Communication is everything, especially when it comes to prepping. Ask any prepper, and they’ll tell you how communication can mean the difference between life and death when SHTF.
But if you’re thinking of survival communication along the lines of phones, oh boy, are we in a pickle.
When things shut down, and the world is forced to go into silence, we’ve got two words for you: radio communication.
A World Without Comms
When SHTF or a major crisis happens, trust us when we say that the last thing you can rely on is your phone. The internet? Forget it! Let’s just say that those two are going to be as useful as Anne Frank’s drum set.
When the 9/11 disaster happened, cell phone comms were overwhelmed, and messages sent to loved ones were received late, some not even getting messages or calls at all. It was pandemonium and panic on top of the chaos already happening.
So how will you communicate with loved ones and friends when the situation in the comms department goes south real fast? Well, by pairing communication with preparedness, that’s how.
Put your phone down. It’s time to kick it old school with radio comms.
Radio Communication Systems
It’s important to plot out a communication plan for you and your group and to have viable communication methods that won’t let you down when the need for it comes.
Here are some radio communication systems you can look into:
Citizens Band Radio
Also known as CB radios, citizens band radios were very popular back in the 70s to the 80s and were widely used for communication. Today, CB radios are still easily and readily available. Getting your hands on one won’t be a problem. The thing is, it also has its limitations—like the fact that not a lot of people are on it.
Second, CB radios have a limited range. Radios can cover wider distances if they have more power. With this radio communication system, the watt output is only at 4, which makes it very limited.
It’ll cover around 1 to 10 miles or so, meaning a hundred people can be on the same channel on their CBs, but it’ll be useless if you all aren’t within range.
But that doesn’t mean CB radios are pieces of junk. They’re actually perfect for outfitting in your bug out vehicle (BOV) and will be useful for your group convoy. They’ll also be useful in a compound style bug out location (BOL). In other words, CB radios are perfect for groups that plan to stick close together.
Family Radio Service (FRS)
FRS radios are walkie-talkie-type radios that are pretty easy to buy. You can get these in sporting goods stores all over America.
Many manufacturers boast that their FRS radios can do well at a range of 40 miles, but don’t get too excited, Wyatt Earp. In open terrain, even clear communication at 40 miles is highly unlikely. Maybe 10 miles, tops. But when you’re in a city, a hilly or mountainous area, or a forest, the range for these radio comms shortens dramatically.
They do pretty well at Walmart, though, when you’re shopping. Spaghetti sauce on aisle 47? Got it, mom. Over.
Kidding aside, these radio communication systems are great when out on hiking, backpacking, and camping trips.
Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS)
On the “no-license” spectrum of radios, the MURS is an excellent choice. The range on it is a bit on the low side at 1 to 3 miles with no obstructions. But the Very High Frequency (VHF) band on MURS allows external antennas for a greater range! Plus, it’s easy to find a clear channel on the MURS.
Then again, finding radios in the same band can be a bit tricky. It’s much easier to find other receivers on other bands.
This radio communication system is perfect for your BOV or when you want a clear channel in a cluttered radio environment, such as the city.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)
This is a nugget of a radio that falls in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) spectrum of bands. First, we love it because you can hook it up to external antennas as well as repeaters to get an even greater range.
As for range, here’s the kicker. You can expect to start at about a 2-mile range with a 5-watt GMRS radio (remember, greater power means greater range). Moving into an elevated clearing can get you up to 5 miles.
But if you get a 15 to 40-watt GMRS radio, and you pop up an external antenna, bam! 5 to 8 miles of coverage is what you get with a handheld GMRS radio. If your GMRS radio is a mobile base and you’re talking to another mobile base, you can get about 6 to 10 miles. Meanwhile, with repeaters hooked up, a handheld radio is easily capable of 5 to 25 miles. A mobile base receives a whopping 25 to 50 miles.
Remember to get a clear comms channel and use privacy codes for this radio communication method.
The tricky thing about GMRS is that you need a license to operate a channel legally. Okay, you might argue, “Who’s going to be checking licenses when SHTF?!” but you have to be smart. Do you really want to be butting heads with the law if they do check for a license?
If you’re into preparedness, then getting a GMRS license is a must. Don’t be lazy—be legal. It’s worth it.
Amateur Radio (Ham radio)
Ham radios are pretty much the communication system used by emergency response services, search and rescue organizations, and other emergency groups.
It’s the most versatile of all two-way radio systems available to the public. Ham radios can cover vast distances, and above all, they can use voice, images, texts, and data to communicate. Pretty impressive, huh?
Again, License Required
Yep, you read that right. A license is, once again, required to be able to operate an amateur radio. There are different leveled licenses you can get, starting with the entry-level permit known as the Technician Class.
A lot of preppers and survivalists are ham radio licensed and are just great people. They want to help others, and they also have an awesome support network. If you’re thinking of getting a ham radio, they’ll be more than happy to help you out and kickstart your journey.
Communicating during an emergency can either make or break you. How quickly you can send out a message when stranded in the middle of nowhere or trapped at home after a natural disaster or how fast you can receive timely information may just save your life.
Of course, the radio comms options above are precisely that—options. Find the one that works for you and best suits your skills and your needs. Don’t let licenses limit you from getting the perfect radio communication system.
If other preppers can do it, so can you.
What’s your favorite out of all the radio comms options we presented? Let us know in the comments!