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Communicating During A Disaster: Emergency Radios And Frequencies Guide

If your spouse and children are away from home when disaster strikes, would you be able to communicate with them and help guide them home?

By Tara Dodrill

If your spouse and children are away from home when disaster strikes, would you be able to communicate with them and help guide them home? Many folks have become far to reliant upon cell phone and the Internet to communicate and reach loves ones quickly in our modern world. Purchasing at least one type of emergency communications device could help reunite and aid loves ones during either a short or long-term disaster.

Cell phone signals and Internet access are typically the first “services” to cease operating during either a natural or man-made disaster, and landlines may not be far behind. The GPS gadgets so many people rely upon to get to point B from point A will not be helpful if they are built into your vehicle and roads are clogged or something like an EMP attack has rendered the big hunks of metal useless.

Communicating during an emergency may be essential not only for survival, but to help locate loved ones and garner news about an unfolding scenario. Buying an emergency radio and communications devices is just the first step in being prepared for disaster. Learning how to use the device is the logical second step, but building a Faraday cage to keep the device (or devices) in will help ensure the tool remain in functional order should a solar fare or EMP attack occur. Before turning on a radio frequency and chatting, make sure to refer to usage requirements to avoid hefty fines for law enforcement and first responder only channels.

Citizens Band Radios

CB radios can allow you to contact folks living many miles away, depending upon the quality of the device. Despite all the modern technology now available at our fingertips, the vast majority of truck drivers still have CB radios in their tractor-trailers – just like in the cult classic Smokey and the Bandit. Using a Citizens Band radio to find out what is going on not only in the extended region, but on the road you travel home, will help you avoid getting mired down in any traffic that is still moving and to avoid problem areas.

 CB Radio Tips From TruckerCountry.com:

“The squelch is the control gate for incoming signals. This control cuts off or eliminates receiver background noise [white noise] when you’re not receiving an incoming signal. You can either set the squelch so that you receive all signals within your range, or so that you can only receive the strongest signals, usually those signals closest to you. Turn the squelch control clockwise to close the gate and only allow the strongest signals to enter. Turn the control counterclockwise to open the gate and allow all signals to enter. The desired squelch setting [DSS] is achieved by turning the control counterclockwise until you hear background noise, then turn the control clockwise just until the noise disappears. This is a good listening level.”

2-Meter and 10-Meter Radios

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The 2-meter radios offer the ability to contact local law enforcement authorities and first responders. Monitoring rescue and recovery efforts, and any evolving unrest, will likely also be beneficial to the family’s survival. Some claim that 10-meter radios have allowed them to speak to others living several hundred miles away, but such ability would likely vary dependent upon location and terrain around the home.

FRS and GMRS Radios

The Family Radio Service (FRS) was enacted in 1996. During the past decade or so multiple businesses have also begun using the radio frequencies for communications throughout the workday. FRS radios were an improvement on standard walkie-talkie and allowed frequencies to be “channelized.” Both FRS and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios utilize ultra-high frequencies, or UHF. Most versions of the radio come with squelch codes known as DCS CTCSS. This attribute permits users to squelch out most unwanted transmissions from transmitting radio traffic, which conserves the life of the battery. FRS radios must have a permanent antenna to function and are restricted to 500-milliwatts. The typical range for such a radio is about one-fourth to one and a half miles – depending upon the surrounding terrain. GMRS radios can have an extended transmission range, also still dependent upon the geographic area.

FRS/GMRS Channels

  •  Channels 1 through 7 are shared between FRS and GMRS usage.
  •  Channels 8 -14 are designed for FRS only.
  •  Channels 15-22 are reserved solely for GMRS and require a license by the FCC to use.

HAM radios

The HAM radio has played an integral role in every disaster this nation has faced for over 100 years. HAM will remain functional even when modern communication devices become worthless. The seemingly old-fashioned devices are extremely reliable and allow users to connect with the outside world when Internet access, cell towers, and phone land lines are no longer functional.

HAM radio codes

  •  QRL – The frequency is busy, do not interfere. Also used to ask if the frequency is busy.
  • QRM – An abbreviation for interference from other radio signals.
  • QRN – An abbreviation for interference from either man-made or natural static.
  • QRO – A request or alert to increase power.
  • QRP – A request or alert to decrease power.
  • QRQ – A request or question to send information faster.
  • QRS – A request or question to send information more slowly.
  • QRT – A question or request to stop sending information.
  • QRU – A response or question about the availability of sending more information.
  • QRV – Either, I am ready, or are you ready?
  • QRX – Standby.
  • QRZ – A request for identification of information sender.
  • QSL – Received and understood.
  • QSB – Signal is fading.
  • QST – All call before a message to all amateur HAM radio operators.
  • QSX – I am listening on “insert kHz frequency.
  • QSY – Change to “inset kHz frequency.
  • QTH – Use to request a location or as an alert prior to giving a location.

Weather Radios

NOAA weather radios are also an important item to consider. The broadcasts by the agency share weather and related emergency information designed for specific listening areas. There are approximately 425 NOAA transmitters currently active in America, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and Guam. Canada has its own version of the weather alert system, one which can be reached via the Internet.

Each NOAA transmitter covers roughly 40 miles from the device site. About 80 percent of the United States is included in the NOAA transmitter area. Typically, the weather alert agency’s broadcasts are on air 24-hours a day and updated when special warnings or hazards become apparent. During times of severe weather, amateur HAM radio operators contact the NOAA weather system on specific radio frequencies to offer local updates.

NOAA operates on seven different frequencies outside of the typical AM/FM radio bands:

  •  162.4000 MHz
  •  162.4250 MHz
  •  162.4500 MHz
  •  162.4750 MHz
  •  162.5000 MHz
  •  162.5250 MHz
  •  162.550 MHz
  •  Citizens Band Frequencies

 CB Channel  Frequencies

  •  Channel 1        26.965 MHz
  •  Channel 2        26.975 MHz
  •  Channel 3        26.985 MHz    Prepper CB Network (AM)
  •  Channel 4        27.005 MHz    The American Pepper’s Network
  •  Channel 5        27.015 MHz
  •  Channel 6        27.025 MHz
  •  Channel 7        27.035 MHz
  •  Channel 8        27.055 MHz
  •  Channel 9        27.065 MHz    REACT Channel – Emergency CB radio use
  •  Channel 10      27.075 MHz
  •  Channel 11      27.085 MHz
  •  Channel 12      27.105 MHz
  •  Channel 13      27.115 MHz    Popular with campers, RV drivers, and boaters
  •  Channel 14      27.125 MHz    Federal Motor Coach Association
  •  Channel 15      27.135 MHz    Popular with California truck drivers
  •  Channel 16      27.155 MHz    Popular with ATV clubs
  •  Channel 17      27.165 MHz    Also popular with California tractor-trailer drivers
  •  Channel 18      27.175 MHz
  •  Channel 19      27.185 MHz    Primary truck driver chat channel
  •  Channel 20      27.205 MHz
  •  Channel 21      27.215 MHz
  •  Channel 22      27.225 MHz
  •  Channel 23      27.255 MHz
  •  Channel 24      27.235 MHz
  •  Channel 25      27.245 MHz
  •  Channel 26      27.265 MHz
  •  Channel 27      27.275 MHz
  •  Channel 28      27.285 MHz
  •  Channel 29      27.295 MHz
  •  Channel 30      27.305 MHz
  •  Channel 31      27.315 MHz
  •  Channel 32      27.325 MHz
  •  Channel 33      27.335 MHz
  •  Channel 34      27.345 MHz
  •  Channel 35      27.355 MHz    Australian channel
  •  Channel 36      27.365 MHz
  •  Channel 37      27.375 MHz    Prepper 37 channel
  •  Channel 38      27.385 MHz
  •  Channel 39      27.395 MHz
  •  Channel 40      27.405 MHz

Prepper Freeband and CB Radio Frequencies

  •  CB 3 (AM) 26.9850MHz Prepper Channel
  •  CB 36(USB) 27.3650MHz Survivalist Channel
  •  CB 37 (USB) 27.3750MHz    Prepper CB Network – AM
  •  Freeband(USB) 27.3680MHz Survivalist Network
  •  Freeband(USB) 27.3780MHz Prepper Channel
  •  Freeband(USB) 27.4250MHz Survivalist Network
  •  HAM Emergency Frequencies


  •  03808.0 LSB   Caribbean Wx
  •  03845.0 LSB   Gulf Coast West Hurricane
  •  03862.5 LSB   Mississippi Section Traffic
  •  03865.0 LSB   West Virginia Emergency
  •  03872.5 LSB   Mercury Amateur Radio Association – hurricane emergency
  •  03873.0 LSB   West Gulf ARES Emergency (night)
  •  03873.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana ARES Emergency, Mississippi ARES Emergency
  •  03910.0 LSB   Central Texas Emergency, Mississippi ARES, Louisiana Traffic
  •  03915.0 LSB   South Carolina SSB NTS
  •  03923.0 LSB   Mississippi ARES, North Carolina ARES Emergency
  •  03925.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana Emergency
  •  03927.0 LSB   North Carolina ARES
  •  03935.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana ARES, Texas ARES, Mississippi ARES and Alabama Emergency
  •  03940.0 LSB   Southern Florida Emergency
  •  03944.0 LSB   West Gulf Emergency
  •  03950.0 LSB   Hurricane Watch (Amateur-to-National Hurricane Center), Northern Florida Emergency
  •  03955.0 LSB   South Texas Emergency
  •  03960.0 LSB   North East Coast Hurricane
  •  03965.0 LSB   Alabama Emergency
  •  03967.0 LSB   Gulf Coast – outgoing only
  •  03975.0 LSB   Georgia ARES, Texas RACES
  •  03993.5 LSB   Gulf Coast Health and Welfare
  •  03993.5 LSB   South Carolina ARES and RACES Emergency
  •  03995.0 LSB   Gulf Coast Wx
  •  07145.0 LSB   Bermuda
  •  07165.0 LSB   Antigua/Antilles Emergency and Weather, Inter-island 40-meter (continuous watch)
  •  07225.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane
  •  07232.0 LSB   North Carolina ARES Emergency
  •  07235.0 LSB   Louisiana Emergency, Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana Emergency
  •  07240.0 LSB   American Red Cross US Gulf Coast Disaster, Texas Emergency
  •  07242.0 LSB   Southern Florida ARES Emergency
  •  07243.0 LSB   Alabama Emergency, South Carolina Emergency
  •  07245.0 LSB   Southern Louisiana
  •  07247.5 LSB   Northern Florida ARES Emergency
  •  07248.0 LSB   Texas RACES
  •  07250.0 LSB   Texas Emergency
  •  07254.0 LSB   Northern Florida Emergency
  •  07260.0 LSB   Gulf Coast West Hurricane
  •  07264.0 LSB   Gulf Coast Health and Welfare
  •  07265.0 LSB   Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio
  •  07268.0 LSB   Bermuda
  •  07273.0 LSB   Texas ARES
  •  07275.0 LSB   Georgia ARES
  •  07280.0 LSB   NTS Region 5, Louisiana Emergency
  •  07283.0 LSB   Gulf Coast – outgoing only
  •  07285.0 LSB   West Gulf ARES Emergency and Louisiana ARES Emergency
  •  07285.0 LSB   Mississippi ARES Emergency, Texas ARES Emergency
  •  07290.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Gulf Coast Wx, Louisiana ARES, Texas ARES and Mississippi ARES
  •  14185.0 USB Caribbean Emergency
  •  14222.0 USB Health and Welfare
  •  14245.0 USB Health and Welfare
  •  14265.0 USB Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio
  •  14268.0 USB Amateur Radio Readiness Group
  •  14275.0 USB Bermuda and International HAM Radio
  •  14300.0 USB Intercontinental Traffic
  •  14303.0 USB International Assistance
  •  14313.0 USB Intercontinental Traffic and Maritime
  •  14316.0 USB Health and Welfare
  •  14320.0 USB Health and Welfare
  •  14325.0 USB Hurricane Watch – both amateur and official reports
  •  14340.0 USB Louisiana
  •  21310.0 USB Health & Welfare in Spanish

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on July 31st, 2014

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