Comms (communications)

This topic covers all types - incoming and outgoing comms. You may prefer to remain oblivious to what's going on around you, especially if there is a lot of bad news, but you might benefit from some contact, even if it's only a radio report.

1. AM/FM/Weather radio and ear buds or headphones. Mine is from Elton (Microlink FR 160), has a crank and solar panel for charging and a USB out (charging cell phone, etc.). Also has 3-LED flashlight. Works well.

2. Walkie-talkies - If you have a partner, friend or kids, talkies are great, with ranges from 2 to 35 miles. Short ranges (2-3 miles) and low power (0.5W) use the FRS (Family Radio Service) frequencies and require no license. Higher power (up to 4 or 5W) and longer ranges use the GMRS (General Media Radio Service), which requires paying a fee to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and getting a license.

Talkies have a lot of possible features, depending on your budget. About $70 will get you a pair of GMRS (can also use FRS bands) radios with huge range, VOX (voice-activated transmission), NOAA (national weather service announcements), headsets (leaving hands free) and battery charging stations. Even the humble FRS talkies are great. I still have some of the old Motorola FR60 talkies I got on eBay for like $10 or less - they worked for 3 miles at the beach (rated to 2 miles) and are well made, use 3 AA batteries, have a good belt clip and have clear sounds. Tip: PTT means 'press to talk' and is what you might find written on the transmit button. Hold for a second before you speak - the transmitter needs a moment to warm up. If you press and talk without waiting, your first words could be cut off.

3. Whistle - to call or warn others. Some have an effective range much greater than your voice or own whistle.

4. Mirror - to signal others

5. Cell phone - Who knows, the grid may be up and running. Remember, your location can be known by your cell phone (turned on), as it may have a GPS built in..

6. Parabolic listening device - If you really have to hear what's going on a hundred yards or more away, this will do it. Small ones are like kid's toys, better ones cost around $40, big ones are $500 or more.

7. Light Sticks - Yellow and white (if available) give the most light, but consider certain colors for coded comms. These are the ones in a plastic tube that you bend to break a vial of fluid inside to start the light working. Good ones make light for up to 24 hours, though they fade with time.

8. Pad of paper and pen/pencil, to leave notes

9. LED flashlight with white and red lights - some headlamps have both LEDs and can double for signaling. Batteries required.

10. Flares - aerial - for actual emergency signaling, not necessarily for bugging out. Requires flare gun.

11. Ham Radio (portable) - If you have the time and inclination to learn this valuable skill, it may become valuable in an emergency. Hams (radio operators) across the country and around the world are in communication with each other on a regular basis. I got my Technician's license this year and often join a local 'net' of hams to share news. In an emergency, these nets can serve as news gathering and sharing stations and can perform other critical comms services.

An organization called AmRRON (American Redoubt Radio Network) coordinates comms from Ham, FRS, GMRS, MURS, CB and other radio systems for emergency services.

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