Emergency Communications: Alternatives to Ham Radio

Ham radio isn’t right for everyone and there are alternatives as the links below suggest. The so-called FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios are alternatives. FRS is pretty short-range (less than a mile) and GMRS a bit longer (a few miles). But the fundamental problem is the same as with ham radio: someone else has to be listening. That means organizing nets and practicing. So, take a look at these links. I still think ham radio is a better idea, but it doesn’t work for people

who a) can’t afford the generally-more-expensive radios, and b) may already have FRS equipment around.

EMCOM: National Emergency Alert Notification System. Note that this is NOT a governmental organization. It’s an “NGO,” meaning private. And note that the contact page says the organization is out of funds. But there’s some good info on the site.

Family Radio Service: An Option for Neighborhood Emergency Communications. This is a nice summary document about using FRS radios with some very specific advice about how to use them in an emergency.

North Hills Community Association. This is the website for a California Bay Area community association that has some well-developed information regarding both FRS and GMRS radios.

Emergency Communications Disaster Response Plan. This is a lengthy web page built by the Santa Clara (California) County that covers the gamut from ham radio to FRS to GMRS. Lots of info, but you have to wade through quite a bit to get to it. If I had a suggestion for them, it would be to break this web page down into many web pages with a good index.

Any more? Comment on this post.

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2 Responses to Emergency Communications: Alternatives to Ham Radio

  1. Ron Henry says:

    My family and I lived through several hurricanes during the early years of my life. Emergency comms involved 99% listening. During those years, having a good AM radio was key. May I suggest getting a radio that will enable you to be able to listen to all of the emergency frequencies.
    In my humble opinion, restrict considerations of two-way comms to family and/or friends that will be beyond yelling distance. The FRS and GMRS radios, even CB radios I think will be fine for 99% of comms needs. I am a licensed ham radio operator, that is my plan.

  2. Also one needs to know the power requirements of the radio as these also affect the battery life. Many radios have special functions that attract a large number of customers. The main disadvantage of a nickel cadmium battery is its susceptibility to “memory effect,” meaning that the battery gradually loses its capacity for full recharging if it is repeatedly recharged before its capacity has been fully drained.

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