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Can A Cb Radio Save Your Life?

Reliable communications and timely, accurate information are two of the most important tools for survival during a Real Nightmare. Being able to reach out and coordinate with the people in your support network is crucial. Knowing what is going on in the world around you is equally important.


How will you know when it is safe to return home or to venture out of your home? Is your current location the safest one to be in or is it likely you will need to move.


If you do need to move, how will you keep in touch with the people you care about and those who can help you?


No preparedness plan is complete unless you have both of these elements addressed in a reliable way.


Everyone needs an emergency communications plan – There are NO exceptions!!!

Telephones, both cellular and landlines, as well as most other modern communications methods, rely on sensitive technology and infrastructure that is subject to power outages, overloading, and other disruptions that commonly occur during widespread emergencies. Natural disasters are notorious for disrupting normal communications infrastructure and we will likely see this same infrastructure targeted by terrorists and other unhappy people in the very near future. Criminals are already learning to jamb or interfere with normal communications methods to further their nefarious plans. This makes these methods useless, or unreliable at best when you might need them most.


I define reliable communications as any method of communicating that does not rely on any technology or infrastructure that I do not control. Yep, when it comes to communications, I am a control freak. During any sort of emergency, I need to be able to exchange information with any number of people to help me ensure both my survival and theirs. I need to know if my loved ones are safe or if they are in need of help. I need to be able to coordinate my movements and decisions with theirs. Too many times I have been let down by the “normal” ways of communicating when I really needed them.


However, I am not a complete technophobe when it comes to communications methods and I do not advocate that we revert to smoke signals and drums to keep in touch during a crisis. I do insist that any method I am staking my life and the lives of my family on must be able to function regardless of the weather outside or the behavior of other people.


So, let’s look at some things that are not reliable in a crisis:


Cellular and landline telephones.


The internet – this includes all of your social media and other online services.


911 emergency call systems Fire, Police and EMS dispatch systems.


All of the above have proven unreliable during actual Real Nightmares. All of them are making improvements to boost the reliability of their systems but none of them are there yet. I cannot control the reliability of these systems but I can control the reliability of my own communications systems.

Check out some of these stories to see just how unreliable the above systems can be: We’re Not Going To Make It! – Stockton, MN Flood Aug 18 2007 Highway Bridges Falling Down Interstate 35 Minneapolis, MN


I have found only one solution that meets my standards of reliability. This solution requires a bit of investment both of time and money, however, I believe it is a very small price for the ability to communicate no matter what else is happening. As with everything else in your response plan, you need to practice using this system or it likely will not work for you when you need it.


What is it? The most reliable communications system that I have found is two-way radios. I have researched and tested a lot of other communications options but I have not found anything that even comes close to the capabilities of radio communications. Two-way radio offers a lot of options and selecting the best ones for your unique situation is very important. I will attempt to give a brief summary of each type that I have found to be useful during my own Real Nightmares.


First, let’s take a look at FRS or Family Radio Service. These are the little “grown-up” walkie-talkies that you find in all of the department stores or online outdoor equipment websites. Regardless of what the package says these radios have an extremely limited range and there is no legal way to increase that range. For this reason, I do not recommend relying on these unless your needs are limited to a one city block area. There are circumstances that may allow them to work a lot further than that but they are not RELIABLE for more than one city block. If you need more than that, and most everyone will, then you need to look elsewhere. I only mention these because they can be useful and inexpensive if you only need very limited range.

Next, we will look at FRS’s close cousin – GMRS or General Mobile Radio Service. These radios are allowed to use much higher power and external antennas, meaning you can significantly increase their range as you need to or can afford to. You can even set up your own repeater if you feel you need that kind of coverage. You do need an FCC license to operate these radios but it is easy to obtain for less than $100. This is a very good option for local communications. If GMRS won’t meet your needs then you might want to consider LMRS or the Land Mobile Radio Service. This is mostly designed for business users but there is no requirement that you actually have a business to get this license. It will cost you 200-600 dollars depending on exactly which type of license you apply for. Short of Amateur Radio, this option gives you the most flexibility but it does take a bit of work and it is rather expensive. While this can be a good option, if you do not have some other reason to set up this level of communications equipment, there are easier and less expensive options available.

What about CB radios? CB or Citizen’s Band radios are one of my less favored options but they can be useful. CB Radios do not require a license but they are regulated with some significant restrictions. Personally, I do have CB radios in my communications gear but it is not something I intend to rely on. Instead, I have it to be able to communicate with people who do not have a more reliable method available. CB radios do not perform well as portable units and mobile units require a fair bit of knowledge and experience to effectively install and maintain. CBs are also subject to a lot of interference from other users which can lessen their reliability during an emergency. Unless you live in a rural area and you only need 1-2 miles of range CBs are probably not the best choice for you. For the price of a good CB radio setup, you can easily get a GMRS or Amateur Radio setup that will perform equally as well or better.

Finally, let’s take a quick look at Amateur or Ham Radio. Amateur Radio is the gold standard when it comes to emergency or disaster communications. There is nothing else that offers more options or better performance when everything else goes south. You do need a license and you will need to pass a multiple choice test to get it, but you no longer need to pass a Morse Code test to get any Amateur Radio license. The license test scares a lot of people away but it is not as hard as many people think it will be and there are some really great free study resources out there that can help you through it. The only emergency communications option that is better than Amateur Radio is Amateur Radio mixed with one or more of the other options I have already mentioned.

Here are a few other options that I usually do not recommend for various reasons:

Satellite Phones: These are extremely expensive to buy and maintain and most of the options are still very dependent on sensitive ground-based infrastructure. This means that they may or may not work when you really need them. If your situation calls for relying on this service then do a lot of research into how fragile the system you are using is.

Marine Radios: Marine radios are pretty readily available but they are by law limited to communications related to marine vessels. If you live on a boat or own a boat then yes you ought to have a marine radio. If you live near a body of water that has a large amount of boat traffic then you might want to think about including this in your communications set-up but I would never tell anyone to rely on a marine radio as your only source of communications during a Real Nightmare.

MURS or Multi-Use Radio Service: MURS is very similar to FRS in that the equipment that can legally be used is severely limited and it only allows for 5 channels. Where I am all 5 of these channels are cluttered with multiple users constantly. These limitations make MURS a very poor choice for emergency communications unless you are in a very rural area with relatively flat open terrain.

Pirate Radio: I use the term pirate radio to include any form of illegal or unlicensed use of radios. This is a BAD idea. Whether that’s using illegally modified radios or using unlawful power amplifiers or anything else you are not legally authorized to do. If you choose to go this route then it may well be what brings on your Real Nightmare. And I don’t care how long your cousin’s brother-in-law’s great uncle has been getting away with it, it is a BAD idea.


Last but not least, let’s look at a few options to get timely and accurate information. Everyone needs to have a weather alert radio. I also recommend having a scanner that allows you to monitor the local emergency services communications. This can give you a lot of insight into what is going on and how close the danger is to you.


A scanner will also allow you to monitor many of the above two-way communications methods to see what might be going on near you.


A battery operated AM/FM radio is another must have. I do not recommend relying only on the local broadcast media for information during a Real Nightmare, but they can sometimes provide you with that little bit of local information you would have a hard time getting elsewhere.


The last piece of equipment that I highly recommend is a decent quality general coverage receiver. Something that will allow you to pick up both regular and shortwave broadcast media as well as other radio services that could be your only source of information depending on the nature of your crisis.


Everyone needs to have a RELIABLE communications plan. After you have done your realistic risk assessment, one of the first things you need to do is start creating your communications plan. There is no one solution that will address everyone’s needs but there are options that will allow everyone to build a reliable communications system that will serve them well during a Real Nightmare. Dig into the information above and the links to the various radio services to see which of these options might work well for you. Once you have a plan it is imperative that you practice that plan and test all of the equipment that the plan depends on regularly.

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Gregory Barth
Gregory Barth
Sep 26, 2019

The only issue is power, electricity, and if the excrement comes into contact with the whirling blades, your car's computers are toast, no 12V power there, the grid is fried, no 220/120 power, so lets talk HAM radio, how far can you talk on a mobile without a repeater? Remember they are fried. Your home base unit won't work without electricity. I'll admit I have no idea what an EMP does to a fiberglass antenna. If your a "prepper" with a generator, and lots of ammo to protect it. You might could broadcast but to who? How long does your battery in a hand held 177 2M radio last? I have an AM/FM shortwave radio with a crank up charge…

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