Is your family prepared for an emergency? If you’ve got a stash of food, water, and clothing, you’re halfway there. Emergency situations are unpredictable; there’s no way to know how long they’ll last or what you’ll need. However, taking care of your family requires more than a supply of food and water.
If an emergency situation takes out phone lines and cell towers, you won’t be able to call a friend, turn on the news, or jump online to find out what’s going on. If you don’t want to be left in the dark with your mind running wild, you need either a CB radio or a ham radio.
What is a CB radio?
The FCC defines a Citizens Band (CB) radio as a device that allows private, two-way radio communications across 40 shared channels on a “take-turns” basis. Channels aren’t assigned to any particular individual or group, so operators follow basic rules to make it fair. Conversations can last no more than five minutes, and operators must wait at least one minute before beginning a new conversation.
CB radios operate on the 11-meter band and are designed for short distance communications.
While there are several other types of communication devices, CB radios are the most popular. They can be used with batteries, power banks, and even solar power. Some people – mostly truckers – install a CB radio in their car and connect it to their car audio.
What is a ham radio?
A ham radio is similar to a CB radio, but they operate on the 10-meter band and are designed for long distance communication. Ham radios are more powerful than CB radios and have a larger selection of frequencies to use.
Ham radio operators have fun with their communications, holding contests to reach someone in every state and often sending postcards to confirm their conversations. Using a ham radio is like using the internet to talk to someone you’ve never met, but without a computer.
CB and ham radios work when standard communications fail
You should definitely have some long-range walkie talkies and a hand-crank radio in your emergency kit, but having a CB radio will put you in a more advantageous position. Unlike standard telephone lines and cell towers that fail in small-scale disasters, a CB radio will continue to work when other forms of communication go down. The best part is you don’t need a license to operate a CB radio.
When each family member has a CB radio in their house or installed in their car, it’s easy to keep tabs on each other in any emergency situation. You won’t have to face a fearful mob of cars on the road just to check on your parents or your children unless they don’t answer your radio calls.
CB radios are an affordable addition to your emergency kit
You might be surprised to see how affordable CB radios are. For instance, you can get a CB radio for less than $100.
Compared to the cost of high-end thermal sleeping bags, freeze-dried food, and gas-powered generators, CB radios are an inexpensive necessity.
A ham radio or CB radio could save more than just your family
If you live in a remote area, having a CB radio could help more than just your family. For example, when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, there were widespread communication blackouts, infrastructure failures, and lengthy power outages that left 3.5 million residents without power for months.
FEMA didn’t know what was really going on for three days. If just one person had a CB radio with a linear CB amplifier, their call for help could have been heard by another operator up to 1,000 miles away. Anyone with a CB radio nearby would have been able to relay the status of roads and hospitals to get the situation stabilized faster. A person with a ham radio would have been a community lifeline for the people in Puerto Rico.
CB radios are a fun hobby for kids
Even when you’re not in an emergency situation, a CB radio will be a fun hobby for most kids. There’s an advantage to getting your kids used to operating a CB radio when they’re young. As they get older, they’ll know how to use a CB radio and they’ll have no problem keeping one on hand for emergencies.
If you make operating a CB radio fun for your kids now, it won’t be hard to convince them later on to install one in their car. If they live in an area that gets snow, a CB radio can save their life if they get trapped in their car during a snowstorm. It’s not uncommon for snowstorms to catch people by surprise when the snowfall starts out light.
Once you get your kids into CB radios, they might even develop an interest in ham radios. Ham radios require a license to operate, but it’s relatively easy to get licensed.
How to choose the right radios for your family
Your first task is to determine how many radios your family needs. You should have at least one radio per home, but it’s a good idea for each person to have a radio in the car. CB radios are the cheapest and easiest to install in a car and don’t require a license to operate.
If you have some family members who don’t want to take the ham radio test, stick with CB radios for everyone. You can get a Cobra CB radio for less than $150.
If your kids develop an interest in amateur radio as a hobby, make sure they have both types of radios. Get them a basic CB radio so they’ll be able to communicate with you and other family members in an emergency.
Once your kids have a CB radio, get them a Stryker radio to use for fun. Stryker radios are top quality ham radios, but if you’re on a tight budget, Galaxy radios cost less than $200. A ham radio will make the perfect moving out gift for any amateur radio hobbyist.