Updated: June 8, 2015
Weather Radio Reviews:You might wonder why you would ever need a weather radio when the Internet and television provide so much up to date information. Living on the west coast I have never thought about weather conditions that are so unstable that you need instant alerts to get you through the emergency. In 2008 we have seen an unprecedented number of tornadoes touch down all across the Mid-West and severe flooding occur in Iowa and other states along the Mississippi River. Tornadoes would be my biggest fear if I lived in the states most vulnerable to them like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Weather radios can be a lifesaver as they provide individuals with the latest NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcast for forecasts and the current status of moving systems. A good weather radio should also be able to get the FCC's Emergency Alert System signal when an emergency alert has been sent. You are literally talking about a few minutes in some cases where tornadoes have formed and are about to engulf neighborhoods.
Buying Guide - The NWR operates on 7 frequencies for different areas of the United States. They will send out a weather alert signal for things like thunderstorms, flash floods, tornadoes, and winter storms. If you have a radio with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) you can program it to only alert you when the emergency involves your specific area or situation. For example, if you lived in a flood plain, you would want to hear about flash floods versus someone who lives on high ground and doesn't need to be alerted to such potential disasters. The NOAA Weather Radio also works directly with the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to provide more than weather related emergencies. You can hear about child abductions (called Amber Alerts), chemical hazards and spills, fires, evacuations, 911 service outages, and more. You'll want a radio with SAME technology, optional external antenna capability, and digital tuning. Some owners of cheaper brands mention that tuning on some models is not easy and it's difficult to find the right frequency. Digital tuning allows for finding the exact location on the radio. When the power is completely out in your area it's nice to have a weather radio that runs if you hand crank it like the Eton FR300 model. Batteries are great, but they can runout over time and you need a backup source that is manually controlled like the Eton. Radio Shack has an excellent buying guide on their website and when we visited their store locally, the employee was well versed in weather and emergency radios and walked us through the pluses and minuses of each product. Their 12-259 model is considered an well tested portable weather radio that literally fits into the palm of your hand and costs about $50. The Midland WR-300 ($90) gets the best reviews overall for weather radios and Midland has been making handheld communication devices for decades with two way radios, CB radios, GMRS radios, and more. Their name is well recognized in the industry and their products live up to the hype. In terms of reviews, you can find plenty to read online at Amazon.com in their customer feedback and opinion section. Also, Radioshack.com has owner reviews on their website as well. We found the reviews to be informative and very educational in trying to find which models consistently perform the best and receive the best ratings. Expect to spend at least $40 and upwards of $90 to get a quality weather radio. When you consider the price versus the potential of the radio help save you from a natural disaster, it is money well spent. You can browse their top selling weather radios online here.