By: Stalking Wolf
No one radio is going to work for all the things you want it to do - sorry, but that's just the way radios are. You are going to need at least a couple of radios. Each team should look to recruit a radio person to handle the communications for anything beyond local use. The good thing is that the radio person can be someone who might not be suited to other types of jobs on your team such as patrolling. The radio person could be a teenager or a senior citizen, or maybe a person with some type of a handicap.
The FRS radio is becoming very popular among survivalists. The Family Radio Service radios have several benefits; they're small, have a long battery life, are easy to use, provide fairly clear communications, and can be used with an earbud. We want to look at one with 14 channels and 38 interference codes (not privacy codes); don't get the ones with only a few channels. Some drawbacks:
CB Radios -Local Communications
Every family should have at least one of these radios they are very good for listening to the "bubba's" and find out what's going on out there. You can get a mag mount whip antenna to use on your car and you can also use it in your house by placing it on a "steel "cookie sheet. The Maxon handheld CB is used by lots of survivalist but is does require lots of batteries when not used with the 12volt adapter. Car mobile CB's can be used in the house by running them off of a deep cycle battery or a power supply that converts 120volts ac to 12 volts DC. I would recommend the deep cycle battery and a battery charger that way you can use your gear when the power goes out.
2-Meter FM Radios - Local Communications
This type of radio is the first type that you will need to have a license to use now (if the SHTF who cares?). You can get a shall handheld radio knows as an HT which can put out up to 5 watts, or you can get a mobile radio that can put out up to 50 watts. The good thing about these radios is that the FCC says you can use up to a 1200-watt amplifier if you need it to communicate, but you should use the least amount of power necessary. These radios are designed to run on 12v DC so again you will need a battery or a power supply. When you get a radio make sure you get one with extended receive on it; this lets you use the radio as a scanner as well as a transmitter. They will normally pick up between 136 MHz to 180 MHz but some radios can be tweaked to pick up much more then this. Unlike CB's these FM radios are quiet (no static) when no one is talking. Some radios have features that will keep them quiet unless some one calls your radio with a special code; that way you don't have to listen to other folks talking. These radios cost between $140-$250 new on the average. While these radios get the best distance when using repeaters which retransmit the signals, they also work using the simplex mode which is just radio to radio (more private but less distance). There are many more channel options available with this radio than either CB or FRS Radios (No-Code tech license)
2 Meter SSB Radios - Medium Long Range
The two-meter single side band radio can give you communications over several hundred to a thousand miles depending on atmospheric conditions. There are a lot less of these radios around because of the price; they cost around $1200 new and can be found for about $400 dollars used. ((No-Code tech license)
High Frequency (HF) Radios - Long Range
These radios can give you nationwide or worldwide communications. I have talked to people all over the world using a homemade antenna and 100 watts output. The problem is that you have to be able to use multiple bands on the radio, and you may not be able to talk when you want to but when the atmosphere lets you. These radios can be had used for $400 and between $800-$2000 new. If you get one, get one with a general coverage receiver. That way you can listen to shortwave broadcasts also. ICom, Kenwood and Yeasue are big names in this radio; Ten Tec is made in America. (Amateur radio listen required -Morse code 5-wpm basic license)
There are three ways to get more distance
1. Get a better antenna - a beam antenna will give you more distance than a vertical antenna
2. Add more power - you will talk farther with 100 watts then you will with 5 watts (all other thing begin equal)
3. Add height to your antenna - the higher the antenna the further you will talk, so climb a tree or hill if your signal is not making it.
Get your radios now, set them up and have a ham test them, then you will have a good reason to get your license. If you are studying for the test, study the question and the right answer only. Don't worry about why - you can learn that later after you get your license. You can get the book by the American Radio Relay League called: Look Who's Talking Now; it has the exact questions and answers from the test. You can also get the information on audio [cassette] tapes to listen to on the way to work.
This is only a primer - there is no way to cover every thing in a short article.