Do you have an emergency radio communication plan? When emergencies occur and normal communication goes silent, contacting each other and learning what’s happening become paramount. In a split-second you can have no way to communicate. Facebook is out. Skype won’t work. Email is out, the Internet may be out, and your cell phone has dwindling battery power but won’t connect because all the remaining cell phone resources are being used by emergency, medical and law enforcement personnel. A disaster is not the time to begin thinking about an emergency radio communication plan for you and your family. Make sure you get prepared long before.
What To Consider Before An Emergency Occurs
- Family Communication Meetings: Set a date and time for the entire family to meet and discuss the disaster plan. Discuss with family and write down what should be included in the plan such as reunion points, emergency numbers and information, medical release form for each minor child, important family records, CPR training and the items mentioned below. Consider others ways of communication, such as emergency radio communication, if cell networks fail and the Internet goes down.
- Reserve Water: Water is essential for survival. Depending on the disaster, you likely will not have your water available. Stocking water reserves or purifying contaminated water should be among your top priorities also. At a minimum, store a 72 hour emergency supply of water for each member of your family.
- Create Disaster Backpack Kits: It may take hours, days, weeks…you just don’t know. The Emergency Survival Kits you can create yourself using a backpack or purchase online but should contain the essentials to survive at least 72 hours or more. The kit should contain items such as food and water, first aid kit, light, communication, shelter and warmth, tools, hygiene and sanitation, extra prescription drugs and medication, eye glasses and anything else that might fit in a backpack that you can just grab and go.
- Discuss Utility Safety: Water quickly becomes a precious resource following most disasters. It’s very important that everyone in your household learns how to shut off water at the main valve in case of cracked water lines that might pollute water supply to house and the effects of gravity may drain the water in your hot water heater and toilet tanks unless you trap it in your house by shutting off the main water valve.
- Do Home Hazards Checklist & Action List: Earthquake deaths, injuries and property damage are usually caused by falling and moving objects. Chances are you’ll probably be home during an earthquake so how safe is your house?
- Food Storage and Rotation Tips: Store wisely the items that will keep for a long time and put dates on everything.
- Review Plan Every 6 Months: The plan needs to be reviewed and updated periodically to keep every family member refreshed.
Keep reading below to learn more about emergency radio communication from advice on how to use them to what products you should add to your disaster kits.
Emergency Radio Communication Disaster Plan Information:
Emergency Broadcast Radio
You can listen to emergency broadcast radio (535 to 1605 kHz AM, 88 to 107 MHz FM) and TV (54 to 806 MHz) or high-frequency broadcasts from other locations for your emergency radio communication plan. Accomplish this by using a shortwave radio receiver to monitor news, weather and status coming from other countries.
International shortwave stations transmit using World Band Radio (special news and special interest programs that are transmitted using shortwave) as well as amateur radio (ham) operators, ships and aircraft, military, weather stations and science outposts. The Voice of America is one of the major shortwave broadcasters. Short Wave Listeners (SWLers) avidly listen to these broadcasts.
The shortwave receiver covers about 3 MHz up to 30 MHz and receives radio signals from around the world. Signal quality depends on location, time of day—night is better for reception—and transmission strength—up to 1 million watts—far stronger than a 50,000-watt local AM radio station.
Listening is critical to receiving disaster status information, but without telephone, cell phone (900 MHz to 2400 MHz), or WiFi (2.4 to 5.0 GHz), two-way communication is limited to just a few options—Citizen’s Band (CB) radio and Short Wave Ham radio. Use these as your emergency radio communication plan to talk with your family down the road or neighbors a few miles away.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocates a frequency range between 26.965 and 27.405 MHz for CB public use communication that could be used for emergency radio communication. There are up to 40 channels in this 11 meter band. CB is popular with truckers, RVers, hikers, campers, road travelers and cruisers afloat. Fixed, mobile and hand-held CB transceivers are available that operate short range.
Figure 1 and Figure 2 show two hand-held CB radios. They are advertised to reach out up to 16 or 35 miles. These are line of sight transceivers, so they work best where no buildings or hills block the signals. Their typical range is about a mile. Even on open sea, CBs can work up to 10 miles, but they work best as short range communicators.
- Fig. 1 – Cobra CD80
- Fig. 2 – Motorola MR350R
Figure 3 shows a 4 watt Cobra 19 DX mobile transceiver capable of 2-way communication over all 40 CB channels at frequencies of 26.965 MHz up to 27.405 MHz. These are called 11 meter devices.
Mount it in a vehicle or boat although some people use them as a standalone transceivers in fixed locations. Operating range depends on the antenna used. Select the antenna for the frequencies intended for use. The antennas for the hand-held transceivers shown in Figures 1 and 2 are just a couple of inches long. For the Cobra in Figure 3, the antenna used can be between 36” and 102” in length.
Figure 4 shows a Midland 5001z CB transceiver that transmits at 4 watts over all 40 CB channels. Like its smaller handheld cousins, the Midland 5001z operates on the 11 meter band and performs well using line of sight—it’s been known to easily reach out 10 to 20 miles. Mount it in your vehicle for an alternative.
- Fig. 4 – The Midland 5001z CB transceiver
At the upper end of 2-way CB communication are single sideband CB radios such as the Cobra 29, the Cobra 148 GTL, and the Uniden Bearcat 980 that can output at up to 12 watts. Both sender and receiver must be using the same settings for 2-way communication.
CBers have developed their own slang language based on the first heavy users—truckers, and a Google search can introduce you to hundreds of terms—much like Facebook slang. Thus “break” means “I want to interrupt and get the channel so I can communicate with you.” “Comeback” means “Repeat.” “How do you read me?” means “How strong is my signal?” “Back at yah.” means “Over” or “Back to you.” “Bring it back” asks for an answer back. “You’re bending the needle.” means you have a clear, strong signal. So does “Five by Nine.” And “What’s your 20?” asks for your location. “Clear”—“I’m signing off.”
The next step up is shortwave ham radio. Here the power transmitted is higher—5, 10, 25 and even 50 watts. The FCC strictly controls Ham radio, and policing of the authorized frequencies is assisted by the ham operators themselves. Their ham radios operate at frequencies wavelengths of 10 meters, 8 meters, 4 and 2 meters—the higher the frequency, the smaller the wavelength in meters. The equipment is more expensive, but they have much greater range. A nationwide system of repeaters at 144 MHz and 440 MHz enable ham radio signals to reach nearly seamlessly around the world. There are even small 2 and 4 watt, 2 meter “handi-talkie” devices that can communicate up to 50 miles away at 144 MHz.
Figures 5 and 6 show the UV-5R V2+ hand held transceiver made by Bao Feng in China and distributed in the U.S. by Foscam Digital Technologies in Texas. Find them sold under the name “Pofung.”
Baofeng UV-5R V2+ transceivers (Photos courtesy of MCHS ARC – Mount Carmel High School Amateur Radio Club in San Diego, California.)
Each of the Baofeng transceiver radios have an extended battery pack installed giving these devices amazing performance. The Baofeng UV-5R V2+ radio transceiver with extended 7.4V Lithium ion battery pack transmits on the 2 meter band between 138 and 174 MHz and on the 70 cm band between 400 and 480 MHz. It can also receive transmissions in the public service and aircraft bands, as well as the expanded FM broadcast band between 65 and 108 MHz. It can output at 1, 4 or 5 watts.
Figure 7 shows an ICOM 2820H dual band FM transceiver.
- Fig. 7 ICOM IC-2820H mobile and base station transceiver. (Photo courtesy of MCHS ARC.)
Like it’s Baofeng cousins, the IC-2820 transmits on 144-148 MHz and 430-450 MHz. It receives 118-550 MHz signals with the cellular frequencies blocked. It operates on 13.8 volts DC and transmits at 5W, 15W, and 50W output power on both the 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands.
Figure 8 shows an ICOM IC-910 UHF, VHF, and satellite transceiver.
- Fig. 8 – ICOM IC-910 satellite transceiver. (Photo courtesy of MCHS ARC.)
Ham radio operator signals travel long distances using ground wave, ionosphere bounce and satellite bounce. There have even been communication transactions between ground stations and orbiting space craft. The type and length of antenna are key factors in how far a shortwave signal will travel. Repeaters mounted on the tops of mountains and high hills enable the signals to get around obstacles.
During the Hurricane Katrina disaster, ham radio operators were instrumental in sharing information and news. Hams also used a phone patch on their equipment to enable disaster victims to talk with family and friends located hundreds of miles from the scene.
Identify Ham radio base stations by the tall antennas (antenna farms) near buildings and long, 102 inch whip antennas bent over vehicles. Hams are key players in our nation’s emergency communication infrastructure. We are fortunate they are among us.
Can’t afford a ham radio license and multiple shortwave comm equipment? A hand-held CB radio can be ideal for quick and easy communication in a changing environment where mobility at a moment’s notice is critical. You must use whatever emergency radio communication plan you feel is best for you. Your survival may well depend on it.