After a major earthquake, modern communication devices will likely fail us. Cell networks will be damaged or jammed, landlines will be down, and your internet won’t be functioning.
WALKIE TALKIE VS. AMATEUR RADIO:
Many people have two-way radios that they’ve purchased for home use. Often called walkie talkies, these are either FRS or FRS/GMRS radios. FRS (Family Radio Service) radios do not require a license to use. GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios do require a license to use. If you have a walkie talkie radio that includes both FRS and GMRS frequencies, you need to be careful not to use the GMRS frequencies unless you have a license. An FRS/GMRS radio can usually only reach a mile – or a few city blocks if there are buildings, trees, etc. obstructing the signal.
An amateur radio has the potential to communicate across the globe if it has a strong power source and utilizes radio relays. Clearly this is a better option for use in urban areas. And if that’s not enough to sell you on it, an amateur radio often costs less than an FRS/GMRS radio. A handheld Baofeng UV-5R can be found on Amazon for roughly $25. Like GMRS radios, amateur radios require a license to operate.
BUT WHAT IS AMATEUR RADIO?
Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a form of two-way radio communication. It is restricted to certain frequencies so that it won’t interfere with government, military, and commercial radio use. Amateur Radio Operators (aka: AROs or Hams) have basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles and must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC created this designation so there would be a pool of radio experts who could provide backup during emergencies, and Hams have indeed proved themselves useful in this way.
HOW HAMS HELP
Amateur radio operators often volunteer at community events such as races where important information (like injury alerts or route issues) must be passed quickly to multiple people over long distances and an FRS/GMRS radio (aka: walkie talkie) wouldn’t have enough power to do the job. This is a great way for Ham operators to practice their skills. They can also help out in emergencies such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
For instance, “The Amateur Radio Service kept New York City agencies in touch with each other after their command center was destroyed during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio also came to the rescue during Hurricane Katrina, where all other communications failed, and the devastating flooding in Colorado in 2013.” (ARRL.org)