Knowledge is power. And in a serious emergency SHTF situation, it may be the difference between life and death. You need as much up to date information as possible to make correct decisions, and that means that you must have the ability to communicate with your group and to get all available news under all circumstances.
When the world goes to hell in a handcart, you will need to be able to communicate with members of your immediate team as well as possibly family members who are distant. In addition, you want to be able to get as much news as possible about the weather and other disaster related subjects. There are a number of communication choices available that you should consider.
Personal cell phones, especially those like the AppleIPhone offer some advantages in short-term situations. You probably already have it with you in a sudden emergency. Assuming the cell towers are still operational, your stored phone numbers are easy to access under stress. Many have built-in compasses and GPS navigation capabilities. However, they are battery dependent (like all electronic devices for field use). There are other drawbacks. The cell towers require AC power, and in a grid down situation, your cell phone could be useless. For a short-term, local emergency, cell phones are useful, but for long-term situations they would only be useful for the electronic compass and the GPS (assuming the satellites are still functioning) and you had the capability to recharge them.
FRS Band Radios (Walkie Talkies)
Although FRS Band radios are typically advertised for up to 35 miles range, you would have to be in almost direct line of site to get that distance. These are good for short distance communication between vehicles or people who are on the move, and perhaps house to house. The advantage to these is that they are relatively inexpensive and you do not have to have a HAM radio license to operate them. The Motorola MR350R 35 pictured is advertised with the following characteristics:VibraCall vibration alert or 20 different call tones
- 11 weather channels (7 NOAA) with alert features
- 22 channels each with 121 privacy codes for superior interference protection
- Up to 35 mile range
- iVOX hands-free communication without the need for an audio accessory
CB (Citizen’s Band)
CB was popularized on a lot of media shows, and as everyone knows, truckers use them a lot. One of their limitations is the range. 1-10 miles is normal. The reason is that they are limited to 5 watts of power. You may or may not be able to contact who you need in an emergency.
However a popular and inexpensive model is the Uniden 40-Channel CB Radio. The next category of radio alleviates that problem.
Ham (amateur) Radio
Here is where you start getting some good communication potential. Ham radios come in various sizes and require a FCC license to operate. But getting a license isn’t difficult. This organization explains how. Ham radios have the capability for a lot longer range than CB radios. It has to do with availability of frequencies which is a bit more complicated than this article can address. There is a good reference called The Antenna Book which explains these issues in detail. You can get reasonably priced hand held Ham radios such as the Beofeng UV-5R.
Ham radio operation takes a bit of study both to get the license and to learn a bit of technical information to get the most out of your communication equipment. A good starter reference manual is the ARRL Operator Manual
This is just a brief overview of the types of communications equipment available to those preparing for emergency situations. As always, do your research, decide what you need, and acquire accordingly.
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