SHTF Communications: What You Don’t Know CAN Kill You

By "Just In Case" Jack | Updated: 06/02/2024

SHTF communications - close up of a military HAM radio setupToday, I’ve got something really exciting to share…

A deep dive into all your Best SHTF Communication Options!

Because preparing for SHTF is more than just stockpiling food and water.

It must include SHTF communications as well.

Being able to send and receive critical info (in real-time) about what’s happening…

So today, let’s review ALL your emergency radio options & which ones are BEST and WORST

TOPICS IN THIS ARTICLE…    ↓(click to jump)
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Cell Phone Survival Communications

Let’s Start With Cell Phones

Almost everybody today has a cell phone that can make calls and send text messages.

And they are the best option for limited event emergencies.

If you get in a car wreck, a cell phone works quickly to call for help.

A cell phone can notify medical professionals immediately if someone has a heart attack.

Yet, they are just about the worst option for anything larger in scope.

Anybody who has been in a mass disaster situation can attest to the frustration of trying to make a cell phone call.

They probably discovered that the network they are so used to using is completely overloaded and jammed.

No outgoing calls, no incoming calls. Nothing.

Even at non-emergency events, such as popular at college football games, you’ll notice jammed cell phone networks locally.

This is especially true since nearly all college-aged adults are heavy cell phone users, and these types of cell phone network jams are common.

And with the proliferation of smartphones, these local network jam-ups will likely get worse and more frequent.

A network jam is a common problem and is the cell phone’s Achilles heel.

Making it the absolute worst communication option for SHTF.

Even smoke signals will be more reliable than cell phones when SHTF.

↓ Getting emergency alters to cell phones is an imperfect system.

The one saving grace for cell phones is the text messaging option.

Try using text when a mass emergency occurs and cell towers are jammed.

The use of text messaging has proven to be slightly less affected by an emergency.

During Hurricane Katrina, text messaging (while not instant) did continue to get through.

So, hey, it’s worth a shot.

And with cell phones in rural areas of our country, you have to deal with weak cell phone signals.

Sure, you can get a cell phone signal booster, but those only work if there’s a signal to boost – not a guarantee in a widespread emergency.

So, never make a cell phone your only survival communications option.

Walkie Talkie Radios

What about Hand Held Walkie Talkies?

Walkie-talkies, or GMRS/FRS radios, are great for short-range SHTF communications.

They work best for a small individual group like your survival coalition.

They don’t work for mass communication or long-range communications.

It’s an ideal option for a family wanting to stay in contact as they move around a small property or local area.

Just be aware depending on the model and manufacturer, you’ll get different ranges.

So make sure you test their range before you need them so you understand your walkie-talkies range limitations.

Most specified ranges are for flat open land areas.

Trees, hills, and buildings tend to diminish the overall range.

So remember this if you choose walkie-talkies as your local SHTF communication device.

↓ High Power SHTF Walkie-Talkie

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HAM Radio

Are Ham Radios Good For SHTF?

Ham radio was one of the most popular communication devices over large distances in the middle of the 20th century.

However, as phone networks improved, the cost of long-distance and international calls grew cheaper.

So the popularity of ham radio dwindled for the masses.

But, HAM survival radio is perfect for survival purposes.

Ham radio networks are both reliable and can communicate over long distances.

They are also not dependent on cell phone towers.

The only real drawbacks to ham radio are the equipment costs and the training necessary to learn how to use it.

↓ Mike Glover Talks Ham Radio and Preparedness

You must get an official license if you intend to broadcast (and not just listen).

An operator must obtain a license to operate ham survival radio equipment legally.

This includes passing a test and paying a small fee.

↓ How to Easily Get Your HAM Radio License: a Beginner’s Guide

However, a license is not required to purchase, own, and listen in.

Which is extremely valuable in most survival SHTF communications scenarios.

And after SHTF, all these rules and regulations won’t matter anyway.

Plus, getting a small setup and a license is easy.

So don’t let it stop you from becoming a licensed operator.

Also, invest in upgrading your ham radio’s antenna so that you can transmit and receive signals over longer distances.

Getting intelligence reports from other States can prove very helpful when grid power is out nationwide due to an EMP attack.


Is CB Radio a Viable SHTF Communications Option?

Citizens Band radio was one of the most popular ways of keeping in contact with people in the 1970s and 80s.

However, this form of radio communication dropped in popularity in the late 20th century.

CB Radio’s advantages include the greater range vs. walkie-talkies.

However, a CB radio is generally located in a single location within a property.

Within a built-up area, the use of CB radio could be affected by larger buildings and more interference.

Unlike ham radio operators, CB operators don’t require a license or pass a test to use the airwaves.

↓ Communications Options For Preppers: CB Radio

Hand Crank Radio

Should I Invest in Listen-Only Devices?

One major problem when disaster strikes is the loss of power.

All the devices discussed thus far require electrical or battery power to operate.

So you’ll need to figure out your backup power system to operate these for longer periods of time when SHTF.

That’s why I suggest you invest in a listen-only survival radio device.

Not only are they low cost, but you can also get one with a hand crank to be able to keep it powered easily.

Just crank and listen. Simple.

↓ Hand Crank Radio Review – Eton Microlink

These shortwave listen-only radios can provide an invaluable link to SHTF news.

It can help keep you up to date on the current situation for any major disaster.

Another listen-only option to consider is the use of a police scanner.

These allow you to obtain information that could be life-saving during an SHTF event.

This is a unique option, as important news will be broadcast over analog police frequencies.

But, many law organizations are moving to digital technologies.

So, over time, this option will become less effective.

Also, note that a scanner must be programmed in advance.

You want to ensure you are tuned into the right channels to gain the right emergency news.

↓ A Budget-Friendly Tactical SHTF Comms Setup

Action Plan

Your SHTF Communications Action Plan

You should make a plan for all 3: Listen-Only, Local, and Long Range.

These are the 3 communication levels you should strive for in your SHTF communications.

That way, even if you’re literally “in the dark,” your communications are NOT.

This means a 3 pronged approach:

1. Listen Only

First, don’t you think it’s beyond time to own at least one small portable hand-crank survival radio?

Here’s the one I recommend.

It’s small and lightweight (so it will fit in your Bug-out Bag), and it doesn’t require batteries.

Done? Good, you now have your electrical independent SHTF listen-only communication taken care of.


2. Local Communication

The second is local communication.

If you have a local survival coalition (and you should), then every member must have a walkie-talkie.

Now your coalition just got 10 times stronger as you can communicate much better and faster when SHTF.

3. Long-Range Communication

Finally, you should investigate owning and operating a ham radio.

Here’s a good one to get you started and a website to learn more about getting a license.

For a true SHTF event, you’ll want to be able to reach out over longer distances to communicate with other survivalists and preppers.

Good SHTF communications are a difference-maker in survival.

Listening and communicating locally and over long distances is vital to long-term survival success.

Don’t underestimate this advantage.

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