An Essential Preparedness Resource: Portable AM Radio


Not only do I have a general interest in radios, but they are also an asset for emergency preparedness. Although not in the same preparedness categories as food, water, bullets and bandaids ;) , communications (listening-receiving, as well as 2-way comms) could be a vital conduit of critical information.

There are some radios that just ‘receive’ (you only listen to them) and others that ‘transmit and receive’. For most, simply listening to radio communications (news and information, etc.) can potentially provide valuable information about current events, a particular event, or emergency. During an emergency or disaster, particularly one where local or regional power might be out, having an ordinary portable AM radio may give you an advantage while discovering more about the disaster from radio stations further away.

This is probably the least expensive and most popular portable (pocket) AM Radio on the market. Sony ICF-S10MK2. I did a review article on this ‘Best Cheap Pocket Radio’ awhile ago.

There are better AM radios though… read on –

During the daytime, tuning your AM radio dial will reveal (mostly) only your local broadcast stations, those within approximately 100 miles (or less). However it is an entirely different reception situation at night, when you can often hear AM radio stations from many hundreds of miles away, even a thousand or more miles away sometimes!

Should there ever be a major disaster situation (perhaps a regional power grid-down), whereby you are unable to receive local information, just remember that at night you will be able to receive AM radio stations from far away, and you may discover news and information that will help you.

Note that not every night is the same when it comes to long distance ‘DX’ listening. Some nights are better than others with more favorable atmospheric conditions. But generally speaking, reception at night is an order of magnitude better than during the daytime if you are attempting to hear stations from far away.

I encourage you to experiment and listen for yourself. Tune the AM radio at night. You will immediately discover that you hear many more stations. When listening at the top or bottom of the hour, you will likely hear the station’s call letters – “WGN” (Chicago), or “WBZ” (Boston), for example, etc.. Often while listening to a station’s local commercials, their location will be revealed (e.g. “Bob’s Flooring in Cincinnati”, etc.).

You don’t necessarily need an expensive AM radio to hear long-distance stations from far away (although it helps, for sure).


AM Radio Station List (50-kW, high powered)

Here’s a list of powerful 50-thousand watt AM radio stations in the United States, some of which you may hear during the evening or night…

AM radio broadcast stations transmit at various power levels. It seems that nearly every major city in the U.S. has a ‘powerhouse’ ‘flamethrower’ broadcast station, and those are the ones that you will have the highest probability of receiving, depending on conditions and your distance from them.

Download a PDF copy and print it for your reference…

Sorted by Station ID
Sorted by Frequency
Sorted by State
Sorted by City

The following are a few very good portable radios with AM reception.

I own this one too, and it has been my portable ‘go-to’ radio of choice. Also very good with shortwave and ham bands. Sony ICF-SW7600GR

I am pretty sure that I am also going to pick up the following Tecsun radio to keep in my ‘home away from home’ – my trailer…or maybe the Sony will be relegated to the trailer while this one becomes my new ‘go to’ ;)
Tecsun PL880


  1. Ken, thank you so much for this information. This is an area I’ve known I was deficit in and had not researched. Saved to file and printed for the binder. Got the radio out and will practice tonight. We have poor local stations and poor reception and consequently never think to use a radio at home or even in the car! Thanks again for the assist in my preparations.

    1. Kate, I hear you.
      I am not an expert, but I have been scanning the AM band for 50+ years and I do know that many things can affect reception. Nighttime reception will be much better than daytime because of the way the atmosphere changes. This is why many stations are required to shut down at sunset and also why you will hear many more distant stations at night.

      The most important is the quality of the radio, but even a good radio cannot overcome certain types of interference. The AM band is especially susceptible to local interference.

      Here is a short list of common causes of AM interference:

      1) Lightning – not much to do about that, but you can use your radio to “predict an oncoming storm.” Just tune it to an off channel and listen for the characteristic static discharge produced by each lightning strike. The intensity and duration can tell you about the distance and strength of the storm. The radio can “hear” these discharges when the approaching storm is still way over the horizon.

      2) House wiring and other electronics – if your radio is plugged into the wall it is more likely to pickup interference from the wiring. Switching to battery mode can sometimes help as can a simple change in location or orientation. You would be surprised at how much RF noise is generated by a computer or cell phone.

      3) Antenna – some radios have a connection for an external antenna. This can have a dramatic effect. The longer the wire – the better (but sometimes it just receives more interference). If it does not have the connection you can still enhance reception with a passive antenna, which usually only needs to be placed near the radio rather than connected directly.

      Kaito Tunable Passive AM Antenna

  2. Good to have one with a solar panel or hand crank so batteries aren’t an issue. Weather channels are certainly a plus also.

  3. Like Kate114, I am lacking in the communication area, but $131 to $160 a pop, OUCH, but as anything you get what you pay for.
    Also I agree with Tim, need a way to charge it without pluging it into the wall.
    Here is a really stupid question, (probably know the answer) are there any fair priced radios out there EMP protected? of is it tin-foil hat time?

  4. I read an interesting article today about NORAD is refitting their underground commutation facilities for use … Thinking EMP … And who said the cold war was over

  5. I have a JWIN radio with weather, am, fm, siren, flashing emergency lights, flashlight, clock, alarm, and a hand crank, but can run on batteries.I use it every day, outdoors, indoors, and I love it. I just wish it was a two way radio as well. Can’t have everything in one.

  6. It might be a good idea to put a couple of radio’s in an EMP proof container.
    Wrap them in heavy duty tin foil, before putting them in a farady cage type box.

    1. I’ve seen a good looking faraday box made from perspex sheet and lined with mica paper….and the owner had 2way radios, flashlights, tablet and solar charger (and other stuff I can’t recall) but nothing was foil wrapped. Is it recommended to foil wrap the items in a faraday cage?

      Thanks Ken, an AM radio is something I overlooked myself, my thinking was they had been made obsolete by digital stations the way tv analogue stations went.

  7. Can anyone recommend the best rifle mounted night vision scope. All input is appreciated! Please give your reasons for your recommendation, thanks all

    1. The older AN/PVS-4 was designed to be mounted on the AR. These can be upgraded to the Gen III tube. The best NV is the AN/PVS-14. This is the current Gen III+ scope the US Army uses. There are two variations. The earlier one can be use on a 5.56mm rifle but not on the .308 rifle as the recoil will destroy the image intensifier plate in the scope. The next version and more expensive is design for the recoil of the .308 round.

      These scopes have no recticle. So, one will have to use an Aimpoint M3 NV capable or EO Tech NV capable sight that is mounted in front of the NV. Scope. The AN/PVS-14 is design to mounted on the Mich helmet and uses a infrared laser on the rifle. Don’t buy the two “AA” battery AN/PVS-14 as that was the first model of that scope. These scopes run about $2,800-$3,200 and are well worth it. Save your $’s and don’t buy any Russian NV as it is junk….

  8. A radio will be a very big asset , when the SHTF , our group also has small Ham radio , what some would call Walkie -talkies , there are repeaters all over the US for short wave radio , as long as the power source for these doesn’t go down , we can talk nation wide and even talk on ” Skip ” worldwide , these are a part of what we have secured in one of our members large Faraday Cage , I wrote about it in another post . But even if the towers go down , we still have the ability to talk to each other for short distances , or by ” skip ” , with worldwide ability about the same . As for regular radios , a Multi powered one would be great , that is one you can crank , use batteries , or solar power , I have a couple of these and they work good but over time the internal batteries that have to be recharged do start to lose they’re ability to keep a charge as long as when the unit was newer . Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry .

  9. another good good com. article. i read one here a couple of years back and decided to get a decent radio that will work for me. i went the short wave route and looked at a few radios. sony, tecsun, grundig and more i can not pronounce.

    all have full band, am, fm, sw. upper and lower side band. a lot of the radios are kinda small for me and would get knocked around too easy. decided on a table top portable, can’t knockem off too easy plus external antenna hook ups that extends range vastly and easy to deploy. have been enjoying it ever since.

    learned a lot.

    1. Find a used ICOM R100 radio on ebay. Make sure it comes with the AC/Adapter.
      The freq range is from 0-2000mhz. Clinton had these banned in the 90’s.

      0-1750mhz range uses a SW and Disc Cone Antenna’s. 1751-2000 is sideban which I think bounces off of the moon IIRC.

  10. Thanks for the informative article. It has given me incentive to dig out my Sangean 818’s, (AM, FM, SW, Cassette, etc) and make sure that they are up to speed. One aspect that I like about the SW reception is that it can be used to pick up CB radio signals in addition to it’s worldwide capability. I recently had one of my Sangean 818’s re-conditioned, does anybody know if a standard military ammo can would suffice for EMP protection?

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