LAST UPDATED: Dec 24, 2023    
This page was written by Dave Rogers.

Phones are down. Internet is down. Now what do you do? 

In disaster and emergency situations, having and using proper radio equipment can make the difference between life and death. It can be used for gathering important information from standard radio stations, direct from government agencies, including listening in on their activities, and also listening in on other non-traditional sources. It can be used for direct two-way communications with friends, family, and area emergency services (like ambulance, hospitals, fire, and police).

THIS PAGE FOCUSES ON an overview of radio communications and its most important fundamentals. 

Prepper's choices for radios span from the basic and cheap store-bought FRS Walkie Talkies, then it's Big Brother GMRS, and then the most popular (and ultimate) in Prepper's Communications: HAM 'Amateur Radio'.

Adorable 6 Year Old HAM Radio Operator Embarrasses Us All!

If a 6 year old can study for and pass her test for the FCC Ham Radio Technician's License (entry level) then so can anyone.

Veronica Harrington on 'Dave Letterman' - March 26, 1992

Dave's Radio Notes

In the Summer of 2021 I purchased the widely popular and heralded "Baofeng UV-5R" Handheld HAM Radio, which does allow me to listen to a lot of local radio traffic. I have yet to get my FCC HAM 'Amateur Radio' license so I can legally transmit from it (yet it's allowed in emergencies).

I decided to FIRST go with GMRS Radios and an FCC GMRS License which does not require a test. The 10 Year License fee is $35 and is good for the entire family.  [ Videos on GMRS

MY MAY 2023 PREPPING PURCHASES focused on the following Radio Items:

Links for Radio Beginners

Overview on Radios

 [ VIDEOS ON Featured Product Reviews ]


Portable, Battery-Powered Radio (for Listening)  
A Battery-Powered Radio will be your main source of critical news you will need during a disaster to stay safe and survive.  THE FIRST and most important piece of prepping equipment THAT EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE is a Portable, Battery-Powered Radio. Whether this radio is just a plain old AM/FM or just FM radio, or one that also receives NOAA Weather Stations (government issued local info and alerts about weather and disasters), and/or one that also receives Shortwave (SW) radio stations giving you news from around the world -- having something, even if it's basic is vital.


During a disaster, when phone and cell phone systems are down, contacting friends, family, and emergency services are only possible with two-way radio communications outline below. Police, Fire, Government, Military, Security Services, Emergency Services, Hospitals -- all use a form of HAM or GMRS radio services. Some frequencies are encrypted, but some are not - and they are meant to be open and used for them to broadcast emergency information to the public AND for the public to communicate with emergency services during a disaster.

5x5 Radio Education

Listen to SW Radio Stations from across the Globe.
SW Directories: ShortwaveDB | Wikipedia

MF = MEDIUM  300kHz-3MHz | AM Radio
1000-100m (3281-328ft) Wavelengths via:  Ground Waves (following curvature of earth), Skywaves (skip bouncing).
HF = HIGH  3-30MHz  |  CB Radio, HAM, Marine
10-100m (33-328ft) Wavelengths via:  Ground Waves (following curvature of earth), Skywaves (skip bouncing). 

VHF = VERY HIGH 30-300MHz |  FM Radio, TV, HAM, Radar, Aircraft, Maritime, NOAA Weather Radio.
10-1m (33-3.3ft) Wavelengths via: LOS (line of sight).
UHF = ULTRA HIGH  300MHz-3,000MHz  |  TV, FRS, GMRS, HAM, Mobile Phones, Police, Fire, Satellite, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth.
100-10cm (3.3ft-4in) Wavelengths via: LOS (line of sight).

WAVELENGTH: The size of the wavelength determines the size and design of the antenna for listening, but especially for transmitting. The lower the frequency (MF & HF) the larger the wavelength and the antenna. The higher the frequency (VHF & UHF) the smaller the wavelength and smaller the antenna.

Voice Radio Frequencies

Frequencies with common voice traffic you can 'scan' or listen to.

AM RADIO  535-1600kHz
CB RADIO  27MHz | 11m | 40ch
BROADCAST TV  54-72MHz, 76-87MHz, 174-216MHz, 512-608MHz, 614-698MHz
FM RADIO  88-108MHz

FRS  462-467MHz  |  22 channels (ch1-7:2watts|ch8-14:1/2watts|ch15-22:2watts) Channel 20 used for emergencies.
GMRS 22 FRS channels + 8 repeater channels (ch1-7:5watts|ch8-14:1/2watts|ch15-22:50watts|ch23-30:50watts) Channel 20 used for emergencies.

HAM ‘Amateur Radio’

LF | 135kHz | 135.7-137.8 | 2,200M
MF | 472kHz | 472-479 | 630M
MF | 1.8MHz | 1.8-2.0 | 160M
HF | 3.5MHz | 3.6-4.0 | 80M
HF | 7MHz | 7.125-7.3 | 40M
HF | 14MHz | 14.150-14.350 | 20M
HF | 18MHz | 18.110-18.168 | 17M
HF | 21MHz | 21.200-21.450 | 15M
HF | 24MHz | 24.930-24.990 | 12M
HF | 28MHz | 28.300-29.700 | 10M

HAM ‘Amateur Radio’

VHF | 50MHz | 50.1-54.0 | 6M
VHF | 144MHz | 144.1-148.0 | 2M
VHF | 222MHz | 222.0-225.0 | 1.25M
UHF | 420MHz | 420.0-450.0 | 70cm
UHF | 902MHz | 902.0-928.0 | 33cm
UHF | 1240MHz | 1240-1300 | 23cm 

Broadcast Terminology

NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliet Kilo Lima Mike November Oscar Papa Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango Uniform Victor Whiskey Xray Yankee Zulu


What is my signal strength and readability; how do you hear me?

ROGER  |  I have received your last transmission satisfactorily.

NOTHING HEARD  |  Used when no reply is received from a called station.


5 by 5  |  LOUD & CLEAR  |  (L)IMA (C)HARLIE

Very Strong Signal Strength AND Excellent Signal Quality.


LOUD  |  Your SIGNAL is very strong.


FADING  |  At times your signal strength fades to such an extent that continuous reception cannot be relied upon.


CLEAR  |  The quality of your transmission is excellent.

READABLE  |  Satisfactory.

UNREADABLE  |  The quality is so bad that I cannot read/understand you.

DISTORTED / WITH INTERFERENCE  |  Having trouble reading you due to interference.

INTERMITTENT  |  Having trouble reading you because your signal is intermittent.