I would like to see all our warriors equip themselves with some communications tools besides cell phones, since they tend to not be reliable during emergencies.
Many people simply don't realize that neither the hard-wired telephone systems nor the cell phone systems are designed to handle the volume of traffic when everyone tries to call at once. These networks bog down quickly, assuming they're even operating during the emergency.
Cell phones are nothing more and nothing less than two-way radios designed to act like telephones. They communicate to cell towers which relay the signals back to other phones. If the towers are down, so are the phones.
Even push-to-talk walkie-talkie phones are two way radios designed to either act like phones or two way radios. They DO NOT communicate with each other directly, even when acting like radios. They still have to go through the towers. Consequently, if you and your spouse are driving in two vehicles 100 feet apart when the network goes down, or when you get into a remote area, you will not be able to talk to each other!
Radio systems that do not require complex networks to function include Ham Radio (officially known as the Amateur Radio Service), GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service), CB (Citizens Band) Radio, MURS (Multiple Use Radio Service), and FRS (Family Radio Service). Each of these services have its advantages and disadvantages.
Ham Radio stands head and shoulders above all the rest for overall usefulness and versatility. Ham Radio has been a mainstay of emergency communications for a hundred years, and can have global or local range.
GMRS comes in second for reliable emergency communications. By its nature, it's range is limited to around 50 miles or less. Both Ham Radio and GMRS require FCC licenses
The ONLY drawback of Ham Radio is that you have to take a written test for the license. Fortunately, there are many study guides available, including practice tests on the internet. I have helped several people get their licenses over the years. (And most of them were kids, so don't go thinking it's too difficult for you!) Spirit Butterfly will tell you that if she can pass the test, anyone can.
The GMRS license requires only an application fee (which varies). It has no written test - you just have to be literate enough to fill out the application form to go with your money. License applications are usually included when you buy a GMRS radio.
MURS, CB, and FRS do not need licenses. So far (2010), MURS is not crowded, and will probably give you 10 miles or more of reliable range, making it number 3 in reliability and versatility for emergency communications.
CB radios and the best FRS radios can get about 2 miles reliably. (The limiting factor is not the capability of the radios themselves. Both types of radios are sometimes heard from great distances. What limits the distance they can reliably be used is the widespread lack of common courtesy and discipline on the part of the other CB and FRS users. Both CB and FRS are crowded, and most of the users transmit right over top of each other rather than waiting their turn. Some users actually pride themselves in their ability to drown out weaker stations and otherwise cause deliberate interference!)
In "middle-of-nowhere" locations, both CB and FRS radios can work quite well. FRS radios are smaller, and work well in the open, while CBs will work better in thick trees or brush, even though their antennas are longer and may tend to snag in the brush.
Once you get near heavily polulated areas with an FRS or CB radio, its effectiveness drops off quickly, unless it's the middle of the night or something.
FRS and CB radios are the least expensive. Ham Radios come next, ranging from under a hundred to several thousand dollars.
GMRS and MURS radios cost about the same, ranging from 100 - 500 dollars. MURS performs better in wooded areas, while GMRS works better inside and around buildings. (Basically, MURS is a good rural radio, and GMRS is a good urban radio.)
For car to car or hand-held communication, Ham radio is your best choice, followed by MURS, then GMRS, with CB and FRS about tied for last, performance-wise. (FRS radios are cheaper, and don't need to be installed in the vehicle, so oddly, CB is actually the least versatile of all these radios for emergency communications! On the other hand, CB is great for finding out about traffic conditions, which may be useful if you're on the road to evacuate, or bring aid into an affected area.)
I (Grey Eagle of the Florida Wolf Clan) can assist you in getting licenses and/or radios. You can contact me at