When an extreme weather event or civil unrest emergency that overwhelms communication infrastructure – or else knocks it out entirely – it’s best to have a backup plan in place. Being able to communicate with loved ones in an emergency situation is crucial to finding them and getting everyone to safety quickly.
In urban areas, cell phone towers can quickly be overloaded, preventing the use of cell phones as an effective means of communication. And in remote areas, cellular service can often be patchy and unpredictable even under normal circumstances. For these reasons, you’ll want to make sure you have walkie-talkies on hand in case of an emergency.
Here are the most important features you should look for when shopping for the best walkie-talkies in an emergency:
Range is an important consideration when you are looking for a good emergency walkie-talkie. You will want to be able to depend on your walkie-talkie to have a long enough range that you will be able to communicate with loved ones even if they are several miles away.
However, while many walkie-talkies will advertise range of more than ten miles – and some as many as twenty – you should be prepared for the fact that in urban environments and broken terrain, radio range can easily be reduced to less than a mile.
Multiple channels are also an important feature of a good walkie-talkie. You want to have the ability to prepare emergency plans that allow you to contact your loved ones on a particular band so they know what to look for. But it’s also useful to be able to access multiple other channels so you can monitor emergency channels, listen for emergency bulletins and keep tabs on potentially hostile individuals on other bands. You’ll also want to try to find a model that works on both GRMS bands (1 to 5 watt) as well as the less-powerful FRS bands (0.5 watts).
An emergency button is an important feature of any good emergency walkie-talkie. These buttons allow you to transmit SOS signals and use the walkie-talkie hands-free, and also allow you to silently send information using Morse code if you are in a dangerous situation and don’t want to risk talking into your walkie-talkie.
Power source is another critical consideration in an emergency walkie-talkie. You can probably assume that power lines will be down after a severe weather event or during a period of major civil unrest. So you won’t want to have to depend on charging your walkie-talkies.
Battery-operated walkie-talkies can easily solve this problem, provided you make sure you also have plenty of back-up batteries in your go bag. But you may also want to consider looking into hand cranked walkie-talkies, which allow you to forego the power issue altogether. Hand-cranked walkie-talkies will not have the same kind of range as more powerful models, but they’ll do in a pinch.
Durability is also an important feature in your emergency walkie-talkie. In an emergency situation, you want to make sure your sole communication device doesn’t easily break if it is dropped or banged up. And you also want to make sure your walkie-talkie is waterproof. In an extreme weather event, or if you are escaping emergency situations by boat, you don’t want to risk your walkie-talkie shorting out if it gets wet.
Size and weight are the final things you should consider with an emergency walkie-talkie. As with any equipment in your go bag, space and weight are major considerations. The more room your walkie-talkies take up, the less room there will be for other vital gear, such as foot and water rations, first aid gear, or flashlights. Make sure you get walkie-talkies that are lightweight and not to large.
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