2-way-radio-communications

2-Way Radios For Communications | FRS – GMRS – MURS – CB

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

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18 Comments

  1. One thing to remember, when on “private” all that means is you don’t hear anyone else on that freq that isn’t transmitting the same “code”. Your transmissions are not encrypted or private in anyway, anyone on the same freq will be able to hear you.

  2. “that you can consider them “disposable” if anything happens to them”

    Or you need to destroy them to maintain OPSEC when kill or capture is immanent.
    It’s not what folks like to think about but it’s a necessary evil. I’ll protect mine at the cost of my life. These ain’t just words.

    We’ve recently had a serious discussion on what to put on our cheat sheet cards we carry with the radios.

  3. I’ve got both FRS and GMRS radios in my collection. Truthfully, for me, I can tell little difference in their performance as far as distance, in my rugged, forested location. Either gets about 3/4 to 1 mile when I off in the woods (enough to stay in contact with the family), either will make the 5 miles between my ridge top to my brothers’s ridge top home (just a few trees and no hills rising above line of sight to block signal). I have found that they do perform better with regular non-rechargeable batteries than with the rechargeable ones. Might keep that in mind if you find yourself just out of range and carry some fresh, non rechargeable alkaline batteries in your kit bag to extend your range a little. If I remember correctly, the alkalines are 1.5 volts each and the rechargeables are 1.2 volts, which should translate 6 volts total compared to 4.8 volts.

    1. Dennis
      Good to know about the battery difference for transmitting. I charged up our radios batteries for all the units we have at this time. They are the walkie talkie which I believe the are the hybrids and then the boe fang. To me they are just communication device units if & when they would be required for family usage.

    2. My question is, why would anyone want to use a transmitter unless it was an absolute emergency? Are you not aware that people can locate transmissions? I used to do it with some friends back in the day. With nothing more than the meter built into the CB in a car, we could triangulate or even one person alone could track down locations of base stations and mobile users. Imagine someone who has professional equipment and the knowhow to use it.

      My advise is to camouflage your base antenna so that people wont easily see it from a distance or even close up. Don’t use it to transmit, only to receive, gather information. Only transmit from mobile units far away from your base location and only in very short, and few transmissions while on the move. Two weeks after the electricity goes down, any transmission is going to be like a lighthouse leading the way to your location, and after two weeks everyone who has not prepared is going to be hungry enough to kill you for anything you have.

      1. Not all SHTF scenarios are end of the world or WROL.

        Take a big storm,
        Can knock down land lines and shut down cell towers.

        For myself locally, it will be handy to have CB base station, regular contacts and hand helds. That way we can communicate, give assistance, etc.

        there are ways around being traced as well

      2. @Insane,

        Under a total worst case scenario meltdown, your advice is prudent. That said, 2-way communications, especially if used covertly, is a force multiplier for security.

        Things don’t have to ‘hit the fan’ in a severe way for 2-way radios to be a great general communications asset.

  4. Since radio tranmissions are public it can be useful to have codenames (eg: Red Falcon, Blue Falcon, Yellow Falcon). These won’t be fool proof, but they help give a bit of anonymity. The names should be changed every couple months to throw off anyone monitoring you. 2 word names are ideal, because it reduces the likelyhood of anyone else using the same name. Essentially, the one word acts like a surname to indicate you’re part of the same group of speakers, and the other word acts like a first name to indentify you within the group.

    1. We use numbers rather than names. Though it really doesn’t matter, a code name is a code name with numbers, letters, words… Good idea Yolo.

  5. Ham radio is the best of the best options. If you can see the flash of lightning and hear the clap of thunder you are smart enough to pass the test after a few hours of study.

    You will increase your comm ability 1000%. Short range and long range communications will become far more reliable.

    The FRS, GMRS etc frequencies are bound to be heavily monitored by the good, the bad and the ugly. On the ham bands you will run into a group of more responsible , helpful folks.

    The bandwidth is far too wide for a bad apple to monitor all of it and world wide communication becomes a possibility if you wish,or just monitor.

    Yes you do have to put in some effort to learn,study and pass the tests but it pays off that investment in a big way. We have 11 and 12 year old kids pass the test. We have people with learning disabilities pass the test. We have handicapped folks pass the test.

    Join a local club and volunteer for EMCOMM work and public service stuff like bike races, marathons, charity walks etc. It is fantastic prepper communication training. You will meet good people that will be anxious to help you get started, we call them Elmers. Every ham has an Elmer and tries to Elmer other new hams. It’s a win,win,win situation. Just my opinion and worth exactly what you paid for it. Jeff

  6. – Have 1 set of FRS, 1 set of GMRS/FRS (Much more useful), a pair of CB radios (One old-style mobile and a walkie talkie that is capable of being used as a mobile)

    For local use, I don’t want to break out the more potent radios, as I feel that for local incidents the more common radios are more likely to be lost in the shuffle. My Dad was my ‘Elmer’ and I still have some of his stuff, although I don’t use it a lot.

    – Papa S.

  7. Ken
    Thank you for the data information on channel locations along with range for these units.

    I am printing this article out for our JIC container and shipping the article over to the sister to read.

  8. We have the Midland ,GXT, walkie talkies that are pictured above the article. We use them around the property in case of an accident or the wife needs to give me some directions. We live in a crooked canyon so our best range so far has been about a 1/4 mile. They have been useful. We are not real radio savvy, but have a friend who is and will help to expand our knowledge. We are most concerned about the ability to listen , not necessarily transmit.

  9. Good article, I have two radios that my brother left me when he passed . And I have wanted to get more for SHTF event but was not sure of the if one was better than the other FRS or GMRS. And its always good to here from others that have them and how they use them. I hate reading all the reviews on other shopping web sites.

    1. Bender, a advantage with GMRS over FRS is more transmitting power (more range). But many of these consumer handhelds have both (FRS & GMRS channel frequencies).

      Plus, if you get a GMRS license (no test – just money) you can transmit up to 50 watts. Good for a base station…

  10. I have a Ham radio license and play on every band from 160 to 900-MHz., so I pretty much have communications covered. A Ham ticket opens a next-level way of communication that no one (including most all government agencies) can come close to. A ham can communicate all around the planet on HF and then use microwave radios at the same time. I always have 5 or 6 different bands and frequencies on to listen to and or talk on.

    But with that said Ham radio can get expensive if you are not careful, but you can also get into it for $20.00 for a hand held radio (2 of them are $40.00) and build a few pretty god radio antennas out of things you have in your home right now. These China-made radios get a mixed opinion from the Ham radio people. Some say they are junk (after all they only cost $20.00 to $30.00) but others like them.

    Personally I don’t care what people use, it’s more important that they get on the air then it is what radio they have., While I buy better radios (Kenwood, Icom & Yaesu) as I think they are likely to be better made with better parts and last longer (an important thing to me as a prepper.)

    I have to say the China radios work and sound as good as a name brand radio. No one will know you are using a Baofeng UV-5R if you don’t tell them as they sound good.

    And a Baofeng UV-5R will work on Ham RFadio, FRS and GMRS frequencies.

    If a person does get into Ham Radio it may be worth looking at a Yaesu FT-817 ND or the new version the FT-818. This radio is the size of a small CB radio, runs on internal batteries be it rechargeable or AA Alkaline and can also be powered by an outside power cord.

    It covers all the HF bands, 6-Meter, 3-Meter and 440 MHz. It does CW, SSB, AM & FM. Thais allows it to be able to communicate to the whole planet on HF and do local things on VHF (2-Meters) and on 440 MHz. It can be used with any repeater out there.

    It only puts out 5-Watts, it’s what is called a QRP radio. all that means is it’s low power.

    It puts out about the same power as a hand held radio. The difference is that most hand helds are 2-Meter and or 440 MHz. and the FT-817does these 2 bands plus all ther HF (Shortwave) bands that are used by Ham’s all over the planet to talk all over the planet.

    And while most HF radios put out 100-Watts this one only has 5-Watts.

    Disadvantage is it’s only 5-Watts so it takes more work to talk to the whole planet. But people are doing just that with this radio every day and having a lot of fun doing it.

    Another disadvantage is it presently (the FT-818) cost $650.00 and you can easily spend anther $300.00 to 400.00 in aftermarket toys for it. But you have a World-Wide radio (and it actually is easily capable of World-Wide talking) that can fit in a coat pocket. The extra toys make it more fun to play with but as it comes it’s capable of doing a good job if you make a wire antenna and string it in a tree.

    The advantage of this radio is it doesn’t use a lot of power so in a grid-down or bug-out situation it would be able to run for a long time on a modest amount of power. There are people in Europe and The USA that talk all the time with this little 5-Watt radio. The farthest I have talked with my 817 is from Toledo Ohio to Mid Florida. And that was with a homemade wire antenna on 20-Meters. Not bad for a piece of speaker wire and a 5-watt radio.

    Wire antennas are easy to make for it and there are lots of plans on the net.

    For a do-it-all grab-&-Go radio I don’t think there is a better choice.

    It does have a bit of a learning curve as it has a lot of menus (all radios have them these days) to go through. U-Tube has a lot of videos that helped me with it.

    Watch some U-Tube videos on it.

    As far as FRS & GMRS, I have a few sets of both and the GMRS are better as they have more power. And honestly during local emergencies a good set of GMRS radios may be more then enough for a family to keep in contact over a mile or 2 at most.

    I use a set of GMRS hand held radios with my Son as he doesn’t want to get into Ham radio.

    Another radio option that I see being used for preppers a bit is Marine radios. I live next to The Great Lakes so there are always a lot of Marine radios popping up at garage sales & flea markets. Most times $15.00 or less.

    A Marine mobile radio (The size of a CB radio) puts out 25-Watts, a hand held is about 5-Watts. Put an antenna on your house and the 2 radios will hear each other for 12-miles.

    Be Aware: It is illegal to use Marine radios on land, I would not recommend doing it any place close to a body of water for the concern of causing interference and drawing men with guns and badges. But where there is no lake, ocean or river it;s probably safe.

  11. One aggravation now with CB radios, but might be an asset should things go seriously south, is what is called “skip”. When atmospheric conditions are right, you pick up conversations from, sometimes, thousands of miles away. You may be unable to converse with them, but could pickup valuable information if local sources are down. I sometimes think that every CB radio in Mexico has a 1000 watt linear.

    1. I have several CB radios (I am a radioaholic with LOTS of radios) I don’t use them and never really have used one beyond fixing them for people.

      For years CB did the job needed and in some ways it still can. After all it works just like it did back during the CB craze of the 1970-80’s. With a good antenna on a house and on an auto it can out preform an FRS radio and most GMRS radios. Today people have come to expect a small duck antenna to preform like it’s a full size antenna. Things don’t work that way. a 1/4 wave CB antenna is 108-inches long, a 1/4 wave GMRS antenna is only a few inches long. The short antenna is more friendly and therefor more popular. But if a person is willing to put up with longer antennas, CB can still hold it’s own.

      As far as skip that is part of it’s magic, like the Ham 10 & 6-Meter bands you never know when a far away station will come in.

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