Thursday, April 7, 2016


What you don't know, CAN hurt you, especially when disaster is looming. During an emergency, communications and Actionable Intelligence can be critical to survival, so start developing your communication preparations now. In the Prepper Handbook, we talk about communication codes, but we will focus instead on the more basic topic of what you need in the way of equipment. As a side note, this equipment should be stored in a metal lined trunk or ammo can to protect against an EMP. There are several communications options that include:

  1. Citizen Band (CB) /40 - 10 miles +
  2. Marine VHF /50 - 20 miles +
  3. Family Radio Service (FRS) /22 - 1 mile
  4. GMRS Radio UHF /8 - 2 miles+
  5. Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS-VHF) /5 -  2 miles+
  6. Ham Radio /Lots - 50 miles +
The first level of communication is SHORT RANGE that is limited to low power like the FRS/GMRS and MURS (2 way radio) bands, although some of the GMRS bands require a license that costs about $85 for 5 years and covers the immediate family. GMRS uses UHF frequencies which has a shorter wavelength. This allows better penetration into large buildings while the MURS (below) uses VHF which is a longer wavelength. Tends to work better outdoors and over hilly terrain

Here is what I would consider for this category for Rural and City locations: Midland GXT1000VP4 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio (Pair) (Black/Silver). These have low and high powered options for short AND medium range making them great for where you don't want others who are far away hearing what you are saying. Security patrols around your retreat or neighborhood should be using this type of radio, which is a GOOD FIRST CHOICE for a Prepper.

For this you only need a GRMS license (no test required) for channels 15-22, and for channels 1-7 IF you use more than .5W (low power). No license is required to use channels 8-14 which operate at one half watt. These radios will transmit at "high power" (50 watts) on channels 1-7 and 15-22 which does require a license, although it is unlikely anyone would know the difference. Testing the low power channels through the woods, it works at about 1.5 miles. 

This kit comes with two radios, both car and home chargers, rechargeable batteries and ear pieces and a mode for more silent communications. An extra battery pack or two is recommended (or 8 AA rechargeable batteries) and can be easily changed out in the field/woods or have a solar charger like this $5 Solar Charger or this more complete Solar System. The 36 miles is a stretch except under perfect conditions, (line of sight), but it will reach over a mile I know. Cheaper ones are available, but this is the lowest price I would consider.

For country or outdoor locations with hilly terrain, the MURS radio is a good choice. Some very experienced Ham Radio operations prefer this over GRMS especially with an external antenna.

This BaoFeng BF-888S Two Way Radio is the LOWEST COST OPTION, for two radios at $23 including 2 chargers and an ear piece. No license is required, but it has a limited number of channels (15) that could become congested if too many people were using them.  It is limited to 2 watts and I have verified that it works fine at over 1 mile outdoors through wooded areas.  Indoors at that distance has heavy static and hard to understand at times. This was with the upgraded antenna which costs an additional $16 but even with the standard antenna, it works at over a half a mile which easily covers 5 or 6 city blocks.  Both work just fine for a neighborhood security watch.  At this price, you can't afford to not have any communications stored in a top quality Military Steel M2A1 Ammo Can.
In fact, no matter which of these radios you have, they should be stored and protected in this manner when not being used to protect them from an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or CME (coronal mass ejection) which is capable of destroying all electronic devices including your car and home appliances.

Potentially the best for medium range and most popular radio that does not require a license is the CB or Citizen Band which will communicate up to 10 miles. The best hand held CB radio is the Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio . Every Prepper should have one (or two) of these for regional communications beyond your retreat or local neighborhood.

For a base station CB radio, the best choice is Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio or on a tight budget, the Midland 1001Z 40-Channel CB Radio. Base Stations also need a good antenna like the Cobra CBRHGA1500 36-Inch Base-Load Medium Magnet Mount 300W CB Antenna or the Midland 18-2442 Mobile CB Antenna. These have about 3.5 to 5 watts of power.

Your next level is a higher (8 to 16X FRS/GMRS) powered Ham type radio, which can be purchased for about the same cost, but does require a license but provides the longest range. Here is a good book to help get your license: The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. and here is the American Radio Relay League or website where you can get it. At the high power setting, a licensed Ham operator can communicate around the world using relay stations.

A low cost (< $30) entry system of this type is: BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio which has a low (1 watt) and high power setting (4 watt). This does not come with as many accessories but has a number of options available. Doubling the power output will give you approximately 1.6X the range if its line of sight communications. For medium to long range, an inexpensive radio like this is the best option. More expensive radios wont get you a lot further without having proper antennas and placement. So a base station antenna on the roof of the house (or car) might be a good addition.

A more powerful version with a few more accessories is BaoFeng UV-82HP (CAMO) High Power Dual Band Radio which offers up to 7 watts. I like the camo version and the longer Nagoya NA-771 15.6-Inch Whip VHF/UHF antenna. There is also a programming cable and CD (software) that is recommended on both of the BaoFeng radios for about $6.

Having a Solar Power System to charge your batteries is also a good idea.

For more information see our Blog Table of Contents

Technical Details:
DISCLAIMER: This document is for general informational purposes only; NOT intended as legal advice and should not be construed as such. Legal matters should be referred to a qualified attourney or lawyer. All information is considered current as of the date this post was submitted. Since regulations and practises may change over time, it is advisable to consult an official source such as the FCC for the most up-to-date information.




FREQUENCIES ================================

Note: Channel numbers are given in this list according to the widely-followed Motorola numbering convention. GMRS channels are also sometimes referred to according to their dial position in kilohertz (e.g. "550" for channel 15) but this is uncommon.

01 462.5625
02 462.5875
03 462.6125
04 462.6375
05 462.6625
06 462.6875
07 462.7125

08 467.5625
09 467.5875
10 467.6125
11 467.6375
12 467.6625
13 467.6875
14 467.7125

15 462.550
16 462.575
17 462.600
18 462.625
19 462.650
20 462.675
21 462.700
22 462.725

*Note: for repeater use on 15-22, assume a +5 MHz shift (Tx: Simplex operation is not allowed on 467 MHz GMRS frequencies and are used for repeater input only.

01 151.820
02 151.880
03 151.940
04 154.570 ("Blue dot")
05 154.600 ("Green dot")

MAXIMUM TRANSMITTER POWER LIMITS ================================

FRS 1-7:
FRS: 0.5 watt
GMRS: 5 watt

FRS 8-14:
FRS: 0.5 watt
GMRS: prohibited

GMRS 15-22 (a.k.a. 550-725)
FRS: not applicable
GMRS: 5 watt (base); 50 watt (mobile/handheld)

All channels: 2 watt

BANDWIDTH/DEVIATION ================================

FRS/GMRS - All channels
Bandwidth: 11 kHz
Deviation: 2.5 kHz

GMRS ONLY - 15-22*
Bandwidth: 20 kHz
Deviation: 5 kHz

*Note: GMRS may also be worked with 11 kHz bandwidth/2.5 kHz deviation, though most mainstream equipment (e.g. department-store HTs) is fixed for 20/5 operation.

1-3: 11 kHz
4-5: 20 kHz

1-3: 2.5 kHz
4-5: 5 kHz

* Note: narrowband (11/2.5) transmissions are also allowed on MURS 4-5.

LICENCING ================================

No licence required when operating on any channel (1-14) at up to 0.5 watt ERP

Licence always required on 15-22 and when operating at power levels greater than 0.5 watt ERP on FRS 1-7
No licence required when operating a combination F/GMRS transceiver on FRS 8-14, or if said device does not exceed 0.5 watt ERP on FRS 1-7.

No licence required for personal use on any channel

- - - - - - - - - - - -

At the time of this writing, GMRS licencing is handled by the F¢¢. Fee is $85 and the ticket is good for five years. A GMRS ticket is valid for the holder and the immediate members of his family. GMRS licence holder must be aged 18 and up, but the service may be used by his family members of any age. No examination or test/quiz is conducted for GMRS licencing. A part 90/business or HAM radio licence does NOT legally grant any privileges to operate GMRS and vice versa. See also "THE FUTURE OF FRS AND GMRS" below.

People sometimes use handles (nicknames) on all three services. HAM call letters are considered a handle in part-95, as they have no official meaning in these services. If using any handle on GMRS (subject to personal preference), it should be given in conjunction with one's official legal GMRS call, never in place of it. GMRS call letters are not required to be announced on MURS, FRS 1-7 when operating at <=0.5 watt ERP or FRS 8-14.
TYPE ACCEPTANCE ================================

Equipment must be self-contained; if built to use detachable components (e.g. microphones/headseats) they must be designed specifically for use with their respective transceivers, batteries excepted
Antennae must not be detachable or easily removable
Mobile use permitted, but mobile FRS transceivers are difficult to find

Equipment may be self-contained (as in combination FRS/GMRS HTs which are currently very popular in the US) or have detachable components
Transceivers excluding FRS coverage may use detachable aerials, but placement restrictions exist--specifically, antenna cannot exceed 20 feet elevation above ground level. HTs can not have detachable aerials if they include FRS coverage
Mobile use permitted

Transceivers may use detachable aerials. Antenna height limited to 20 feet above structure (e.g. the peak of a house's roof) or 60 feet above ground, whichever is greater.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

All transceiver equipment used on F/GM/MURS must be part-95 type accepted and meet certain criteria as stated in their respective FCC rules. In general, FRS transceivers cannot have removable aerials; GMRS and MURS radios can have removable aerials (particularly in the case of base or mobile units.) but GMRS transceivers with removable aerials can not be used to transmit on FRS. Tone/code squelch is permitted on all services, although this functionality is sometimes omitted, especially in very low-cost transceivers or children's "toy" HTs where carrier squelch may be used instead. Modifying an F/GM/MURS transciver in ways not intended by the manufacturer or F¢¢ generally voids its part-95 certification and may render it illegal to operate. Equipment can neiter be tunable outside its prescribed frequency bands, nor manually or computer programmable as such. External amplifiers can not be used with any transceiver on F/GM/MURS. These restrictions do not apply to equipment designed specifically for receiving (e.g. a police scanner.)

Many newer imported freeband transceivers marketed for HAM use (Baofeng, TYT, Wouxun, etc.) and modified purpose-built HAM equipment are capable of emulating an F/GM/MURS transceiver. Although sometimes used, such equipment is illegal to operate in these services as they are not type-accepted for part-95 operation, despite extremely lax enforcement by the F¢¢.


The FCC maintain a searchable database of all transceivers certified for part-95 use on

1. Under "Application Information: Application Status:", select Grant Issued.
2. Under "Equipment Information: Rule Parts (up to three):", select "95A" for GMRS, "95B" for FRS or "95J" for MURS and tick "exact match" (selected by default). It's probably best to search each one individually, as this narrows your search and reduces confusion.
3. Under "Formatting Options: Show results in", select "HTML" (default).
4. Specify number of search results to display (default: 10).
5. Select "Start serach". It may take several minutes to display if a large number of results is given in step 4.

NOSCRIPT USERS: Temporarily allow "" to use the search page.

REPEATERS ================================

Repeaters on GMRS are usually considered to be specifically for the private use of those who operate them, however many individuals and radio clubs operate "open" repeaters intended for public use. Some of these repeaters may require permission from the operators to work them, but not always (although it is considered polite to ask regardless.) A good resource for GMRS repeater information, including non-exhaustive lists of repeaters around the United States is At the time of this writing, the ratio of open versus private ("permission required") systems listed in mygmrs seems to be fairly equal (271:308), indicating a slight bias toward private systems.

All repeater and telephone patch operations are forbidden on FRS and MURS. Telephone patches may not be used on GMRS. As far as I know, there is no restriction on an F/GM/MURS operator relaying communications by voice between their respective band and other radio services like CB or HAM, or other media such as Internet chat servers or telephone calls.

OTHER FACTS ================================

FRS: 47 CFR 95B
GMRS: 47 CFR 95A
MURS: 47 CFR 95J

- - - - - - - - - - - -

FRS and GMRS always use FM (see "BANDWIDTH/DEVIATION" above.) MURS may use other modulation formats, but FM is arguably the most commonly used.

GMRS channels 19 and 21 (650 and 700) are not allowed to be used near the Canadian border.

FRS transceivers are allowed to be used in Mexico on channels 1-14, however care must be exercised to avoid transmitting on GMRS 15-22 if a combination transceiver is used there.

FRS 1 and GMRS 20 are commonly used and advocated as "de facto" calling and emergency channels, especially when traveling. Usually used with CTCSS 141.3 Hz (Motorola QC #22).

It is legal for FRS and GMRS users to communicate with each other. The low maximum power level of FRS devices may cause problems when communicating to a GMRS station over any significant distance.

CTCSS and digital squelch is allowed on all services, and may be required to access repeaters on GMRS. Usage of a CTCSS tone/DCS code is completely optional on any FRS/GMRS/MURS channel, but one is likely to attract more attention using it.

FRS, GMRS and MURS were originally intended to be used for personal communications within one's group, however there is almost nothing prohibiting deviation from this (see next paragraph). There is no "content police" on F/GM/MURS and in some areas, portions of GMRS and MURS are used as an "alternative" HAM service; the subject matter discussed in them might be similar to what one would find scanning the several HAM bands.

Transmission of music is never allowed on any part-95 band including CB. (That includes YOU, "Fisherman" and "Robocop".) Morse code is allowed but rarely used for anything other than distress signals or automatic GMRS repeater self-identification. Data transmissions are allowed on MURS but may be restricted on the other services.

Business use of GMRS is generally prohibited, principally due to (expensive) licencing restrictions and its reclassification as a personal-use radio service in the 1980s. Exceptions exist for businesses licenced for GMRS before revision of the service's rule in the 1980s and are operating under the "grandfather" regulation. Many businesses are now using FRS for this purpose as it is free of such restrictions.

THE FUTURE OF FRS AND GMRS ================================

It is speculated that licencing requirements on GMRS may be either greatly relaxed or completely eliminated in the coming years, and a slightly revised bandplan implemented. One oft-stated example has GMRS being restricted to 2 watts maximum ERP, simplex communications being allowed on the 467 MHz repeater input channels and repeater usage discontinued. The resulting service would be an "extended" 30-channel implementation of FRS and be regulated as such.

SEE ALSO ================================ - FRS description on the Radioreference wiki - FRS information from the FCC - FRS/GMRS frequently asked questions - GMRS description on the Radioreference wiki - GMRS information from the FCC - GMRS repeater information and directory - A very in-depth page about GMRS regulations that includes the FCC's rule - MURS description on the Radioreference wiki - MURS information from the FCC - Electronic Code of Federal Regulations title 47 part 95; the official document describing all this stuff (almost reads like an FAQ) (thanks, nd5y)


For more information see our Blog Table of Contents



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