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Old July 30, 2008, 01:55 PM   #15
Bill DeShivs
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Join Date: April 7, 2006
Posts: 9,128
Ham radio is a great option, but requires a user license under normal circumstances. I recommend anyone seriously interested in emergency comms make the effort to get a Technician-level amatuer radio license. You will then have a working knowledge of radios and what they will and won't do. Hams are very well prepared for emergency scenarios.
Remember, ANY radio service is legal to use in an emergency.
GMRS/FRS radios are inexpensive and readily available. Don't believe the 15-20 mile range claims-they might do this on water or from mountaintop to mountaintop-but not under normal circumstances. Usual GMRS/FRS range is amout a mile. These are great for car to car comms.
CBs are handy to have, inexpensive and widely used. Drawbacks are LONG antennas on hand held units, AM radio frequency, and low power. Stay away from CB "linear amplifiers," as they are illegal and unless expertly set up don't work well.
Business band radios are very good for establishing medium-range local comms. Licensing is required, unless you are a customer of a private-carrier systems operator. Licensing requires no testing, and any commercial radio shop can assist you. Should you subscribe to a local system, make sure your radios have a direct channel that bypasses the system so that you can talk radio to radio should the system fail. Mobile-mounted business radios are higher-powered, and are capable of good distance without system or repeater use. Range is generally 10-20 miles.
Nextel-type systems are subject to failing, leaving you with a radio that is useless, as no direct radio-radio communication is allowed.
Directional antennas are very good for increasing range from specific points.
Antenna height (not length) is paramount to range with two way radios, as most radios are line-of-sight. Shortwave radios bounce signals off the atmosphere to get tremendous range, but require proficiency testing and licensing.
Need more specifics, just ask.
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