Are You Radio Prepared?
By Brad Smith
Does your family have an emergency radio plan to ride out the aftermath of a disaster? Can you imagine anything more frightening than not being able to communicate with loved ones, to know that they are all right and to report that you are as well? You can prepare a two-way radio solution as well as having the required AM/FM/Weather radio for news and information.
Local news is the most important thing you’ll need to keep up with in an emergency. A portable AM/FM radio is essential. Have plenty of spare batteries available. A radio that includes weather band will let you hear local weather and other government announcements. Amber alerts are now broadcast on weather radio. If the emergency covers a wide area, other messages may be added to the weather radio broadcasts.
Many preparedness guides include having a radio that will receive shortwave broadcast (SWBC) stations. The traditional reason to have a shortwave capable radio is to receive a world view of news. This was true for many years and may still be useful today but many stations are going off the air every month.
Amateur radio operators (hams) can also be found in their own bands on SW. Hams handle emergency communications on a regular basis and you can tune them in. Even if a disaster is limited to a small area, such as a tornado or earthquake, you may be able to hear them at your location. You must have a shortwave radio that covers ham frequencies and receives in single sideband (SSB) mode. Local ham radio activity can be heard on VHF and UHF using a scanner radio.
When the twin towers fell in 2001, overtaxed phone lines left people wondering for hours about the safety of friends and relatives. When ice blanketed America in 2007 from Kansas to Georgia, and power grids were out for days, cell phones and computers became useless as downed cable communication lines added to problems in areas that lacked electricity
There are many types of two-way radios available. What services are best for your situation? There are license-free radio services that can be used by the general public. Over all, ham radio is better but these other services are good for local and city-wide communication. These are citizens band (CB), Family Radio Service (FRS – the talkies you buy anywhere), and Multi-use Radio Service (MURS – VHF). One service does require a license: General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS – UHF). The cost of the license is $85 for five years and covers your entire family. GMRS radios can communicate with your FRS talkies.
Don’t buy radio equipment and store it away with your food. Learn to operate your radios and practice monthly. Don’t wait for an emergency to happen and waste time looking for batteries or a radio manual. Have a plan and post it where your whole family can see it.
Being “Radio Prepared” means being prepared to communicate through the after effects of any emergency. Join the radio community now and be ready the next time the lights go out. Find a ham operator in your area for more information.
Are You Radio Prepared?