Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Communications should be an important part of any survivors plan. There are many types of communication and as many types of equipment to go with it. The communications I am going to cover for this post will be:

Extreme short range (FRS, GMRS)
CB Radio
Ham Radio
NOAA Emergency Radio

Communications even over a short distance could be critical during times of crisis. FRS and GMRS radios fill this need quite nicely. An example of a typical FRS/GMRS radio is something like these Motorola T9500XLR 25-Mile 2-Way Radios. Do not be fooled by the claims of 25 mile distance or any distance over 2 miles for that matter...unless you happen to be lost in a REALLY flat, REALLY clear area. Realistically at their best in a normal situation be extremely satisfied with 2 mile range. The radios are cheap and effective for short range communication or even vehicle to vehicle communication if traveling in a convoy type setup. We use these when camping or working around the house, etc. If you look at the picture in this post (my actual setup) you can see a set sitting on top of my Comm Box.

Please note most radios that are of this type that are sold are combo FRS/GMRS radios. The FCC require you to obtain a license to use the more powerful GMRS channel. There is no test, just pay the fee and you are good to go. Unlike other radio services a family can all share one call sign, there is no need to obtain a license for each family member. You can find more info about licensing on the FCC's licensing page.

I was born in the seventies so I did not have the pleasure of experiencing the "CB craze". Citizens Band is a band that is free to use and unregulated, as a result of this some of the traffic you hear can be interesting to say the least. I keep one in my truck, I also have one in my Comm Box as well, the Galaxy DX 959 40 Channel AM/SSB Mobile CB Radio. CB radio is extremely useful when traveling, truckers use it most and they are full of "useful" info. The range varies depending on your equipment; namely your antenna. I have heard of 20-30 mile range no problem is you have an extremely high quality antenna. CB is definitely worth checking out as the equipment can be cheap and there is not licensing or even skill needed. Put the radio on channel 19, press the mic key and talk...that is it!

OK folks here is the biggie: Ham radio...ham radio had been around for decades and depending how far you go with licensing and equipment you can talk to anywhere in the world. I personally have a technician license, I don't have access to the lower frequency bands like 10 meter. My radio is a Kenwood 2m/440, with the aid of repeaters and linked repeaters I can talk to folks as far away a neighboring states but not much further. The current license classes are technician, general and extra class. They have dropped the Morse code requirement to obtain a general class license so I need to get off my butt and take that test and get myself an HF radio. There is no excuse not to get a license. The tests consists of 35 questions all of which can be found along WITH ANSWERS in the training books. Once you pass test you will be issued a call sign by the FCC and you can get started. Ham radio is highly regulated and the FCC will come down on you like a ton of bricks and fine you thousands of dollars if you screw around, this is serious stuff so treat it as such. Hams have gotten a bad rap among new members of the ranks as old and crabby but MANY are extremely helpful and will "elmer" (read: mentor) you if you ask. Ham radio is usually available when everything else fails because the equipment can be powered by a car battery, if that is all you have. Some sites to visit to get you started with ham radio would be:

QRZ - Popular ham radio forum.
ARRL - Organization which supports ham radio and it's causes.
FCC - Government agency that regulates ham radio.

Everyone should have a NOAA emergency radio like a Eton FR300 Emergency Crank Radio Metallic Silver. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They are emergency radios that can provide storm and weather information to you and your family during a weather related emergency. You can see mine (white) tucked in the bottom shelf of my Comm Box. I like that model because you can crank it if the battery dies and it will run just fine for a quite a bit of time. These types of radios only provide one way, incoming communication but should be a part of your plan. They provide up to date weather information including impending storm warnings and disaster information. They are very valuable, if you have only one communication item make it this!

Well that's it for now but be sure to include communications as part of your survival plan, a simple device like an NOAA radio could give enough warning to escape a storm and save your family!

...that is all.

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  1. You have a very neat comms setup. I've been a HAM for over 30 years and still get out the key and pound the brass every now and then just to keep my fingers limber. There are 2 kinds of HAMS, in my experience. Ones who are like you and have a really neat, tidy and workable station and ones like me that have a soldering iron, wires, switches, radios buried under manuals and bits and pieces of electronics all over the desk. I'd prefer to be like you but I'm too old to change. My MARS station was always neat as long as you didn't open the desk drawers :)
    Keep up the good work you are doing. You are full of surprises and I really enjoy visiting your blog.
    Cliff in Georgia

  2. Cliff nothing wrong with being a tinkerer. I wish I had the knowledge to be able to disassemble electronics and "fool" with them. I have seen folks with benches filled with interesting equipment (not neat by any means) but they know what everything is and have a project lined up for each thing they have salvaged. That takes imagination and skill. So be messy and be proud!

  3. Very nice setup. Mine is a pair of the FRS radios and a little am/fm/shortwave radio shack jobber. With the FRS it is all about LINE OF SIGHT. I have talked 10 miles on them but it was large hilltop to large hilltop.

    Think about getting a scanner. Knowing what is going on with the cops and fire department in the area could be quite valuable in a SHTF situation. Some of the smaller hand heald ones can be battery powered I think.

    PS when I added the link to your sight I forgot to save it. I fixed that now.

  4. As an aside (I'm just full of those), while I have battery backup for my rigs they are in the shack in the basement. We lost power last night due to a storm. I didn't think it was going to be out long enough to fire up the generator but to be on the safe side I dragged the UPS from the computer room in to our bedroom and used it to power the police scanner. With in 10 minutes I knew where the storm was, what lines were down, ETA on power coming back, who was injured, etc. We listen to the scanner all the time in the background. The scanner was the only way I knew when the police busted a house up the street for having over 400 pot plants growing in their basement. Seems I don't know my neighbors very well.
    Anyway, UPS or battery backup is handy to have. Mine will even power the TV for an hour or two if need be.
    Cliff in Georgia

  5. Very nice seems like you got everything under contral very nice Camping Equipment!