Post-SHTF Communication and Information

by Eric

One of the most important things post-collapse is getting information. If you don’t have the right info, a slew of bad things can happen. You may not know in tine that that wildfire is getting near your house, or that invading forces have taken over a town or have blown up a bridge.

I can literally give hundreds of examples of how a communications can keep you alive post TEOTWAWKI, but let’s focus on the things that will help you communicate and store or share information.

Cell Phones

Cell phones are great. It seems that everyone has one. They are so completely indispensable that I can’t imagine not having one. They are basically handheld computers and with access to the internet, literally ALL of the knowledge of man is at your fingertips. As telephones, their one touch speed dial calls up whoever you want to talk to instantly.

Many people are too reliant on their cell phones though. However, those in the prepper community who have their favorite websites that they like to access for information need to realize something. In worst case scenarios of SHTF/TEOTWAWKI there will no longer BE an internet, and there will no longer be cell phone reception due to lost satellites and cell towers.

Learn more about satellite phones here.

Two Way Radio a.k.a. Walkie-Talkies

Yep, we used them when we were in the woods hunting because my cousins Verizon cell phone didn’t get any reception there (my Cricket phone did). But he got a really nice pair of walkie-talkies for about $35 and they had a range of about 15 miles, maybe more.

Right now for $80 plus shipping, you can get a six pack of two way radios with a thirty five mile range! This is enough communication gear for the whole family or recon group. With several channels to choose from, you can not only dial up a channel that may be private, but you can also dial around and listen in and see if you can hear other people. You might even pick up other people that are trying to sneak up on you.

The two way radio, or the walkie-talkie as it is commonly called, is a must have for the survivalist/prepper that is operating within a group. Whether it is your family unit or just a group of friends that have banded together, communication is VITAL to your survival.

And for the home base you need to have a CB radio or even a ham radio. The CB radio is what truck drivers use and can reach out for miles. If you rig up an antenna that is tall and/or wide, you can reach out there pretty far.

I remember way back before the common man could afford a cellular phone, we used CB radios in our cars and homes as a way to communicate aside from the house phone.

There are two different types of personal radios. First there are FRS(Family Radio Service) radios. These are your common 7 FRS and 7 shared FRS/GMRS channel hand-held radios.

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.

Shortwave Radios and Weather Alert Radios

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 waterproof 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.


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 CBs

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.

Micro SD Cards

So, what is a person to do? Well, first off, keep in mind, that even without cell phone and internet reception your smart phone is STILL a handheld computer. If you put a large capacity micro SD card in your phone you can store a LOT of word DOC or PDF files full of vital information.

I have a 100 GB external hard drive that I use for long term storage of files for my laptop. It is about the size of a cell phone. Well, a mere three of the 32 GB micro SD cards are about the size of my thumbnail, and about as thick as three playing cards, and they will basically hold the same amount of information as that big, clumpy external hard drive.

So, this shows that using the micro SD cards is a very viable method of storing information in dark times. But you can buy a 256 GB micro SD card if you want to spend the money on one, a good brand costs a couple hundred dollars, a generic one on ebay is 10 bux. Hmmm, 10 dollars for a 256 GB SD card? Caveat emptor…

Also keep in mind you can have several of these cards, sure, you can only put one at a time in the phone, but that’s all you need to do. You can have several with the same info just in case something happens to one, you have a backup. You can keep several of them stored in an air and water tight container, like a 35mm film canister (remember those?) or something similar.

I’d probably opt for something with a screw on lid with a rubber seal for something like that so the lid won’t accidentally pop off. But if you have a hundred or so GB of storage for your cell phone, then you will have a LIBRARY worth of information on hand and it weighs nothing. I just plugged mine in and that was it.

That many books and papers would literally weigh a ton, yet by storing the info on a micro SD card for your cell phone you can carry that ton of info like it isn’t even there. In this way you can store information on indigenous foods in your area, i.e. wild berries, tubers etc.

You can store information on medicinal plants, how to do anything you can think of, all of this information can still be at your fingertips, you just have to process and store it NOW. You can store gun repair, medical emergency procedures for shock and drowning etc, CPR how to instructions, how to deliver a baby, how to suture a wound (I just use super glue), just anything you can think of needing you will have on tap.

Back in the Day

I knew a guy that was an electronics wizard and he could rig up a power linear (which was illegal of course) and when he drove down the street and keyed the mic everyone’s televisions went out. That thing would reach about 100 miles or so.

He also knew how to make it dial in between channels somehow; I never understood all of that. But he would make contact, then say go to channel 6, but really that meant go to channel 9.5. Then we could say whatever we wanted to say and no one was the wiser. The unit pictured right is the type used in a vehicle.

He even met his wife that way, back then the CB was like Facebook and Twitter. You just keyed the mic and said breaker breaker, whatever channel you were on, then someone would reply. Sometimes it would be a female, then you could make conversation, and viola’, new friend.

In the days of SHTF/TEOTWAWKI the CB radio can be a lifeline, but it can also be a death line if someone else knows how to triangulate your signal and find you. So care would have to be used if you thought there might be bad nasties about.

But yeah, I would carry a walkie-talkie in my pocket when I was around the neighborhood and someone else I knew could beep me. Several of us had them and they all worked together as long as they had adjustable channels and we all would be on the same channel, or we could click around until we found them.

This technology is older, but it still works, and it works without satellites and towers. As long as the battery is charged you are good to go. Back then they used a 9volt battery, you know, those square ones your older brother tried to get you to lick when you were 12.

But now days they are usually rechargeable, and so as long as you have a solar charger you can keep them up and running. Communication will be vital. Imagine that you are out hunting and you just feel a little safer because you know that you have a way to contact your family or survival group should an emergency arise.

Or, if you are the forward observer and you see a person or group of people heading towards your home base, then you can radio ahead and warn them. If you can do the between channels thing then you will have a more secure communication system. I wish I knew how to do that, I would tell you, but Steve always rigged our radios and CBs for it.

Here is an informative video on the CB radio:

SHTF Communications..CB Radio Basics

I have a CB radio and a good antenna for it. It’s not hooked up, but in an emergency all I have to do is hook it to any 12 volt power supply, like my car battery, wire up the antenna and run it up a tree as high as I can climb, or put it on the roof etc. the higher the better. Then I can listen in on emergency services like fire and police, and any other 2 way radio communications that may be going on.

I could possibly even hear military channels; I’m not sure how that works. But anything that is going through the air I will be able to pick up. And in those times maintaining a line of communication and having your vital information available, will go a long way towards helping you survive.

Final Words

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.

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6 thoughts on “Post-SHTF Communication and Information”

  1. “Then I can listen in on emergency services like fire and police, and any other 2 way radio communications that may be going on.”

    Don’t count on doing this with a CB radio, which is AM (sometimes SSB), and operate in the range of 26.9 – 27.4 mHz.

    Fire and Police are typically FM and operate on much higher frequencies. Most of those are on computer controlled “Trunking” systems which will require a more expensive radio (i.e. Trunking Scanner”). I have two, which cost a little over $400 each.

  2. Um, 35 mile range from a “walkie talkie”. I doubt it. Really good ones might make 3.5 miles. In order to reach out 35 miles with a radio, you need a big antenna, up high, and a fair amount of power. Which you won’t get with a “walkie talkie”, the best of which have perhaps 5 watts and a 10″ antenna 5 feet off the ground.

    Many of the ones you find in the box stores are “FRS” which is a license free band with very strict restrictions on power and antenna. 350 yards is a stretch for these. Some come with GRS capability, which requires a license to use (not that that is a factor in an emergency). But even with the greater power, they are limited to the non-exchangeable crappy antenna required for the FRS part of the unit.

    “HAM” (amateur radio) hand held units are the best choice, which need a license. Again, not a factor in an emergency, but many of these are quite complex, and you want to learn to use them before the emergency, without paying massive fines for unlicensed transmissions.

    Any radio you have, can only listen to the bands it is set for (whether from the factory or modified). A better choice for “listening” would be a “scanner” which can access all the bands.

  3. Of all the options for the common lay person the Citizens band with a real antenna is an option for close communication 2 to 5 miles unless your base to base or you have perfect line of site conditions and for the most part yo will not. The bubble pack 35 mile radios I am telling you will not get 35 miles period unless you are mountain top to mountain top and even then that’s a stretch, it is criminal how these are marketed. If you want true communications for local, regional or global you need to get your ham license period. Morse code is no longer required and anyone with 20 to 40 hours of study time can pass the 35 question technician test. This is really the best option because anything else is just 2 tin cans with a string in between, SHTF though its a different ballgame but then you may or may not have access to real gear.

  4. Another downside to the frs/gmrs radios is that if shtf and cell goes down, everyone that has one will be trying to use it. The range may be like a half mile or less in crowded areas. Of course when the batteries die, that issue will become less.
    If I didn’t have a ham license, Murs would be my choice for local comms along with an 11 meter ssb radio


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