Weather band radios allow you to receive a special radio band reserved for government radio stations which broadcast weather conditions and forecast information. Most states have several of these stations. Weather radio stations are free of commercial advertising. Stations in coastal areas broadcast detailed marine forecasts as well. Some weather radios are also equipped to sound an alarm when a severe weather alert is issued, which can be especially useful in areas affected by tornados.
A variety of different types of weather radio receivers are available. They can be purchased at department stores, electronics stores, online shopping websites, and internet auction services. Weather radios generally cost between from $15 to $85 depending upon their features and other radio bands they receive. Most weather radios fit into one of five categories, which are described in the following paragraphs:
Three-Channel…Weather radios which only receive three channels are usually pocket-size and/or older models. These should only be purchased if you are sure that the weather station in your area broadcasts on one of the three channels received by these radios, as there are actually seven channels. Even so, it may still be worth paying slightly more for a different type of weather radio so that it will still be useful if you travel or relocate to an area which has a station using one of the other channels. Models: Realistic 12-157A and 12-140
Instant Weather…These radios usually receive several other bands (AM, FM, television sound, shortwave, etc.) and have a button marked “Weather” or “Instant Weather” on them. When the button is pressed, the radio instantly begins receiving the weather station it has been set to with a separate knob on the radio. This allows you to conveniently switch between listening to other bands and the weather band without adjusting the tuning. These radios generally have fairly good, but not excellent, reception. This type of weather radio is most commonly sold by Emerson, which has made both portable and table-top models of it. Models: Emerson RP-62475 and RP-6248, Timex Instant Weather Alarm Clock Radio
Analog Multiband…A common type of weather radio also receives the television audio bands and allows the user to tune in weather stations by tuning to the lower end of the second TV band with an analog knob. These radios include pocket, table-top, alarm clock, and portable models. They have been manufactured by many brands, including Electro Brand and Gran Prix. Some similar radios receive the VHF police band and include the weather band as part of it. These are usually larger radios and have been produced by Radio Shack, Montgomery Ward, and others. Unlike three-channel weather radios, the analog tuning allows all channels to be tuned on this type of receiver. Reception quality varies from fair to very good on these radios, but usually isn’t as good as that of receivers which are more focused on weather band reception. Models: Electro Brand 2971, Radio Shack 12-795 and SW-100, Rhapsody RY-610
Weather Alert…Radios of this type have a feature which sounds an alarm when a severe weather alert is used. These are generally more expensive than the types listed above. They are available in less-complicated analog models or complex digital models which can be programmed to only sound the alarm for particular types of alerts. Some digital radios of this type can be rather complicated, so it may be best not to purchase them without instructions. Some of these radios also receive the AM and FM bands, but usually not shortwave or communications bands. This type of radio often has the best weather band reception of the types described here. Models: Jensen MR-600 and MR-625, Realistic 12-247A
2-Way Radios…Some two-way radios (CB, VHF, FRS, etc.) also receive the weather band. Both handheld and mobile units of this type have been sold. It is convenient to have a CB radio of this type, as it enables you easily monitor weather and traffic conditions with a single unit and prevents you from having to use a battery-powered portable radio to receive the weather band in an automobile. Car radios which receive the weather band in addition to AM and FM are also available, and are standard in some luxury vehicles. Models: Cobra PR-550, Realistic TRC-460, Maxon MCB-45W
Overall, choosing the best weather band receiver depends upon where you plan to use it, the chance that a natural disaster will occur, what other radio bands you are also interested in receiving, and the reception conditions in your area.