How to Communicate in SHTF

Emergency communication for preppers
communication in a disaster
Emergency phone, yellow on red on brick

We are so connected in our everyday world, even thinking about existing without cell phones scares people more than they are willing to admit. That is only one of the reasons why it is so important to prepare for the possibility that our main lines of communication may be compromised. In a disaster situation, radio communication may be the only way to find important news, communicate with others, and stay up to date on weather and emergency situations. That is why any prepared family should not only have emergency communication gear in your supply but also to know a few tips to make radio communication effective in a survival situation.

Types of Emergency Communication

You will want to be able to not only receive the incoming communication, but you will want to find a way to get your messages out there. These main types of emergency communication methods could be the lifeline that you family needs in a survival situation. Most preppers make sure they are equipped to handle more than one emergency communication situations. So you will want to diversify and be sure you have more than one way to get in touch with others in the outside world.

Emergency and 2 Way Radios

Any Emergency Radio worth it salt is going to have a 2-way option, if you can’t call out for help then what is the purpose? While there are laws that require you to be licensed to broadcast on certain radio channels, these rules and regulations will likely be thrown out the window in emergency situations. Generally speaking, however, anyone can broadcast on General Mobile Radio Service, or GMRS radios, as well as FRS, Family Radio Service radios (Visit the Communication Guide for more information).  No matter how you do it, having the access to speak if you need help will be integral to your survival.

Make sure that whatever radio you get, you consider power options. If the grid is down, you may opt for a solar or hand-crank device. Most radios usually have a battery

DeLorme inReach Satellite Phone
DeLorme inReach Satellite Phone

option too. You will also want to make sure your radio can reach special channels like the NOAA Weather Radio service. (We have a listing of important frequencies later in the post).

Satellite Phones

Satellite phones are an excellent option if the regular cell towers go down. Especially in the case of a less widespread disaster, where phone service is only out in a selective area, these little guys give you the communication power that others just simply won’t have. Many satellite phones have come a long way over the past few years with the more regular use of texting and e-mailing, as voice communication can be spotty, what is typed will come across clear. Satellite phones are excellent tools and can keep you connected when you need it most.

CB Radios

CBs are excellent short range communications devices, but they have their limitations. Since they have fallen out of popularity in recent years, less people have them, meaning less people are there if you are in need of help.

4 PACK Motorola 23-Mile Range 22-Channel FRS/GMRS 2 Way Radio

However, if you are traveling a popular highway or trucking area, you may find a CB radio will offer invaluable information that is unlike what you will get on the regular radio waves.

Walkie Talkies

Being able to communicate easily with your immediate family could save someone’s life in a survival situation. Arm your family with short range communication radios so you can stay in touch in the event that you need to be separated. This is especially important if you have children and a significant other in your survival scenario.


Important Communication Information Cheat Sheet

Emergency Radio Frequencies

NOAA – National Weather Radio  requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the proper signal. Broadcasts are found in the VHF public service band at these seven frequencies (MHz):


Other Frequencies

34.90      Used by National Guard during emergencies
39.46      Used by inter-department emergency – local and state police forces
47.42      Used by the Red Cross for relief operations
154.28   Used for communications by local fire departments; sometimes 154.265 and 154.295
155.160  Used for by local and state agencies during search and rescue operations
155.475  Used by local and state police forces
163.4875 Used nationwide by the National Guard during emergencies.
163.5125 The national disaster preparedness frequency

I also recommend researching your local radio frequencies and writing down the information in your emergency binder.

Morse Code

Morse code may also prove a useful communication tool, especially if you need to communicate quietly or in a covert situation. This can actually be a fun game to teach the kids morse code… they love to learn different ways to communicate, and in a way can be their own secret language to use.

  • A .-Morse Code Alphabet
  • B -…
  • C -.-.
  • D -..
  • E .
  • F ..-.
  • G –.
  • H ….
  • I ..
  • J .—
  • K -.-
  • L .-..
  • M —
  • N -.
  • O —
  • P .–.
  • Q –.-
  • R .-.
  • S …
  • T –
  • U ..-
  • V …-
  • W .–
  • X -..-
  • Y -.–
  • Z –..

CB Etiquette & Lingo

Now CB radio is open to the public. If you are  not familiar with CB radios, then you may consider getting on the bandwagon now. CBs used to be much more popular in the days before cell phones and the internet, in fact in a lot of ways the CB was the first chatroom, opening the world to making connections with others within a short range of you.

Cobra 40 Channel CB Radio with NOAA Weather Radio
Cobra 40 Channel CB Radio with NOAA Weather Radio

While it is less social now, truckers specifically use CB radios to keep in contact, and being able to tap into this mode of communication is helpful whether you are stationary or on the road. A simple CB unit, portable or home version, and an antenna are all you need to get started.
However, there are a few rules in the CB world, and knowing how to abide by them will make it easier to communicate in a disaster situation. First, know your channels. There are 40 channels on a CB radio, and most are available and open for common use. Channel 9 is the one you’ll want to remember if it is an emergency and you need assistance, broadcast on channel 9. If you are traveling and want to join in with other travelers and truckers, tune to channel 19.

I recommend listening to some CB conversations before a disaster or accident hits, that will make it easier to communicate if you are having trouble and need some assistance. Here is a few helpful codes:

  • 10-1: Receiving Poorly
  • 10-4: Ok, Message Received
  • 10-5: Relay Message
  • 10-6: Busy- Stand By
  • 10-9: Repeat Message
  • 10-10: Transmission Completed, standing by
  • 10-11: Talking too Fast
  • 10-12: Quiet, Visitors Present
  • 10-13: Advise Weather/Road Conditions
  • 10-20: Location
  • 10-42: Traffic Accident
  • 10-99: Mission completed

Truckers, particularly, have quite the interesting slang when related to talking over the CB. While it is unnecessary to know this particular lingo in a survival situation, you may find a lot of the common CB language helpful and pretty entertaining.

International Phonetic Alphabet

When communication is spotty at best sometimes you must revert to using the phonetic alphabet at times to get your message clearly across. Committing these to memory is a smart move for any prepper to take.Phonetic Alphabet

  • Alpha
  • Bravo
  • Charlie
  • Delta
  • Echo
  • Foxtrot
  • Golf
  • Hotel
  • India
  • Juliet
  • Kilo
  • Lima
  • Mike
  • November
  • Oscar
  • Papa
  • Quebec
  • Romeo
  • Sierra
  • Tango
  • Uniform
  • Victor
  • Whiskey
  • X ray
  • Yankee
  •  Zulu

 Free Printables!

I have included some printable, emergency cards for Morse Code and the Phonetic Alphabet that you can keep in your wallet or purse for emergency communication situations. I’ve also included a full printable sheet for your emergency binder that has all this emergency communication information in one handy place.


About US Preppers

Robert and wifeWelcome and thanks for visiting! My name is Robert and our mission at US Preppers is to help you prepare for emergencies or disasters before they happen. As a family man and father of two boys, I am concerned about the future of our modern way of life. We know things can happen and we are not going to be complacent and let society dictate our survival.

We are US Preppers!