When it comes to emergency communications, things can get a little confusing and expensive. It seems like all of the experts want you to go out and buy the most expensive thing on the market whether it’s a good fit or not. Well, today we are going to look at an economical solution to being able to communicate with your group in an emergency situation. I have tried to lay out what I think a good setup would be and for as little money as possible. Let’s get started.
First let’s take a look at just what exactly would be needed for communicating with your group in an emergency. We will first need to make a few assumptions to start with. We will assume that you have had to bug out and leave you home, headed for your sanctuary or bug out location and are in the field travelling. Let’s also assume that you are on foot, so if you have a vehicle, then you are just ahead of the game. Let’s also assume, that there are 6 or 7 people in your group traveling together. This will give us a basis to build on. Because you are on foot, the weight is a major factor, as is power. You will probably be within 3 or 4 miles from each other at all times. Now let’s break down just what you will need.
To start with, each member will need a radio of their own, to stay in contact with the others. There are many hand-held radios on the market that make incredible claims as to their range. Unfortunately, due the curve of the earth you will never likely get more than 4 or 5 miles range out of them, no matter what they claim. I know I have seen some that even claim to reach as much as 36 miles. Unless you are in an airplane and up 5000ft, then you will never get more than about 5 miles tops! Because of these claims, they charge an unreal amount for their radios. The extra cost simply isn’t justified for our needs.
The good news is that there is a brand of radios out there that are very inexpensive and do a really great job for handheld communications. It’s called “Baofeng” and you can get them on amazon for very little. For our needs, the Baofeng model 888s will do nicely or the model UV-5R as well. The 888S is a 4 watt 70cm only radio and comes preprogrammed with useful channels that you can use. You can also get a programming cable to use your computer and get free software to program them yourself. The UV-5R is a 5 watt 2 meter and 70cm radio with the 2 meter being a Ham radio band, you would need a ham radio license to use those channels during non-emergency times. The ability to communicate on multiple bands is very valuable. While the UV-5R cost about $28 each on Amazon, the 888S only runs about $89 for a pack of 6. You can also purchase them in smaller packs for less money. These radios are very versatile and perform great. I have multiple sets of each, in my preps, because I like them so well.
One you have your radios, you will want to get a set of ear buds for them, so no one around you can hear what is being said over the radio or alert others that may be close by. Again, these are very inexpensive and can be purchased singularly on Amazon for only a few dollars. You can also purchase a hand-held radio microphone speaker, much like you see the police using that clips to your shirt for ease of use without being too loud. I have even seen the throat microphones for them on Amazon, if you feel the need. For my team and I, the ear buds work well. You can also purchase the 12 volt chargers for these, so you can charge them off of any good 12 volt source. This is extremely important if you are going to be on foot for several day or driving for several days as well. These are great little radios and I should know because I am a licensed ham radio operator and keep a UV-5R with me at all times. During a recent field day exercise at a local park, a really bad storm came up and I was caught out in it for a while, in fact I accidentally dropped it in a mud puddle and picked it up and kept going. The radio never missed a beat and just kept on working and is still working today. If you go with the 888s, you can get 6 radios, 5 ear buds, one hand-held microphone and a programing cable for about $125, as of the time of this article writing. That is a great deal for a complete group package. If you go with the UV-5R, then it will cost you about $200 for the same setup. That beats the heck out of paying $90 for 2 radios that won’t work any better than the Baofeng radios will. There are a ton of accessories available for these radios as well. In case you are wondering, no I do not work for Baofeng or sell their products. These are just great little radios and I want to pass the information along to you.
If you are traveling in a vehicle, then you may want to add a mobile unit to it. These range in price very widely, but I would look at the Yaesu FT-8800R VHF/UHF Dual Band Amateur Radio. This is a great mobile radio that covers both the 2 meter and 70cm bands just like the UV-5R, but it puts out up to 50 watts of power when you need it. It can also be used as a base station radio with a 12 volt power source. If you are going to be on foot and need something with a lot of power to carry with you then you might consider bringing one of these in your bug out bag along with a small 18 AHR 12 volt battery. These are light and portable and take up little room in your bag. I know some people who have built a bag, laid out just for carrying a Ham radio with a lot of power with them. Of course that is strictly up to you and based on your needs.
Well, that’s about it for today. I hope you have enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Having good radio communications equipment in the field when SHTF hits can make the difference between life and death in an emergency. Do not under estimate the value of it! Until next time, just remember that prepping is not a destination, but a direction of travel.