Two Way Radio Communication for preppers

Emergency two way radio communication for a prepper can be wide and varied. When a disaster strikes one of the things that is often lost almost always with immediate effect is mobile communications. It is one that very few people will have prepared for if they’ve prepared at all. The ability to maintain normal lines of communication could one day save your life or the life of someone you love.

During a disaster type event, it is highly likely that landlines, cellphones, and the internet would all go down. For how long would be anyone’s guess? However, the real problem is that when a disaster strikes it will do so
without any consideration. You may be lucky and your family could be together when the SHTF, but the chances are you won’t be.

With the distinct possibility that different members of your family will be in different locations. It would be an extremely smart move to have some kind of a family recovery and communication plan to ensure you can get everyone together as quickly and as safely as possible.

Formulating such a plan is a whole different topic on its own as each plan would be specific to each individual family. However, one thing that all these plans will definitely have in common is that they will all include at
least one mode of emergency communication. In this article will be outlining the pros and cons of the main three: CB radios, Ham radios, and Handheld two-way radios.

Survivalist Ham Radio

Ham radio setup for long range communications

Ham radios are widely considered to be the most effective and dependable type of emergency communication available to the general public today. They are advanced enough to provide both custom short range and long range communications. For locals who face emergency situations, as well as long distance communications which make ham radios ideal for conveying information. This could save countless lives further down the line.

It is important to note that you need to be licensed and trained in America for the use of Ham radios. This license gives you access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz. For more information, you can check out ARRL.org

Despite the fact that ham radio licenses are considered to be a drawback, there are a few important reasons why even those who have considered trying to use ham without a license have opted against that choice:

  • To the untrained, ham radios are pretty complicated to operate. There is a definite learning curve, and even if you do manage to teach yourself how to use the radio to do basic stuff. Like sending out emergency communications, or morse code. There is a lot more you could do with these radios that after being properly trained would facilitate.
  • If you don’t face a true end of the world situation, during which rules are generally no longer enforced, you can run the very real risk of getting arrested. This means big fines and possible jail time if you are proven guilty. Don’t be fooled, the authorities can track and triangulate Illegal users relatively easily nowadays.

As well as the fact a license is required to use a ham radio; and also that they are difficult for the untrained user to master. The next issue is cost as a decent ham radio set-up will be much more expensive than other types of emergency communication.

You will also have to learn the Ham radio lingo. Often the signal is choppy or scrambled and words can sound different. That’s why there is an official lingo or phonetic alphabet which has been designed to help make sense of a static signal. Check out the full range of Ham radio jargons and their meanings.

Ham Radio Antenna

Ham radio antenna
Ham Radio Antenna

A large external antenna is required to reach long distances. Often people will mount these onto a large poll and support it with guide wires. Getting your Ham radio antenna above other buildings is essential for a good signal.

It is also important to note that these radios need electricity to operate. Often these base stations run on 110v due to their large power draw. Make sure you have your back up portable generators set up and ready to go in case of a power outage.

Prepper CB Radio

truck CB Radio mounted up high
Truck CB radio

For many preppers, Ham radios are seen as the first line of defense in the event that a war breaks out, a natural catastrophe happens, or there is a local crisis that temporarily knocks out communication towers and cuts
supply lines.

Many CB radios have been designed to fit into cars and trucks. Their range is often a lot further than walkie talkies due to the fact they have a long car antenna.

However, for others, Ham radios may be seen as overkill especially when we are talking about emergency communications between family members in what is often a localized situation. That is why CB radios are a long-standing emergency communication favorite with many.

CB Radio Pros

  • One great thing about citizen band (CB) radios is that even during the worst types of crisis you can still rely on them. While other means of communication can fail entirely during certain events and natural calamities, you can rest assured that your CB radios will still work.
  • Handheld CB radios are extremely easy to use, ideal for families with younger children.
  • Mini car CB Radios are relatively inexpensive
  • One of the main advantages of CB radios over systems like ham radio is that you don’t have to worry about licenses. CB radio users don’t need them in order to operate, which allows the user a much greater degree of freedom.

However, the range and limitations of cheaper CB radios can still be a problem. Moreover, to increase their range you have to know some pretty advanced electronics, which most regular people don’t. Nevertheless, the advantages far outweigh any problems that CB radios might cause.

Although CB equipment bought through authorized channels is mostly underpowered, many preppers often opt to illegally boost their CB equipment signal. Rather than have to apply for a license to operate a ham radio or a two-way GMRS radio. Boosting the signal can often be done by installing a high gain antenna.

Long Range Two Way Radio/Walkie Talkies

long range two way radio communication

Two-way radios were once frowned upon as being nothing more than toys, but not anymore! Consumer two-way radios, or walkie-talkies as they are also affectionately known, have improved massively over the past few decades. So much so that they have now become the ‘go to’ emergency communication tool for any discerning prepper or survivalist.

Probably the most important advantage of two-way radios is the fact that they allow for direct and immediate communication between two people who might be miles apart.

Modern walkie-talkies can have excellent range and most can ensure crystal clear sound, however, they do require a clear line of sight in order to achieve both. As a family, we often use walkie talkies when out snowboarding in areas without mobile communication.

Advancements in two way radios mean that gone are the days when their use was limited to just talking. Nowadays, modern units can also provide you with SOS signaling, weather alerts, and even hands-free operation.

There is a huge number of two-way radio brands and models from which to choose, all are extremely versatile and most are very affordable, so much so that you will probably be able to have one for each member of your family and have spare sets too, without breaking the bank!

Two way radios are also extremely easy to use which is ideal should you have young children in your group.

As good as a two-way radio communication sounds, their main disadvantage is that they really struggle to achieve any range over 1 – 2 miles. This is because in urban and heavily forested areas their signal is blocked by objects. They really require a clear line of sight for optimum signal efficiency. So if a mountain is in the way you will most probably lose radio contact.

However, 1-2 miles in an emergency situation when there is no other method of communicating is better than nothing!

GMRS Long Range – Up to 36 miles Two Way Radios

It is great to see advancement in technology provide a solution to everyday problems. Currently, GMRS also known as General Mobile Radio Service uses licensed radio service that uses channels in the 462 MHz and 467 MHz ranges.

This frequency boosts the signal to be able to travel up to 36 miles in an open area. The Midland GXT1000VP4 is a 50 channel auto scanning cheap Two-Way Radio that gets great reviews online.

I love that it is waterproof to JIS-4 standards and VOX enabled for hands free voice communication. You have the option of using the internal battery or bringing along 4 AA batteries for extra power out in the wild.

A full charge will give you 11 hours of use with the internal battery taking 12 hours to charge from fully flat. The Weather feature will automatically find the nearest NOAA broadcast so you can stay up to date with the latest weather and information.

Conclusion:

All three of the communication methods covered above are excellent, but if you were looking for a radio that is; easy to use for all age groups, affordable, reliable, lightweight, and small, then a two-way radio is definitely your best option.

Finally…

It may be basic, but there is one communication method we’ve not mentioned which has saved countless lives throughout the years and should, therefore be a definite in your emergency communication plan.

The good old emergency whistle! They are loud, cheap to buy, and do not require batteries.! Better still learn to whistle loud. A high pitched whistle travels further and is louder than anyone can shout.

Author Bio: Danny Major is a former armored reconnaissance soldier who knows a thing or two about survival, keeping off the radar, and being prepared. You can read more about how zombies turned him into a bonafide prepper by visiting his site AlphaSurvivalist.

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