Time to Survive: A Beginner’s Guide to Emergency Radios

With unpredictable weather events always on the horizon, you need an emergency radio to stay connected and informed.

These radios are meant to remain functional even during power outages or isolation from the rest of the world. Also, they can receive multiple band frequencies besides your typical FM and AM radios.

In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through a comprehensive beginner’s guide to emergency radios. From how these radios work to the best option for disasters, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed choice.

So, let’s dive in!

Why Do You Need an Emergency Radio? 3 Main Reasons

A silver emergency radio, the best weather radio, on a black rubber floor
An emergency radio prevents you from losing your lifeline to the outside world.

Do you know that many people will be cut off from essential information in case of an emergency?

But why?

Because they don’t have an emergency radio and only rely on cell towers and the power grid.

For your information, you need an emergency radio for the following key reasons.

1. To Remain Connected During an Emergency

Picture a hurricane or tornado that causes power outages and network failures. Your cell phone won’t work and the power in your house will be gone.

In such a situation, you’re helpless—rescuers and help will find it hard to reach you due to the inability to identify your accurate location.

This is where an emergency radio comes in handy. These radios are designed to work even when the power is out or the network is down.

2. To Get Multiple Band Frequency Reception

Most of us rely on AM/FM radio stations for news and entertainment. But with an emergency radio, you get access to multiple band frequencies.

With the ability to receive VHF, UHF, FM, NOAA, and AM radio broadcasts, these radios will help you stay connected with others in your area or the world at large during an emergency.

3. To Receive Weather Alerts

Emergency radios are specially built to receive the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alerts.

Through this band, survival radios can connect to the National Weather Service to provide regular weather updates and warnings.

For instance, you can get notifications when there’s a tornado warning in your area or an imminent hurricane approaching.

These alerts will help you prepare for the possible impact and quickly take the necessary action, like evacuation.

How Do Emergency Radios Work?

Close up shot of metal components of a crystal radio on a dark brown blurry background
Emergency radios use various power sources, including cranks and solar power.

Unlike your typical home or car radio, emergency radios have unique features to facilitate communication during emergencies.

Here’s a closer look.

Receiving Signals From a Range of Radio Frequencies

The ability to receive FM/AM, NOAA, and shortwave radio bands is one of the key features that facilitate the functioning of survival radios.

Besides the above, most emergency radios can access very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) to facilitate communication over long distances.

UHF, with a range of 300 MHz and 3 GHz, is the best of the two for emergencies because these frequencies are not impervious to obstacles like buildings and hills.

Consequently, they are used in cordless phones, television broadcasting, walkie-talkies, and satellite communication.

Some designated distress frequencies for emergencies include:

● 121.5 MHz: International Aeronautical Emergency Frequency

● 243.0 MHz: NATO Combined Distress and Emergency Frequency

● 2182 kHz: International Maritime Distress and Calling Frequency for Radio telephony

● 156.8 MHz: International Maritime Distress, Calling, and Safety Frequency

● 4340 kHz: NATO Combined Submarine Distress

● 8364 kHz: Survival Craft

● 406.0 MHz: Emergency Position Indicating Locator Beacon (EPIRB)

Power Sources

The power source is a significant consideration for survival radio. Remember, these radios are supposed to facilitate communication even during outages.

So, how is this possible?

Emergency radios are designed to operate using multiple power sources to ensure functionality in diverse situations. These power sources can include the following.

● Batteries: Most emergency radios have in-built rechargeable batteries to store power for use during emergencies. Moreover, they have battery compartments for external batteries.

 Solar Power: Many modern-day emergency radios are solar-powered. This is an excellent feature during emergencies when you don’t have access to an electrical source.

 Hand Crank Generator: Some weather radios also come with hand crank generators that use kinetic energy to generate electricity. All you have to do is crank the radio for about two minutes to get power that can last between 30 and 60 minutes.

Reception and Antennas

Hand adjusting shortwave radio against a black background.
An emergency radio’s antenna dictates its reception.

Reception is a significant factor that determines the quality of an emergency radio. That’s why many of these radios come with antennas for better reception.

Antennas are designed to capture signals from far distances, thereby making communication possible, even in remote regions.

Emergency radios usually have CB antennas due to their efficiency and quality reception.


Imagine carrying your tabletop DAB radio during an emergency! It can be challenging, right? Maybe even impossible.

Portability is an essential feature of a survival radio. That’s why most of these radios are made small and lightweight to facilitate easy carrying during emergencies.

As a result, they are among the most portable radios, with some having handles and rugged exteriors.

LED Flashlights and Sirens

Emergency radios often have LED flashlights for illumination. The flashlight will enable you to navigate your way easily and perform tasks effectively.

Additionally, some radios come with sirens for attention-getting when rescuers are around.

When the siren is switched on, it will emit a loud sound to alert those nearby of your presence in case of an emergency.

Other features that facilitate the working of emergency radios include:

● Weather alerts

● AM/FM radio tuners

● Alarms

● Digital displays for easy navigation

● Multiple charging ports

● Two-way radio communication capabilities

What Kind of Emergency Radio Do I Need?

Best Emergency Radio 1
The best emergency radio is durable, lightweight, and rechargeable.

Your emergency radio should facilitate two-way communication, have multiple power sources, and be long-range, weatherproof, and shock-resistant.

You can opt for UHF, shortwave, amateur (ham), or hand-crank radio. Each of these radios has its unique features and benefits.

That said, we recommend the DEWALT DXFRS300 as the best emergency radio.

This two-way communication radio is heavy-duty, rechargeable, and long-range.

Its 250,000-square-foot (23,225.76-square-meter) range makes it convenient for emergency communication. It also has 121 privacy codes for efficiency.

How Do You Use Radio for Emergencies?

Using a radio for emergency communication is quite simple. Just follow these steps.

● Look for your preferred frequency, usually listed in the instruction manual or on your radio’s menu. It could be AM/FM, VHF, shortwave, etc.

● Set up the external antennas, power source, and other accessories correctly.

● Locate the power button and switch on the radio. Ensure the antenna is fully extended for quality signal reception, and then adjust the volume accordingly.

● Tune into your preferred frequency using manual controls or a tuning knob.

● Press the transmit button and speak into the microphone to send messages, then listen for feedback. Talk using an emergency frequency like the VHF at 136 to 174 MHz.

Expert Advice: When sending a message over a weather radio, ensure the message contains information about where you are, what type of emergency you’re in, and your identity.

Final Thoughts

An emergency radio is an invaluable tool for communication during emergencies. It will enable you to stay in touch with people, receive help from rescuers, and navigate your way out of the difficult situation.

Therefore, ensure that you invest in a quality emergency radio before disaster strikes so that you can be prepared for any eventuality!

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