Looking for the best emergency communication devices? You’re in the right place! This is a concise prepper’s guide on 7 essential emergency communication devices.
Whether it’s a walkie-talkie or a signal whistle, these gadgets will ensure that you stay connected during an SHTF situation.
Keep reading to learn more about why we chose these radios for prepper communications.
Ham Radio: The Ultimate Communication Tool for Preppers
Preppers know ham radios are essential for emergency communication. Having one is a key part of your SHTF planning. Knowing how and why to use them, what features to look for, and how to get your license are more important than buying the coolest gadget.
Ham radios provide the perfect solution as they’re reliable, affordable, and have many great features. They have long-range capabilities, multiple frequencies, and portability that makes them ideal for any situation. This isn’t 1978 – you don’t need a 100-foot-tall external antenna in your backyard to operate a ham radio.
How and Why preppers use ham radios
Ham radios are emergency radios that let you listen without a license, however, you do need a license to broadcast. They allow you to communicate over long distances when other forms of emergency communications might not function due to a disaster or destruction.
With a ham radio license, you can broadcast a message and access many more frequencies than an unlicensed user—everything from international shortwave broadcasts to local emergency radio stations—allowing you to get the latest information on disasters and emergencies near you.
A ham radio may be your best source of vital information if you’re faced with a pandemic or a societal decay event.
Ham Radio Features to Consider for SHTF
Having a ham radio with the right features will make all the difference when it comes to emergency preparedness and there are several you should think (and ask) about as you make your choice…
Portability: Preppers may need to go mobile during an SHTF situation. Portability allows you to carry the ham radio easily while on the move, ensuring you can maintain communication regardless of your location.
Survivability: In emergency scenarios, preppers need a handheld radio that can withstand harsh conditions, like extreme weather or physical impacts. Choose a radio that’s built to be durable so that it’ll function when needed the most.
Proprietary Battery: Preppers prioritize self-sufficiency and independence, especially during extended periods without access to power sources. A proprietary battery means that the radio is designed to work with specific rechargeable batteries. This may not be helpful as you plan and stock up on spare batteries.
Recharging: The ability to recharge the radio’s batteries is mandatory. You may not have access to backup batteries during emergencies, so being able to recharge the batteries using methods like solar panels, hand-crank generators, or car batteries becomes helpful.
Bands: Ham radios operate on different frequency bands; VHF and UHF. Each has its own characteristics and uses. Pay attention to the frequency bands on a ham radio to ensure connectivity with other radio operators in their area or emergency response organizations. You may also consider radios that cover both VHF and UHF to maximize your communication options in different situations. Generally speaking, VHF is a less expensive model.
Repeater: Repeaters are devices that extend the range of ham radios like stepping stones. They receive and retransmit signals, allowing operators to communicate over longer distances. You might choose to have a radio that can also function as a repeater.
How to get a Ham Radio License
In order to benefit fully and stay connected over long distances in an SHTF situation, you’ll need an amateur radio license. There are 3 different levels of license that allow users to use more powerful radio equipment than those available on most handheld radios.
Start with a Technician Class (a.k.a. entry level license), which for most prepper communications will be sufficient to get you to a place where you can use the radio for emergency communication. You’ll be able to set up local repeaters and build a fairly good communications plan.
From there, you can move on to the General Class and Amateur Extra Class licenses which will give you access to more frequencies and more power which will allow you to reach farther than you can with walkie-talkies.
Getting a ham radio license requires passing specific tests administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These exams cover FCC rules and regulations for using different types of radio frequencies when transmitting signals. Once you pass these exams you’ll receive your official certification which grants you permission to operate your own station legally.
While there are resources available online for studying for the exam, it’s recommended that anyone wanting to get into amateur broadcasting take classes with experienced instructors who can help guide you through obtaining a ham radio license. Depending on your approach to studying for the licenses, you’re looking at $200-$500 to get all three licenses.
Satellite Phone: Uninterrupted Communication in Any SHTF Situation
Satellite phones are important to have in an SHTF scenario where preppers need to bug out and go mobile. Depending on your situation, you may wind up in a remote location.
Satellite phones are great for long-distance communication when traditional cell towers and cell phones fail due to a disaster. They’re usually more expensive than regular cell phones, but their reliability and extra features make them worth it.
Why Preppers use satellite phones
Preppers use satellite phones because they provide reliable communication in areas where traditional cellular networks don’t. Beyond that, a satellite phone has two big advantages over cell phones; they’re rugged and secure.
Because of their intended use in remote locations, they must be durable. Satellite phones are built to be dropped a few times and survive. Regular cell phones just won’t hold up to that kind of abuse.
Satellite phones are one of the best options for survival communication, as they allow for two-way conversations that include privacy codes to keep confidential information private.
Cost of Satellite phones
Satellite phones used to require a significant financial investment, but thanks to companies like Starlink, the prices have come down considerably. They’re still pricey so you’ll want to consider the cost before purchasing one.
Satellite phones are a great option for survival communication as they’re less vulnerable to disruptions caused by natural disasters or civil unrest that take out traditional phone lines or cell towers. They can survive an electromagnetic pulse if they’re stored in a Faraday cage or bag.
Because of their price, your SHTF plan may have you spend money on other things first. As your planning becomes more advanced, you’ll likely end up owning a satellite phone.
Two-Way Radios: Stay Connected With Your Group
When it comes to reliable emergency communication, two-way radios are an essential tool in your SHTF preps. FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios are the most popular type of two-way radio for preppers.
FRS radios don’t require a license, making them great for short-range communication without regulatory hassles. GMRS radios have more range and power but require a license; they’re ideal for bugging out since they can be used to communicate with other groups from farther away.
What are FRS and GMRS?
FRS and GMRS are two types of radios that can be extremely helpful in an emergency situation.
Both FRS and GMRS radios allow users to communicate with each other over short distances, making them a reliable way to stay in touch during an emergency situation.
GMRS radios offer more range than FRS. If you don’t need long-distance communications, then FRS might satisfy your needs. USB charging connectors on both types of radios make them easy to recharge during emergencies.
Investing in both styles of radio at an all-in price of less than $200 gives preppers a reliable and budget-friendly entry point to communicate in any SHTF scenario.
Why Preppers like FRS
Preppers love FRS radios for their convenience, portability, and the range they provide without the need for a license. They’re great because they allow preppers to communicate quickly with each other even in natural disasters.
FRS radios also offer self-reliance because they can come with hand crank or solar power built in, making them one of the best survival radios available. They’re small enough to be stored in a Faraday bag to protect them from an EMP. This makes them incredibly useful no matter what emergency situation comes up.
FRS radios typically come with rechargeable batteries so you can bring them back to life easily with a backup power supply.
Why Preppers like GMRS
GMRS radios offer preppers a way to reach out over long distances to loved ones, emergency responders, and local authorities. With their increased range — up to five miles for some models — these two-way radios provide an invaluable means of communication when cell towers are down or the phone company doesn’t answer.
GMRS also offers higher power levels than FRS, meaning more reliable connections over greater distances.
For many preppers, having a GMRS radio is an essential part of their emergency planning because it helps ensure that they can stay connected with those who matter most in any situation. It provides peace of mind knowing that even if other forms of communication fail, they’ll still have a way to get in touch and make sure everyone is safe.
Licensing Requirements for FRS and GMRS
Now that you understand why preppers like GMRS, let’s take a look at the licensing requirements for FRS and GMRS.
Although FRS doesn’t require a license, GMRS does. GMRS licenses last 10 years and have a 90-day renewal window at the end of the license. The FCC website has all of the necessary information and forms needed for obtaining your GMRS license.
Shortwave Radio: How Preppers Access Critical Information
You may be considering using shortwave radios for SHTF. Shortwave radios provide an important tool for communication in emergency situations and can be used to receive updates from the outside world.
It’s important to understand that shortwave radios are not the same as ham radios. With a shortwave radio you can listen to what ham operators are saying, but you can’t broadcast.
How Preppers Would Use Shortwave Radios in SHTF
When the SHTF, preppers will rely on shortwave radios to stay informed about events around the world. Shortwave radio is a powerful tool that can be used to monitor local and international news broadcasts.
Another beauty of shortwave radios is that they can tune into AWOS (Automated Weather Observation System) and ATIS (Automated Terminal Information System) which are two systems used by Air traffic.
Because it’s not a broadcast platform, preppers who want to go unnoticed will use it to stay up-to-date with developments as they happen.
Key criteria For a Shortwave Radio in SHTF
When the SHTF, having the right shortwave radio is very helpful if you’re looking to be in listening mode. To make sure your shortwave radio meets your needs when disaster strikes, there are certain criteria that should be considered.
A digital tuner with good selectivity: This will allow you to distinguish between two broadcasts that are close in frequency.
Memory: you may want to store several stations that are broadcasting good information and this will make it easy to find them again.
Synchronous detector for finding stations at night when signals are fading.
Frequency Oscillator so that you can pick up HF ham radio bands.
Finally, consider durability; if the model is waterproof and shockproof it will better withstand any extreme weather conditions or natural disasters that may occur.
CB Radio: Reliable Local Emergency Communication for Preppers
If you’re looking for a reliable way to stay connected in an emergency, you’ll want to consider setting up a CB radio. Ham radios can’t be used as CB radios because they operate at different frequencies and power bands.
Using a CB radio for SHTF scenarios can be great for staying informed, coordinating help, and keeping in touch with your group.
You’ve got a couple options with either vehicle mount or base station radios.
Vehicle Mount vs. Base Stations
You may want both a vehicle mount and a base station for your emergency communications radios so you can stay connected in any situation.
Vehicle mount CB radios are compact and portable – they go where your bug-out vehicle goes. They’re ideal for people who spend a lot of time on the road like truckers or preppers who are bugging out.
Base stations work well in a fixed location like a home or bunker. They typically come with longer antennas that allow for greater range and more powerful transmission signals than vehicle-mounted radios (warning: be careful about the rules on this). Base stations also tend to be more durable than mobile units since they don’t get bounced around.
Feature sets for CB radios include channel memory, NOAA Weather Channels, and Weather and Alert scan.
The range of a CB radio depends on several variables. Maximum range of a CB radio will be 1-2 miles per foot of antenna height. Some of the more significant variables that affect distance are: 1) how close to the 4-watt limit is your radio, 2) the quality of your antenna, and 3) this is a line-of-sight system.
Best Uses For Citizen Band Radio in SHTF
With its reliable decent-range transmission capabilities, a CB radio can be an invaluable survival radio. Your SHTF plan should include having at least one CB radio on hand for communication.
You can use it to keep up with the latest news and weather in your area. Because of its limited range, if you hear someone on it, you’ll be able to estimate how close they are to you. It’s also great for establishing a general communication hub within your network so you can check in regularly without having to search for individual people every time.
Hand-Crank Radio or Solar-Powered Radio: Dependable Communication in Grid-down Situations
At some point, you’re likely going to decide that you need either a hand-crank emergency radio and/or a solar-powered radio.
Hand-crank emergency radios are fairly compact and are most often NOAA weather radios – they receive emergency updates and weather information from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association.
A second survival radio option that also receives updates from NOAA is a solar-powered radio. These can be fairly compact given that they’re powered by the sun. You don’t have to choose between one or the other because you can find units that are both hand crank and solar-powered.
Key criteria for a Survival Radio
Choosing the right Survival Radio is critical – you want one that’s durable with all the features necessary to stay informed and connected in an emergency situation.
Weather band vs. Weather alert: Most preppers prefer the alert-style radio because it’ll give you weather alerts regardless of what station you’re listening to and even if it’s off.
Charge other devices – It might be nice if you can recharge your cell phone or a flashlight.
Multiple power sources – you just heard that you can get both hand and solar powered in the same unit. But can the unit also be plugged into another source? Think redundancy on power.
Store some electricity – You may not always have sunny skies or the strength to crank a radio, so the ability to store a little electricity is very helpful.
Waterproof case and strong antenna – you want your unit to be durable so it doesn’t break the first time it’s dropped and you want one that can handle some rain.
Radios Need Electricity
Without the power, your survival radio won’t be of much use to you…
That’s why it’s important to have a plan for getting power. You may want to look into small solar chargers and an inverter that can keep your radio running in an emergency situation. Small stand-alone panels can be used to charge other devices and they’re typically larger than the radio-mounted panels you see on these units so you get more out of them.
Hand-crank radio vs. Solar-powered radio
Preppers usually have two backup options for powering survival radios: hand-crank, or solar-powered. Both of these methods are important for emergency communication. However, both have different advantages depending on the situation.
The hand-crank radio is great in low-light or no-light scenarios because it’s not high-tech to power up. All you need is physical effort to generate electricity with its built-in generator and you’re good to go.
A solar-powered radio needs direct sunlight for recharging, which can be quite useful on a day when you’re particularly tired.
Signal Whistle and Signaling Mirror: Visual and Auditory Signaling for Survival
Your radio-based emergency communication plan is only as good as other preppers’ Faraday cages…
Your disaster communication plan should have redundancies and backup systems built into it. If everything that’s technology-based falls apart or if you decide to bug out and reduce the weight you’re carrying, you may find yourself relying on good ole tried-and-true one-way communication devices.
With a signal whistle, you can draw attention from large distances. A signaling mirror is perfect for reflecting sunlight so you can be seen during the day. Both of these belong in every prepper’s bug-out bag.
Simple and Reliable Ways to Signal
Disaster communications during SHTF is all about reliability and redundancy. Neither a whistle or a mirror requires great skill to operate, and with some knowledge, they can become more potent than just their obvious noise and light.
If you learn Morse code you can greatly improve the value of these tools.
Outside of preppers, rescue teams, and military communications professionals, few people actually know Morse code these days. With knowledge of Morse code – you can send out signals that have added valuable information in them.
What is the best communication device for SHTF?
Choosing the best communication device for SHTF is an important decision; it’s essential to select one that meets your needs and will serve you well in an emergency.
Many preppers swear by FRS/GMRS radios because they’re small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive. They don’t require infrastructure or special equipment — just some rechargeable batteries—so they can be used virtually anywhere.
Some preppers chose ham radio gear because it has more range and versatility but it requires more specialized training to operate effectively. It’s also generally more expensive than FRS/GMRS radios.
Ultimately, the choice of which is the best survival radio for you depends on how much range and flexibility your SHTF plan calls for.
Bonus Device: A Faraday Cage
By now, you’re aware of Faraday cages and that they can help in an emergency situation.
A Farraday cage is designed to protect electronic devices from electromagnetic pulses (EMP) and is essential to uninterrupted communication during certain kinds of emergencies.
If building a Faraday cage seems like too much work, Faraday bags provide an easier option and don’t require great skill to build.
Why Preppers Build a Farraday Cage
You’re likely wondering why preppers build a Faraday Cage – it’s to protect their electronic devices from EMPs (electromagnetic pulses).
An EMP (electromagnetic pulse) occurs when a nuclear bomb is detonated high up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The detonation rains down a wave of gamma rays that trigger an intense electromagnetic pulse that in turn creates a field of high-voltage current that destroys electronics. By building a Faraday Cage, you’re creating a protective shield for your most important electronic devices.
Successfully using a Faraday Cage will require some advance notice to make sure your electronics are properly sealed inside for the duration of the blast. This way, if an EMP attack were to occur, your emergency communication devices would remain safe and operational.
Faraday Bags As An Option
If you’re looking for an alternative to building a Faraday Cage, consider investing in some Faraday Bags. They provide the same level of protection against electromagnetic pulses (EMP) as a Faraday Cage, and they’re lightweight and convenient to store.
They come in various sizes, so you can easily find one or a few to fit all your electronic devices and protect them from EMPs. These bags will block any incoming waves or signals from entering your equipment. We highly suggest you have at least one each for your bug-out plan and SHTF preps.
Faraday Bags are a great option for preppers who don’t want to buy the faraday fabric and build their own Faraday Cage and still want reliable protection against EMPs. They offer an easy way to keep your electronics secure while making quick access easy during an emergency situation.