The Different Emergency Radio Options

Written by Jonathan Dick

In an emergency, you’ll want to make sure your family and friends are OK and let them know that you are safe. A family communication plan is essential in an emergency.

Before a Disaster
Out of Town Contact. Your family should pick a friend or extended family member who lives out of the state to contact. This out-of-state contact can pass along information and keep track of everyone to know that they are safe. It will be a lot easier for them to coordinate instead of the people who are in the disaster.

Make sure that this out of town contact’s information is written down inside of your 72-hour kits and that you have copies in helpful places like a child’s backpack or your wallet.

How communicate with family in an emergencyMeeting Place. Talk to your family before an emergency to determine a meeting place. There is a large chance that a disaster could occur while you are at work or your children are at school. Prepare accordingly by determining where you will meet in that situation.

Storing Emergency Communication Devices
Depending what device you have, the storage of the device may vary. For example, many walkie-talkies require that the batteries be taken out of the device if you’re going to store it for a long period of time. You should also store these devices in a water-proof or fire-proof container.

Power Source
Depending on what device you have, you might need to plan on a power source for your communication device. Whenever possible, purchase something that doesn’t require batteries – something like a dynamo crank radio. If your device is something bigger like a Ham radio, you might invest in a solar-paneled power source.

If you do invest in a device that requires batteries, make sure that you have a way to recharge the batteries with a solar paneled battery recharger or some other device.

Cell Phone
There are a lot of apps and other options but BridgeHelp is a new smartphone app that was just released a few months ago. All you have to do is open the app and click that you “Need Help” or “I’m OK.” The app then sends a text to a list of your emergency contacts telling them whether you are in need of help or not. Text messages usually work better during a disaster so this might be a good way to go.

GMRS Devices
Average Prices: $80 – 120
Range: Usually 3-5 miles (line-of-sight). Some come with higher antennas that allow for 20 miles.

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) devices are a series of walkie-talkie radios that are typically portable and small and have a range of 3-5 miles. In the United States, a license is required to operate a GMRS device. They are usually more expensive than the FRS devices.

Frequencies:

Name Freq. Motorola
Convention
Icom F21-GM
Convention
Notes
“550” 467.550 Ch. 15 Ch. 1
“575” 462.575 Ch. 16 Ch. 2
“600” 462.600 Ch. 17 Ch. 3
“625” 462.625 Ch. 18 Ch. 4
“650” 462.650 Ch. 19 Ch. 5 Not permitted near the
U.S. Canadian border.
“675” 462.675 Ch. 20 Ch. 6 Suggested as the
nationwide emergency channel.
“700” 462.700 Ch. 21 Ch. 7 Not permitted near the
U.S. Canadian border.
“725” 462.725 Ch. 22 Ch. 8

FRS Devices
Average Prices: $20 – $50
Range: Usually less than 1 mile (line-of-sight).

Family Radio Service (GMRS) devices are series of walkie-talkie radios that are more common and available without a license. They are often used by businesses as their in-store communication system. (Think of someone paging a manager on their walkie-talkie at Wal-Mart.)

A FRS device usually has a filtering system to sift out unwanted sounds and chatter from other users on the same frequency (unlike the CB Radio). They aren’t very good at protecting conversations and usually interact with other devices like baby monitors, toys and cordless phones.

Frequencies:

Channel Frequency
(MHz)
Notes
1 462.5625 Shared with GMRS
2 462.5875 Shared with GMRS
3 462.6125 Shared with GMRS
4 462.6375 Shared with GMRS
5 462.6625 Shared with GMRS
6 462.6875 Shared with GMRS
7 462.7125 Shared with GMRS
8 467.5625
9 467.5875
10 467.6125
11 467.6375
12 467.6625
13 467.6875
14 467.7125

CB Radios
Average Prices: $40 – $50
Range: Usually 1-5 miles.

The Citizens’ Band (CB) Radio is a great option for short-distance radio communication. It doesn’t require a license and allows for more business and personal communication. Only one station can be talking at a time. This is the kind of device that is used by truckers and some police officers. CB Radios are not intended for international use because so many different countries use the frequencies differently. Below are the frequencies and channels listed in the United States:

Frequencies:

Channel Frequency
(MHz)
Channel Frequency
(MHz)
Channel Frequency
(MHz)
Channel Frequency
(MHz)
1 26.965 11 27.085 21 27.215 31 27.315
2 26.975 12 27.105 22 27.225 32 27.325
3 26.985 13 27.115 23 27.255 33 27.335
4 27.005 14 27.125 24 27.235 34 27.345
5 27.015 15 27.135 25 27.245 35 27.355
6 27.025 16 27.155 26 27.265 36 27.365
7 27.035 17 27.165 27 27.275 37 27.375
8 27.055 18 27.175 28 27.285 38 27.385
9 27.065 19 27.185 29 27.295 39 27.395
10 27.075 20 27.205 30 27.305 40 27.405

Ham Radios
Average Prices: $100 – $300
Range: Usually 20-60 miles

Despite its name, the Amateur radio (Ham radio) is not for anyone’s use. The system got its name from its use as a non-commercial and non-governmental use of communication.

One is required to obtain a license in order to operate a ham radio and sometimes the ham radios can be very expensive. Ham radios are great for communicating between long distances but there is a lot of red tape surrounding their use.

What do you use?
Comment below to tell us what you have in place for your emergency communication plan. Have any good advice? Share below? Or do you think we should carry a certain product? Let us know!

Updated January 23, 2013

14 Comments

  1. Dani wrote:

    The app seems to be called helpbridge not bridgehelp. Thanks

    January 24th, 2013 at 6:22 am
  2. Mr. Prepper wrote:

    GREAT INFORMATION ON HOW EACH OF THESE COMMUNICATION DEVICES WORK. HAVING A COMMUNICATION PLAN IS CRUCIAL AND HAVING MORE THAN ONE IS A GOOD IDEA. CELL PHONES MAY NOT WORK SO HAVE A BACKUP PLAN IF THAT IS YOUR MAIN FORM OF COMMUNICATION. HAVING A MEETING PLACE IS KEY IN CASE ALL COMMUNICATIONS ARE INTERRUPTED OR JAMMED. GREAT ARTICLE.

    January 24th, 2013 at 9:34 am
  3. Cathy wrote:

    When the fires hit our area, texting worked the best. We had several peak times when disaster was hitting and all cell service was jammed. People were trying to call us which made things worse. Plus emergency people were needing the cell towers. Texting worked most times.

    I have data service on my phone and what I did not have was emails for the important people for me to contact. I only had phone numbers. So, make sure you have email address on your phone because not everyone has text.

    I love these ready store tips as it helps remind me about what I need to do. Because of where I live, I am expecting the fire disaster to always be a threat. I need to be ready. I am better prepared, but I need to be more prepared.

    January 24th, 2013 at 11:10 am
  4. John wrote:

    Your answer for Amateur Radio is a bit misleading. Getting licensed is a bit more involved than buying a blister-pack radio and installing a battery, but I don’t think it is fair to call it “red tape.” If the goal of the prepper is to be able to sustain as normal an existence as possible, you need to be able to communicate, in the words of the Amateur Radio community, “when all else fails.” A huge portion of Amateur Radio is preparing for disasters. For more complete info, go to http://www.arrl.org And, yes, I’m proud to say “I’m a ham.” It’s a part of being prepared. With my battery-powered and solar-powered equipment, I can talk world-wide (not just 20-60 miles as the blog entry says,) and not only monitor local emergency communications networks, but be of assistance to them. Most hospitals, emergency communications centers, and even the military have ham equipment pre-positioned for use “when all else fails.”

    January 24th, 2013 at 1:29 pm
  5. John Perkins wrote:

    Communication is often overlooked during an emergency. This article really takes the extra steps into what to do for communication. Thanks for the information!

    January 24th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
  6. Clint wrote:

    I have two GMRS radios, mainly for when I am moving (I’m miltary, so every few years) and we don’t have cell reception and still need to communicate while driving. I went to http://www.fcc.gov to get my license for the GMRS radios. It was about $40 for 5 years and was easy to fill out. I think I had the license within in hand within a few weeks.

    February 6th, 2013 at 10:16 pm
  7. two way radios for business wrote:

    Also one needs to know the power requirements of the radio
    as these also affect the battery life. Whether it is a recreational outdoor activity or a social gathering or even other group occasion involving a number of participants, the need for disseminating information and connecting the awareness of each individual is important
    to the success and even safety of all. Also these come with so many features these days that any person can
    get confused.

    April 22nd, 2013 at 9:41 am
  8. Scott from Moore OK. wrote:

    I want this. I know from experience; communication is key. The family panics if they do not have any info and the only info I was getting was from family in other states via text that did not work most of the time.

    June 17th, 2013 at 10:07 am
  9. Gayland wrote:

    Folks you need to have a amateur radio operator write a piece for you. We take pride in the fact we worked to get our license. It is easer than when I got my ham ticket.

    October 2nd, 2013 at 10:10 am
  10. Martin NH wrote:

    100% agree on amateur/ham radio.

    Technician license (base license) is straightforward to learn/earn. Requires a test administered by local radio clubs and $15.00 — you can get by with a $40 handheld radio for emergency comms.

    Amateur radio – the original social media…

    October 17th, 2013 at 9:18 am
  11. Constitutionalist wrote:

    I worked during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The cell phones were overloaded requiring long waits, if ever, to make a call. Also remember that your AC current home telephones require electricity and will not work during a power outage. Purchase an old style push button (not dial). They will work just fine.

    October 28th, 2013 at 12:19 pm
  12. Gayland Grant wrote:

    I guess I will write a small concise piece for you on Amateur Radio. It will take me a few weeks. I am not a writer per-say.

    Gayland Grant
    W9AKW / NNN0AFT

    November 9th, 2013 at 4:40 am
  13. Gerard T. O'Leary wrote:

    So on these Motorola radios which channel selection by number are the C.B. frequencies?

    Also what channel by number are the frequencies that you need a FCC License for?

    March 24th, 2014 at 7:30 am
  14. Bruce wrote:

    HelpBridge downloaded but when I try to open the app it simply crashes while loading. Worthless.

    March 26th, 2014 at 11:36 am

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