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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Urban Survival Tools - Radio Communications, Part One

If you intend on surviving a TEOTEAWKI or a total collapse scenario in anything other than a one person group, you should consider the very real necessity of radio communications.

Survival, be it in an Urban Survival or Survival in a Rural environment, is most likely going to be with a larger group rather than one person. Hence two way communications would be extremely valuable. Some circumstances may be a Listening Post/Observation Post (LP/OP) or other Security Position reporting a sighting of a possible threat that would allow them to continue observation of a possible threat and eliminating a need to take “eyes off” the target to report to somebody.

If a group, such as a patrol, leaves the safe location, reporting via two way radios that the group is re-entering the safe location may prevent friendly fire.

This post will be the first of several on Radio Communications. We are going to start with the basics of the most commonly available radio communications system which is the Family Radio Service (FRS)/General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios available at retail stores as well as through Amazon thru the links below.

As far as Urban Survival is concerned, what are the differences between these two types of radios? Well, here is a brief explanation of FRS & GMRS radios.

FRS or Family Radios Service radios are compact, handheld, wireless 2-way radios that provide very good clarity over a relatively short range. FRS radios operate on any of 14 dedicated channels (1-14) designated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) expressly for FRS radio usage. In order to comply with FCC standards, FRS radios have a maximum allowable power of 0.5 milliwatts (or 1/2 watt). FRS radio transceivers and their antennas may NOT be modified to extend their range.

FRS radio range:
Generally stated as "up to 2 miles," you should note that this manufacturer’s stated range should be construed as the absolute max, to be achieved only under optimal conditions (such as flat terrain, no obstructions and full batteries). Somewhere in the 1/4 to 1 mile range, depending upon conditions, is much more realistic.

FRS radio distinctions:
1) Unlike with CB (citizens band) radios and most other 2-way radios, there is no license required to use an FRS radio.
2) There are no fees for usage, airtime or per-call charges. (Aside from the cost of batteries, they are virtually free to use.)

GMRS or General Mobile Radio Service radios operate on any of up to 8 dedicated channels (15-22) designated by the FCC. GMRS radios typically have power ratings of 1.0 to 5.0 watts and have a maximum allowable power of 50 watts.

GMRS radio range:
GMRS radios typically achieve greater ranges than FRS radios. GMRS range is generally specified by manufacturers as "up to 5 miles" and occasionally slightly more. Again, this is a maximum range, likely achieved only under optimal conditions. Realistic range for GMRS radios under most conditions is more likely 1-2 miles, depending upon the particular conditions.

GMRS radios are very similar to FRS radios, except for a few important distinctions:
1) GMRS radio use requires you to purchase an FCC operator’s license.
2) GMRS radios generally achieve greater ranges than FRS radios.
3) While FRS radios may NOT legally be altered, GMRS radios may legally be outfitted or retrofitted with optional antennas, car antennas or home antennas to extend their range. For more information, please visit the FCC online at Note: Some GMRS radios (those with non-detachable antennas) will NOT accommodate antenna alterations. If you intend to alter your GMRS radio, please take care to choose a radio with a detachable-style antenna that accommodates your needs.

FRS/GMRS dual-service or "hybrid" radios:
FRS/GMRS 2-way radios are simply dual-service, or "hybrid," radios that provide access to both the FRS and GMRS bands, utilizing FRS channels (1-14) and GMRS channels (15-22). Use of a dual-service radio’s GMRS bands requires an FCC operator’s license. Dual-service radios may be used without an operator’s license, if only the FRS channels are used.


  1. I would seriously consider a plain old cb and or ssb cb for local and long range comms...I have small radios, a ssb cd and 10 m box too...all powered by solar if necessary and/or rechargables....easy to buy, set up and use..10m more the grid too, no fcc licensing...

  2. 10m requires a FCC Amateur Radio license; CB requires no license.

  3. Say if the world goes to crap why would you need a license Idon't think john Q law will really being around to arrest you. So would go with a dual band ham if things do go to crap. Plus you can talk on different freqs when needed. Also set up a code keep it simple use more then one set of codes on different day 5-10 sets should do if need be use a cheat sheet but burn it if trouble araises.