gear.

Read more about Two-Way Radios here and HAM radios here.

Best Emergency Radios

I’ve selected a few great NOAA emergency radios and listed them below.  But please bear in mind that you will probably need more than one emergency radio.

For example, you’ll probably want a larger, more advanced radio at your home.  You’ll want a smaller handheld radio for your Bug Out Bag.  You’ll also want to keep one in your vehicle and at work.

Ambient WR-099 Emergency Radio

This is a small emergency radio which would be great for a Bug Out Bag.  For its size, it is loaded with features so you could even make it your main emergency radio too.

  • Emergency siren
  • Shortwave
  • Digital tuner
  • Hand crank
  • Solar power
  • USB charger
  • Rechargeable battery
  • LED flashlight

Check on Amazon

Midland WR120 NOAA Public Alert Emergency Radio

This is one of the most popular emergency radios for home use.  It has a lot of really useful features and has a low price tag.

  • Hand crank
  • AA battery power
  • AC/DC power
  • Alarm clock with snooze
  • USB port

Check on Amazon

Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio

This is one of my favorite emergency radios because it has multiple power sources and also has a really rugged design that could withstand a true SHTF scenario.  The downside is that it is fairly large so it isn’t going to fit into your Bug Out Bag easily.

  • Emergency siren
  • Digital tuner
  • Solar power
  • Hand crank
  • Flashlight
  • USB port
  • Smartphone charger
  • Rugged design

Check on Amazon

Kaito Voyager Pro KA600

This is another great emergency radio loaded with features. It is too big for a Bug Out Bag but great for sheltering in place, especially if you live in a hurricane zone.

  • Siren alert
  • Flashlight
  • Digital tuning
  • Solar power
  • Hand crank
  • Reading lamp
  • Smart phone charger
  • Thermometer and humidity readings

Check on Amazon

Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two-Way Emergency Radio

Consider using a two-way radio or getting licensed to do HAM radio as part of your emergency communication plan.  It has a higher learning curve but is really worth it.  The Baofeng is a cheap emergency radio for starting with.

Read more about Two-Way Radios here and HAM radios here.

  • Emergency alarm
  • CTCSS programmable
  • CTCSS and DCS scanning and direct input
  • LED light

Check on Amazon

Do you have an emergency radio yet?  Which one?  Let us know in the comments or join the discussion in our Facebook community.

I’m Jacob Hunter, founder of Primal Survivor.
I believe in empowering people with the knowledge to prepare and survive in the modern world.

More about Jacob here.

Leave a comment

  1. Hello, all the listet Radios missing hf SSB ! – A real Radio for emergencies MUST HAVE HF SSB ! I can not believe that radio builders so often “forget” this feature.

  2. You forgot a great two way radio.
    The Kenwood TH-F6A.
    It covers the most radio frequencies for the least money.
    And it’s a handheld radio, so it’s very portable.

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