Oftentimes, emergencies strike with little or no warning. What seems like a regular, uneventful day can instantly turn into a living hell in mere seconds. Mother Nature is full of surprises: earthquakes, avalanches, mudslides and tornados can manifest without warning, leaving massive destruction in their wake. And because certain unsavory elements of humankind can't allow Mother Nature to hoard all the credit for wanton destruction, manmade havoc is always a possibility too.

If you find yourself caught in a situation where you got sucker punched in the gut by a surprise emergency event, there's a good chance you'll be scrambling to find out as much information about it as you can to better understand your predicament and how you can enhance your survivability. Because you had enough foresight to have an emergency radio packed for just this sort of occurrence, you have a means to monitor local news broadcasts as well as the nationally broadcast Emergency Alert System to figure out just what happened, what to do, and where to find the safest places.

Emergency radios differ from traditional radios in that most of them feature multiple functions, can run off different power sources, and are built more robustly. We like emergency radios that feature an alternative to dry cell battery power. Many of these radios can be alternatively powered by hand crank or solar panels — very handy if batteries are or become scarce. Some radios also allow for other devices such as smartphones and small electronics to be charged through their built-in USB ports. Other features to look at are overall size (which affects its portability), speaker quality, and volume capability, as well as extra functions such as a built-in flashlight.

The most important element in an emergency radio is, of course, the radio itself. You want one that has good reception of both AM and FM bands, whether indoors or outdoors, as well as one capable of receiving weather and emergency broadcasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) over a service called NOAA Weather Radio. The broadcast station frequencies of this weather-and-emergency-specific radio service are known as weather band (WB). It is broadcast over seven FM frequencies in the 162.4 MHz through 162.55 MHz range, which regular radios typically cannot pick up. In order to hear NOAA's 24-hours-a-day reports on weather-related warnings, forecasts, hazard information, and alerts of non-weather emergencies (such as threats to national security, environmental and civil safety), you will need a WB-capable radio that is specifically set up to pick up NOAA Weather Radio.

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There are many emergency radios on the market; we selected ones of differing sizes, with multiple power sources, and replete with multiple features. Let's take a look at a few that warrant a closer look.

An Emergency Radio Buyer's Guide

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