In conjunction with National Preparedness Month 2010, we are looking at being prepared for emergencies from a technology perspective. Regardless of disaster to fully be prepared for any emergency you need to be prepared for a loss of telephone communications, cell phone or land line.
Two-way radios can be used in a variety of situations and are a useful alternative to cell phones in times of emergency. Two way radio can also be great for use when camping and hiking or when otherwise out of cell-tower range.
CB radio, formally known as Citizens’Band radio, is a system of short distance radio communications between individuals. The Citizens Band radio service began in 1945 in the United States as one of several personal radio services regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. CB Radio can offer an inexpensive and effective form of communication for anyone in time of emergency, as well as providing information and entertainment while driving.
The biggest downside of CB Radio is that because of their technology, their range varies greatly due to weather conditions, terrain, and time of day, from as little as a fewmiles, to in very rare cases during favorable atmospheric conditions as great as several thousand miles.
The cost of a radio is typically less than $100, and with all accessories your total investment is less than $200, with no licenses and no ongoing charges. Unlike land line and cell phone services, they do not rely on federal, state, or municipal utility services for routine operation. Today There are no age, citizenship, or license requirements to operate a CB radio in the United States.
Family Radio Service (FRS)
FRS radios have a frequency bandwidth that allows families to keep in touch within a relatively short area. The reception is best on flat land or over water within line of sight of each othe. FRS radios are not particularly powerful, and sometimes their performance can be affected by hills or buildings.
FRS radios do not require a license to use and have a typical range of up to 1 mile. This personal radio service uses frequencies in the ultra high frequency (UHF) band. It does not suffer the interference effects found on citizens’ band. FRS uses frequency modulation instead of amplitude modulation. Units are usually small low cost hand held units. FRS units can be found in many sporting goods and department stores at less tha $50 per pair.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)
GMRS is a radio service in the United States available for short distance two-way communication, with much longer ranges than FRS. Some manufacturers claim ranges 30 miles or more. GMRS uses line of sight frequencies, and range is greatly affected by obstacles such as hills and buildings.
GMRS radios require a license to use. Any individual in the United States who is at least 18 years of age may apply for a GMRS license by completing the application form and paying the license fee. No exam is required. A license for a GMRS system is usually issued for a 5-year term. Current cost of a license is $85.00. The license extends privileges of the primary licensee to include communications with the licensee’s immediate family members.
GMRS units can be found in many sporting goods and department stores at less tha $100 per pair.
Amateur radio also know as Ham Radio is a worldwide group of people who communicate with each other over a wide frequency spectrum using many different types of wireless transmitting modes. Ham Radio operators represent quite an “online” community. In the case of disasters, hams exchange health and welfare information with other hams.
Amateur radio operation is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission in the United States as coordinated through the International Telecommunication Union. In all countries that license citizens to use amateur radio, operators are required to pass a licensing exam displaying knowledge and understanding of key concepts.
Getting started with a Mobile Ham Radio with antenna will cost around $400. Amateur Radio is the most complicated and costly of the types of radio systems decribed here, but also could be the most rewarding.
Recreational use as well as a back up plan
Do a little bit of homework, and have some fun shopping for a back up communication system for your family. Any one of the radio types listed could be a great way to keep in constant touch with members of your party on an outdoor adventure of any type. They are like having a short range cell phone except without the usage fees and contracts.
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