Survival Radio: 5 Critical Concerns And Why HAM Radio Is The Only Answer

Want to stay in touch with your loved ones in the middle of a hurricane? Well, if you are thinking about using your trusty cell phone or FRS or GMRS survival radios, then think again.

I want to show you 5 critical issues you need to address. But even if you don’t, the truth is, these 5 keys are essential to your survival. So what are they? When it all comes down to it survival radio is about:

  1. price
  2. reach
  3. privacy
  4. mobility
  5. reliability.

And as I share each of these with you, you’ll see why HAM radio is the best solution.

First Concern: Pricing
Why is the pricing important when it comes to the best emergency radio? Well, Walmart has some great low priced radios. But watch this. Walmart has two way radios that cost more than a Baofeng UV5R handheld HAM radio. And the Baofeng is of pretty good quality at under $40. The only thing missing is your license. So don’t assume that you’ll only get bad stuff at low prices.

As for CB radios, emergency handhelds are reasonable priced. You can easily find a Cobra WX or a Midland handheld transceiver in the $70-$100 range. OK, so what’s the next essential ingredient to a good survival radio after price?

Second Key Concern: Range
Why is reach or range important? Well, do you want to get your signal beyond the neighborhood? If so, then range is critical. For any use beyond your immediate family, walkie talkies are out. FRS or Family Radio Service radios are also out.

GMRS radios say that they can handle 14 miles, but the reality is more like 1 or 2 miles. But here’s something interesting. Some GMRS radios have repeater capabilities. Repeaters are devices spread all around the country that receive and retransmit signals. If you can hit a local repeater, then it can forward your transmissions around the country. The downside to GMRS is that you need a license. So what do you do if you want range but don’t want to get a license? Then get a CB.

Now with CB’s, their range is better than FRS and you don’t need to get a license. With full power, a CB can reach about 4 miles. The limits are your line of sight. If you want to increase your range, then attaching a longer antenna to your CB will do the trick.

Another way to increase range is to get a HAM radio/short wave radio. You’ll need a license. At that point, you have access to repeaters which are located all over the country. Some great handheld HAM transceiver examples are the Yaesu VX3R and the BaoFeng UV5R as mentioned earlier.

I think that if you want farthest range, then get your license and pick up a HAM or GMRS radio. But price and range aren’t where the search ends. Lets look at another essential survival radio consideration.

Third Key Concern: Privacy
Why is privacy important? Well, let me play out a scenario for you that will illustrate the point.

In a disaster, phones go down. So where does everyone run to? The radios. And the more people that are talking, then the less privacy you have. Every radio channel available will have people on it all talking at the same time. It will be utter chaos. For some radios that is.

For instance, with the cheaper radios, the accessible frequencies are very limited. Cheap radio is affordable to many people. Limited frequencies means more people. If you get on an FRS radio in the middle of a disaster, it’s going to be very hard to get through to any specific people.

Trying to coordinate with family or friends will be near to impossible. CB will be about the same. So here’s where privacy comes in.

Many radios come with “privacy” channels. But there’s nothing private about these channels. They are just a cheap feature added to the radio. But with HAM you have a better chance with privacy.

That’s because you get a wider frequency spectrum to choose from. For instance you’d have your group start out on a national calling frequency and then move to a special frequency. This special one can be on a ham band or not. It’s up to you.

A second factor that thins out the crowds is that HAM operators are required to have a license. And a third factor is that HAM gear isn’t as easy to buy as FRS radios. For instance, you wouldn’t go to WalMart to buy a handheld amateur radio transceiver. Sure, You can get it through Amazon or eBay, but you’re not going to find them at WalMart. So the chances of people buying HAM radios at the last minute is not going to happen.

Fourth Key Concern: Mobility
Why is mobility important? Well, what if you have a HAM or CB station setup in your house, and a flood comes? If you have to leave without your gear, then you’ve got no communications. So mobility is going to be essential.

FRS and GMRS radios are by default mobile. If you want to go CB, then a great mobile CB is the Cobra HH 38 WX ST 40-Channel CB Radio. With the built in antenna, the range isn’t that good. Maybe it’s a mile.

The downside to mobility is that you can’t just plug into the wall for power. Batteries will be at a premium so think about foldable solar panels or a BioLite stove with a USB to power a battery charger. Now although mobility is huge, reliability is even bigger.

Fifth Key Concern: Reliability
Why is reliability important? Here’s why. You never know what you’ll encounter. Let me explain.

Imagine it’s raining heavily in a hurricane. Water is everywhere. You are on the run and you drop your radio in the water. Everything is wet and short circuited. End of game.

But, it doesn’t have to be. That’s because the Yaesu VX7R can withstand 30 minutes of submersion in 3 feet of water. But physical reliability isn’t where things end.

Another example of reliability is the use of channels. With everyone crowding existing channels, they increasingly become unreliable to communicate on. But with HAM, you have more to work with. In short, your communications become more reliable.

I Used To Think That FRS Was The Way To Go
Maybe you’ve never considered HAM or shortwave radio. When I first started out, I thought FRS and walkie talkies would do the trick. But after learning more about HAM and all the areas it addresses, I was sold. There were just too many critical areas where HAM blew away FRS and CB.

What I’m going to be doing is start working on getting my license. Then I’ll pick up a BaoFeng UV5R or a Yaesu. How about you? Did these 5 critical concerns help you? Do you understand the issues of survival communications a little better?

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1 Comment

  1. Wow, okay. Awesome post. So let me see if I get the gist:
    In order to stay in touch with loved ones in a hurricane, you’ll need to have a HAM radio or a CB radio. Ham radios are more affordable and reach a wider range than CB radios. Additionally, HAM radios are required to have a license and be able to communicate on a Ham frequency. Finally, reliability is important because you never know what will happen when you’re on the run and your gear gets wet.
    Did I get it? Hey, keep up the awesome content. Definitely going to be following along.
    Rob @


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