If Cellular Communications Go Down, What Inexpensive Back-up Radios Should You Have on Hand?
- Citizens Band
- Ham Radio
- Marine Band
Sorry for the long answer, but it’s an important topic. First of all, let’s get one thing straight. The functional range of all these radios is for the most part “line-of-sight.” Too many obstructions and it doesn’t matter how many miles were printed on the package or watts your unit has. Until you can get on a hill or have a clear line to the party you’re trying to reach, your range can be limited to a few blocks. Get a clear line of sight and a $30 radio can go 30 miles.
Our interest was to get a pile of radios that were affordable and would have great range, good battery life and really come through in times of a crisis.
You know those inexpensive water resistant 2-way sport radios you can buy in multi-packs? Well the reality is that millions of them have been sold and while they might be good for sporting and camping, in a real emergency, those popular frequencies will be all jammed up with too many users.
Marine radios are illegal to use on land; however, in an emergency, they can do in a pinch. While they are very durable, they tend to cost over a hundred bucks each and are limited to just marine band frequencies.
Ham radios are great; however, ham radio frequencies do call for some training and licensing for safe and legal use.
Professional-grade multi-frequency UHF/VHF/FM handheld radios can be purchased in the $30-$40 range on Amazon and they can dial in just about any frequency for scanning or communicating line-of-sight. You can also get them in multi-packs at some discount, but be prepared for a little learning curve.
The basics are this: If you have 2 radios dialed into the same digital frequency, you can communicate. You can also go to jail. Multi-band UHF/VHF radios can dial in frequencies that are limited to licensed operators or off-purpose use including ham radio and marine bands. A quick search of the FCC’s website will help you dial in some frequencies you can use or licenses you can get if you intend to use them in non-emergency situations.
Here’s a link to the radios we picked up on Amazon. They work great and the reviews are excellent. We’ll cover more on effective use of 2-way radio communications in coming features.
Prepare for the Unknown!