Communications Options For a Natural or Man-Made Disaster

By BadVooDooDaddy


There are many options for your communications needs in a disaster.  Having some kind of communications network set up before a disaster strikes is very important.  Depending on what type of focus you want to take for those communication needs will determine what type of equipment you will need to acquire.  First We will talk about the types of communications equipment and there strength’s and weaknesses.


Walkie Talkies:  There are two different types of personal radio’s.  First there are FRS(Family Radio Service) radio’s.  These are your common 7 FRS and 7 shared FRS/GMRS channel hand-held radio’s.  They have up to 10 different privacy codes per channel.  These privacy codes allow you to find a clear channel even if you are on a main channel.  These types of radio’s generally operate on a low power out put of 1/2 watt.  There distance is short, about 1 to 2 miles.  The second type is the GMRS system (General Mobile Radio System) GMRS usually operate at about 1 to 2 watts.  These radios give you up to a total of 22 channels(Both FRS and GMRS channels) and you still have all the privacy codes for all the channels for a total of 121 channels.  With a GMRS radio if you are going to use the GMRS channels on that radio the FCC requires you to have a 5 year license to operate on those channels.  I have 4 of the FRS type radios with headsets for tactical use.

Scanners:  There are many types of scanners.  Hand-held and Base Station scanners are going to be the ones we will be talking about.  Both do the same job it just depends on which type you decide best suits your needs.  We will concentrate on just budget scanners in this post.  These have between 8-20 channels and operate between 30-512 megahertz.  These types of scanners generally are good for Police and Fire Department traffic.  There are much more complex and expensive scanners that will pick up other types of traffic like Air Traffic Radio and others but most people are not interested in this type of traffic or the cost of the equipment.


Citizen Band Radios or CB’s:  Here again there are many different levels of CB radios.  We will concentrate on two different types here.  The first is your standard 40 channel CB.  These can be purchased fairly cheaply and are easy to find.  Their cost is usually between $50 and $100 and can sometimes be found in a kit form with an antenna, microphone and speaker for those prices.  I have one like this and I found a magnetic antenna that will just stick to the roof of my truck.  I found my radio for $30 on e-bay.  The antenna was $15 at the local truck-stop.  They are very easy to hook up in your vehicle and can be taken out when not in use.  The other type of CB is a CB/SSB radio the SSB stands for Single Side Band and they have much more range than the standard CB.  Truckers usually have the CB/SSB type radio.  These radios are a bit more expensive.  The next radio I get for my truck is going to be a CB/SSB type radio.  You can also turn both of these radios into a base station style radio and use a bigger antenna for more distance.

Shortwave Radios and Weather Alert Radio’s:  Shortwave radio’s usually have several bands and operate between 3-30 mhz.  There biggest asset is the fact that shortwave stations can usually transmit over very long distances.  They are usually considered world radio stations.  There are also local stations that transmit on shortwave frequencies.  These radios also receive local emergency broadcasts as well as some SSB stations and AM/FM radio.  I suggest if you get a shortwave radio that you get one with a digital tuner and pick up a frequency guide to help you find out the type of information on channels you might need.  Tuning a shortwave radio is something that takes a little practice.


Ham Radios:  The two types of Ham Radios we will talk about here are the Base station type and the mobile and hand-held units.  Depending on the frequency range of the radio and the antenna set-up you get this determines the distance and power you transmit on  Base station units usually have a bigger power rating than mobile units do.  You do have to have an operators license that is issued by the FCC to operate a ham radio and at that time you get your call letters that you will use while operating you radio to identify who you are and your location in the world.  I am considering getting my license and picking up a mobile unit to use as a mobile base station along with a CB with SSB capabilities.  I plan on putting both of these mobile units in a water proof Pelican case that can be set up as a base station if I need to bug out of my current location to a Retreat location.  Both of these radios will be operated off of a 12 volt deep cycle battery that can be recharged using my vehicle’s alternator and battery system.


Communications during an emergency,whether it be natural or man-made is going to be an important part of surviving.  Having a basic set up and the knowledge to operate it can be the difference between life and death.  Pick up the equipment and get the knowledge of how to operate it, and what it does and you will be better prepared for any emergency.

[From Rourke: Check out Badvoodoodaddy’s awesome blog  – The Retreat.]

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13 thoughts on “Communications Options For a Natural or Man-Made Disaster”

  1. Great information. And very timely for me. I’ve been considering getting a HAM radio license myself. I really cannot see much of a downside to having one, especially if things deteriorate. I’ve only just begun to do the research on it though. Any additional information you care to share would be appreciated.



  2. Glad to hear that you and Rourke are thinking about getting a ham license!
    Let me know if I can help in any way. There’s a testing guide on our blog that
    covers the test topics and most of the questions.

  3. Are there any personal radios for the 5 – 10 mile range that you would recommend? Something you could add to your Amazon store.

  4. The others types are good to have also.

    For the Ham radios, you no longer have to take a Morse code test. The written tests consist of a pool of questions that have already been published. While understanding the theory is the best way to go, you can still get you call-sign and get started if you can memorize…. you can check out and get the books that have the same questions in them that will be on the exam. You can also look up the area you are in and find out the exam schedule for your area.

    The great thing about Ham radio is that it weeds out the “Breaker one nine for a radio check, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You got a copy on me, Pig pen? We got a Bear in the Air!” mentality you’ll still find ( yes, after all these years ) on the CB frequencies.

  5. Great post.

    Another option is a hand held marine VHF which can be used on land as well. If you live near a large body of water, chances are you will get current weather updates on your VHF too.

    Since our extreme SHTF strategy is to hop on a boat and head to Canada, we keep our portable marine VHF radio charged up and ready to go. It helps that we are experienced boaters and know these local waters pretty well. We also know how to navigate using charts – something that many mariners have forgotten in these days of GPS, chart plotters and electronic gizmos.

    — Gaye

  6. Lots of good information here from a guy who is certainly qualified (retired U.S. Army Special Forces) to speak on communications mediums. Especially good info on the placement of Ham Radios in a waterproof Pelican case for bug-out purposes. Now THAT is thinking!

  7. Good stuff on the “COMMS”. I too like the layered approach because it adds redundancy. My families short range comms is based around on “Motorola T6500” series, so they’re a bit dated and we use Tactical head sets (Bravo series) throat mics systems (AC-APP-T-MIC005) and a standard mic. The items you mentioned are a work in process.

  8. I really great to see all the people considering getting their HAM radio license! The Technician exam is not bad at all if you put several hours into studying the test prep book from Gordon West, WB6NOA. The General Class and Amateur Extra get progressively more difficult but worth the effort in frequencies gained!

    I use an ICOM and Yaesu radios in my truck and home, in addition to a Uniden Pro 640e CB/SSB radio for highway traveling (to keep up with the road conditions from the truckers)!

    Good luck getting licensed!

    Jim – KC5DOV
    Shreveport, LA

  9. The ‘privacy codes’ on frs/gmrs do NOTHING to enhance privacy other than to keep you from hearing other chatter on that channel. They DO NOT give you more channels, you still have the same 7 frs and 14 gmrs. Set a privacy code on one radio and talk, have a friend with another radio without the code set press the ‘monitor’ button on their radio. They WILL hear you. Best bet is to always communicate like you are being listened to and watch what you say


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