2-way-radio-communications

During ordinary times or during an emergency, disaster, or SHTF, communications can be of utmost importance. 2-way radios are an excellent choice for personal communications under many scenarios.

2-way radios do not rely on anything external like wireless providers, cell towers, network service providers or the internet in order to communicate between radio units. They are used as a stand-alone communications system that can be used anytime – anywhere.

2-way radios are independent, making them a great choice for preparedness.

 

Uses for 2-way radios

Road trips – multiple vehicles traveling together
Camping – keeping in contact with others
Boating – staying in touch with your group on shore
Hiking – emergency communications if you get separated
Skiing – contact with your group on the slopes
Security – communication between locations, patrols
Home – general purpose while out on the property
Emergency – contact with others

The FCC has allotted specific frequency bands for 2-way family-type radios, and they transmit on various sets of frequencies labeled FRS, MURS, GMRS, and CB.

 

FRS – Family Radio Service

It’s an improved ‘walkie-talkie’ system and it does not require a license. It’s limited to 0.5 watt transmitting power. The usual range of communications between FRS devices is less than one mile.

“The problem with FRS is radios that use it are often limited to basically line-of-sight. Great for camping, hiking and skiing, but really lousy in an urban environment with city blocks, building, etc.”
-MSB reader

 

FRS Channels & Frequencies

There are 14 FRS channel frequencies.

FRS 01 — 462.5625 MHz Shared with GMRS
FRS 02 — 462.5875 MHz Shared with GMRS
FRS 03 — 462.6125 MHz Shared with GMRS
FRS 04 — 462.6375 MHz Shared with GMRS
FRS 05 — 462.6625 MHz Shared with GMRS
FRS 06 — 462.6875 MHz Shared with GMRS
FRS 07 — 462.7125 MHz Shared with GMRS
FRS 08 — 467.5625 MHz
FRS 09 — 467.5875 MHz
FRS 10 — 467.6125 MHz
FRS 11 — 467.6375 MHz
FRS 12 — 467.6625 MHz
FRS 13 — 467.6875 MHz
FRS 14 — 467.7125 MHz

MURS – Multi-Use Radio Service

It does not require a license to use this band on your 2-way radio. It’s limited to 2 watts transmitting power. The usual range of communications between MURS devices is less than a few miles.

“I believe MURS is what’s being used in a lot of building security outfits nowadays. I often see our company security guards use them , and they never seem to have problems receiving or transmitting, even between buildings or through so many different floors, with walls and office equipment and such.”
-MSB reader

 

MURS Channels & Frequencies

There are five MURS channel frequencies.

151.820 MHz
151.880 MHz
151.940 MHz
154.570 MHz
154.600 MHz

 

GMRS – General Mobile Radio Service

Technically, GMRS does require a license from the FCC, and transmitting power is allowable up to 5 watts.

However in 2010, the FCC proposed to remove the individual licensing requirement for GMRS and instead license GMRS “by rule” (meaning that an individual license would not be required to operate a GMRS device). This proposal is still pending.

Information from the FCC regarding GMRS and licensing can be obtained here.

I use GMRS as my primary 2-way radio communications around the property. I have a base station at the house (with a high gain antenna) and a number of handheld 2-way radios. Mrs.J has communicated with me while almost 10 miles away. However if I’m around a mountain, it’s not happening… I’ve also hit a GMRS repeater station 60 miles away!
-Ken J.

 

GMRS Channels & Frequencies

There are 23 GMRS channels.

Ch. 15 — 462.5500 MHz
Ch. 01 — 462.5625 MHz Shared with FRS
Ch. 16 — 462.5750 MHz
Ch. 02 — 462.5875 MHz Shared with FRS
Ch. 17 — 462.6000 MHz
Ch. 03 — 462.6125 MHz Shared with FRS
Ch. 18 — 462.6250 MHz
Ch. 04 — 462.6375 MHz Shared with FRS
Ch. 19 — 462.6500 MHz
Ch. 05 — 462.6625 MHz Shared with FRS
Ch. 20 — 462.6750 MHz
Ch. 06 — 462.6875 MHz Shared with FRS
Ch. 21 — 462.7000 MHz
Ch. 07 — 462.7125 MHz Shared with FRS
Ch. 22 — 462.7250 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.5500 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.5750 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.6000 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.6250 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.6500 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.6750 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.7000 MHz
Ch. ** — 467.7250 MHz

 

CB – Citizens Band Radio

CB operation does not require a license. The FCC limits the maximum power a CB radio can transmit at 4 watts. Depending on antenna and other factors, range will vary from a mile or several with a handheld,  to 10 miles, or up to 50 for a well setup base station. Again, factor dependent.

There’s an exception to the 4 watts… single side band (SSB) models. SSB radios have upper and lower sideband channels (just above and below the standard 40 CB channels).  Broadcasting this way enables SSB radios to transmit at 3x the power, 12 watts, and significantly increase your range.

“Single-Sideband (SSB) is the way to go for CB radios; a much cleaner, quieter mode that extends your range DRAMATICALLY over AM-only units… in my part of the country we often communicate 50-60 miles on SSB without relying on atmospheric conditions.”
-MSB reader

 

CB Radio Channels & Frequencies

There are 40 CB channels.

Ch. 01 — 26.96500
Ch. 02 — 26.97500
Ch. 03 — 26.98500
Ch. 04 — 27.00500
Ch. 05 — 27.01500
Ch. 06 — 27.02500
Ch. 07 — 27.03500
Ch. 08 — 27.05500
Ch. 09 — 27.06500
Ch. 10 — 27.07500
Ch. 11 — 27.08500
Ch. 12 — 27.10500
Ch. 13 — 27.11500
Ch. 14 — 27.12500
Ch. 15 — 27.13500
Ch. 16 — 27.15500
Ch. 17 — 27.16500
Ch. 18 — 27.17500
Ch. 19 — 27.18500
Ch. 20 — 27.20500
Ch. 21 — 27.21500
Ch. 22 — 27.22500
Ch. 23 — 27.25500
Ch. 24 — 27.23500
Ch. 25 — 27.24500
Ch. 26 — 27.26500
Ch. 27 — 27.27500
Ch. 28 — 27.28500
Ch. 29 — 27.29500
Ch. 30 — 27.30500
Ch. 31 — 27.31500
Ch. 32 — 27.32500
Ch. 33 — 27.33500
Ch. 34 — 27.34500
Ch. 35 — 27.35500
Ch. 36 — 27.36500
Ch. 37 — 27.37500
Ch. 38 — 27.38500
Ch. 39 — 27.39500
Ch. 40 — 27.40500

 

Notations

Note: When looking at the manufacturers claims of transmitting range, real world results are rarely close to that. Their measurements are made under ideal conditions which typically do not exist in the real world. Hills, trees, buildings, or any obstacle will reduce range. You will get the best range over open land or over the water.

“FRS, GMRS and MURS radios are useful as well, but as already noted, are better in open-country envirnoments than in urban settings; don’t believe the manufacturer’s “35 miles” claims, however- about 5 to 6 miles, tops, under typical conditions, and often less.”
-MSB Reader

Note: Many hybrid FRS / GMRS 2-way radios will number the frequencies according to how they are stacked in the radio’s programming (usually in order of frequency, not channel number). Because of this, frequencies may appear incorrectly numbered on the radio’s channel readout. Check your owners manual.

Note: On the commonly available two way radios you need to assume someone is in fact listening. It may simply be a kid playing with the radio or a nieghbor or even a contractor or other business. But someone is listening.

A MSB reader had commented the following:

Commercial/”Amateur” radios work well; my group is currently using the Baofeng UVR5-series 2-Meter/440 handheld radios which are some of the most versatile handhelds on the market. These are “open protocol” units limited only by the operator’s choice of programming; they’ll cover the 2M and 440 MHz Amateur bands (HAM license required) and virtually anything ELSE in the VHF-High and UHF spectrums… NOAA Weather, local Police, Fire and Ambulance services, the FM Broadcast band, you name it; even FRS, GMRS, and MURS. Currently around $39 apiece on Amazon, and come with Li-ion batteries, drop-in chargers, earbud speaker/mics and “rubber duckie” antennas. They offer a full 5W output and are easily-adaptable even for base or mobile operations, and are cheap enough that you can consider them “disposable” if anything happens to them; you can also afford to buy several.

Ken adds: I own the following Midland GXT 2-way radios and have been pleased with their performance on GMRS around the property:
Midland GXT1000VP4 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio (Pair)

There are lots of 2-way radios out there.
Do some research and consider adding some to your preps.

Continue reading: Emergency Communications if the Cell Network Went Down

Radio Communications Post SHTF