CB, or Citizens Band, Radio may be the most commonly known of “Two-way” radios (ones that both send & receive signals). It has been around for well over 50 years, it is relatively inexpensive, it requires no license to operate and all the training you need to operate it can be found in the instructions that came in the box with the radio when you bought it – whether online or at your local Wal Mart.
Because they are subject to limited regulation, CB’s are fairly low-powered and have a more limited range of frequencies available. Most have 40 “channels” (frequencies) available so if one is busy, you can choose others until you locate one not already in use, for your transmission. Or, you can monitor any channel in use, if you’re just listening for information.
No one can expect privacy on any CB channel so just know that whatever you have to say is being heard by anyone else with access to that channel.
Citizens Band CB Cobra 18 WX ST II with microphone by Anani Sikim | Creative Commons 3
Communication protocols and common courtesy expect you to wait for others to vacate a channel before you “butt in,” unless you have a comment relevant to the conversation.
In that case, you can call “BREAK,” then wait for the users to acknowledge the interruption.
If they do not answer, you’re either out of range and they can’t hear you, or they don’t welcome your intrusion. In either case, it’s best to simply change channels, or wait for the channel to clear before you start your transmission.
CB’s come in all sizes: “Base” stations (Desktop size), “Mobiles” (plug into your vehicle’s dashboard) and “Handhelds.” The latter is the one you want in your bug-out-bag, and it can be easily recharged by solar devices, the way a cell phone can be.
A CB may be limited in range and power but, because there are so many more of them in operation, they may be the first of your “Go-to” choices until the rest of the devices start to come back into operation.
FRS Radio, and “Walkie-Talkies”
FRS radios operate on frequencies assigned to “Family Radio Service” channels, are usually handhelds, and require no license to operate. In addition to allowing you to transmit (TX) and Receive (RX) on these channels, Many FRS models also receive commercial AM and FM broadcasts as well as several weather stations.
FRS radios can be easily carried in your Bug-Out Bag, and are generally not expensive, depending upon how many “Bells-and-Whistles” you want on the unit you choose.
Walkie-Talkies may have the shortest range of anything we’ve discussed so far, but you can usually buy a pair of them for less than a single unit of CB or FRS radios. If all you need a radio for is to stay in touch with those close to you, walkie-talkies will usually do the job but they’re usually not something you’d buy to monitor other communications in your area.
Where to buy good radio equipment?
Most of what we’ve discussed so far is available online, or at the big box store of your choice, around the corner. Online stores vary in size from Amazon & eBay to the smaller shops, which we usually prefer because they will discuss your needs and your budget, then make recommendations and answer your questions.
For the radios we’ve discussed so far, we think you can’t beat a company in Texas called Main Trading Company. They have a wide range of radios and accessories to go with them, like antennas, power supplies, and speaker/mikes, and a very cordial staff to help you select the equipment you need. You can correspond with them by e-mail or by the phone number you’ll find on their website.