One of the first services that often go down during natural disasters and emergencies are the phone lines. When the phone lines go down, cell phone networks quickly become overloaded and are of little use. Depending upon the nature of the emergency, it’s not unlikely that the entire cell phone system would go down and stay down.
Have you given much thought to how you would communicate if your house phone and your cell phone suddenly didn’t work? If you haven’t, it’s about time that you do.
Today we’ll be discussing some of the emergency communication products that are on the market and hopefully when you’re finished reading this article, you’ll take action and become a little more prepared in this area.
Products For Receiving Incoming Emergency Communications
During a true emergency, the first forms of communication will be one way emergency broadcasts. What I mean by that is that through the Emergency Communication Network, you’ll receive broadcasts that are intended to notify people about the nature of the emergency and provide instructions on what you should be doing to keep yourself and your family safe.
The first thing you should do during a natural disaster or major emergency is turn on your emergency radio. I highly advise that you own a good quality emergency radio that has numerous methods of charging. I’m currently looking for one that I really like. When I find one, I’ll be sure and update this post.
The features that I’m looking for in an emergency radio are listed below:
- A low power mode that automatically turns the radio to the on position when it detects an incoming emergency transmission.
- The ability to run on either regular alkaline or rechargeable batteries.
- An integrated solar panel for charging.
- A hand crank charging feature.
- A DC charging port so that it can be charged by plugging it into a 12 volt automotive type outlet.
- An AC charging port so that it can be charged from a standard wall outlet.
- An integrated LED flashlight that can be adjusted to high, low, flashing, flashing SOS, and red flashing.
- I would also like it to be water resistant so that it won’t get destroyed if we have to bug out and it gets a little rain on it.
As you can see, this is a pretty tall order to fill which may be why I’m having such a hard time finding one that I really like. By the way, if any of you can recommend an emergency radio that fits this bill, please tell me about it by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page or sending me an email by clicking on the “Contact” link at the top of the page (bottom of this page if you’re using a mobile device). I’d really appreciate it!
Having said that, the main takeaway from this lesson should be that having any kind of an emergency radio is better than having none at all. I currently own a cheap model that doesn’t have all the features that I want but at least I have one on hand and this is the most important thing. Remember, some supplies are better than no supplies!
When the inevitable doomsday does come around, it will be really important for you to be able to keep your emergency radio on all the time. This next tip is REALLY IMPORTANT!!! Someone needs to be monitoring your emergency radio at all times so that you don’t miss your chance to receive important instructions because no one was paying attention. The reason for this is that you never know when government officials might actually broadcast instructions or information when the pucky hits the fan. I’d like to think that some form of emergency broadcast would be playing on a repeat loop but I’m certainly not counting on that being the case.
If you own a programmable scanner, you should take the time NOW to program in the frequencies that emergency broadcasts might come in on. Here’s a short list of some frequencies that you might want to have in your scanner. I encourage you to do more research on your own to find other channels that might be good to scan but this list will get you started.
34.90 MHz – National Guard
163.4875 MHz – National Guard
47.42 MHz – Red Cross
138.225 MHz – FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
162.400 MHz – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather broadcasts
162.425 MHz – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather broadcasts
162.450 MHz – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather broadcasts
162.475 MHz – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather broadcasts
162.500 MHz – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather broadcasts
162.525 MHz – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather broadcasts
162.550 MHz – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather broadcasts
168.550 MHz – General civilian and government emergency frequency
Here’s a good resource for emergency frequencies: dhs.gov/national-interoperability-field-operations-guide.
I would also advise that you keep the local frequencies for police, fire, and ambulance in your scanner as well.
I would also recommend that you take a minute and read my article called, “How We Dramatically Improved the Performance of Our Scanner“.
Products For Two Way Emergency Communications
Being able to receive incoming emergency broadcasts is important but so is being able to carry on two way conversations. There’s a pretty good chance that land lines and cell phone lines will be down so we shouldn’t plan on being able to use them during a major emergency. With that in mind, any good prepper will have an emergency communication plan in place.
When looking for emergency communication solutions, you have a few options:
Satellite Phones: While satellite phones are commonly used during emergency situations, keep in mind that someone has to be available for you to call or these devices will be of little use to you. If the cellular network and the land line network is down, you won’t be able to call people who have those types of phones. You’ll only be able to call people who also own satellite phones.
One thing to keep in mind with this kind of technology is that you have to go through a satellite phone provider in order to be able to make and receive calls. In a situation of extreme hyper inflation, you may not be able to afford to use your satellite phone. I don’t have a very good understanding of how this technology actually works but my way of thinking is that if the companies who are providing the service to you go down, it’s possible that you won’t be able to make any calls whatsoever.
HAM (Handheld Amateur Radio) Radios: These type of radios require a license to operate and they are much more powerful than standard CB’s or various types of walkie talkies. They are usually built with higher quality components and they have the ability to transmit with more power than other types of handheld radios. One big advantage of using HAM radios during and emergency is that you have the ability to transmit your signal over “repeaters”.
The way this works is the signal from your radio only needs to have enough power to make it to the nearest repeating tower. The repeater then amplifies the signal which greatly improves the transmitting and receiving range of the device. Keep in mind that repeaters run on electricity but many of them have alternative energy contingency plans in place in the event of a major loss of the power grid.
CB (Citizens Band) Radios: Nearly everyone knows what a CB is. Before cell phones, these kinds of radios were very popular but they have sort of lost their allure. That being said, there are still a lot of these devices in use. Every semi truck on the road is equipped with a CB radio and there are still plenty of other people who have held onto them for use in emergency situations.
These devices aren’t reliant on the electrical grid so they’ll work just fine in an emergency. They are, however, limited in their transmitting and receiving range to about 1-3 miles and any obstacles such as buildings, trees, and terrain can affect their range. These devices don’t have the ability to make use of repeaters. No license is required to use these radios and they are limited to transmitting at a power level of 4 watts.
FRS (Family Radio Service) Radios: These little walkie talkies are the modern day CB’s. They are extremely popular these days because of their low cost and portability. In practical use, I’ve been able to get around one mile of range with our FRS radios despite the fact that the box claimed they could get about 12 miles. These little radios don’t have the capability of transmitting or receiving across repeaters like HAM radios do. No license if required to use them and they have multiple channels so you can switch to a different one if someone is already talking on the frequency that you would like to to use. These radios are limited to transmitting at 500 milliwatts.
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) Radios: These are personal communication devices that are similar to FRS radios but you technically need a license to use them. They look virtually identical to FRS radios and many people mistake them as being their FRS cousins and use them without the required license.
Like the FRS radios, users have multiple channels that they can choose between. Transmitting with a GMRS radio is limited to 50 watts for those who have the required licenses although most handheld GMRS radios only have the capability of transmitting at power levels between 1 to 5 watts. Another advantage that GMRS radios have over FRS radios is that they can make use of repeaters to increase their effective range.
Factors To Keep In Mind About Using Emergency Communication Devices
All of these devices can have their performance impacted by obstacles such as buildings, trees, terrain, and even atmospheric conditions. With the exception of satellite phones and radios that are transmitting on repeaters, they are considered “line of site” devices. This basically means that they perform best when there is nothing between the two radios that are being used to communicate. When you complicate things like trying to use them in vehicles or inside buildings, you can expect their performance to go way down.
One important thing to remember about using emergency communication radios is that they perform better if you can get to high ground. By climbing a hill to get a bit higher in elevation, fewer obstacles will be blocking the radio waves from reaching the radio that you are trying to communicate with. So, if you find yourself having a difficult time getting through to anyone, consider trying to find a way to get to some higher ground.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that not even the most advanced satellite phones will be of any use to you if the battery is dead and you don’t have any way of charging it. In my opinion, the ideal device would be one that has the capability of using regular alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries, and a rechargeable battery pack. This will provide you with the most flexibility if you end up having to scavenge for batteries.
I hope this article has opened your eyes to some of the choices that are available for preppers to buy. If it was helpful, you can repay the favor by telling your friends about preppersillustrated.com. You can do that easily by clicking on the Twitter Tweet, Facebook Like, +1, or Pin It buttons which are located at the top of this page immediately below this article’s title.