SHTF Survivalist Radio Lists

M. Adams
By M. Adams August 29, 2017 12:07

SHTF Survivalist Radio Lists

From monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest, to dolphins in the Caribbean, to ants under your picnic table, all species rely on communication with each other for survival. Humans are no different – we rely on communication to both warn and inform us, especially in times of crisis.

In our modern times, the possibility of being unable to easily and quickly communicate with your loved ones or receive vital information from trusted sources is hard to imagine. But in SHTF scenarios, one of the first systems to fail is modern communications. Regardless of the emergency—hurricane, solar flare, nuclear attack, or EMP, to name a few—communications with others will become extremely difficult, if not impossible. Without telephone, text, email, internet, or television, many people will be completely shut off from the outside world at a time when the sharing and receiving of information has never been more important.

Related: How To Make A Tin Can Directional WiFi Antenna to Extend your Communication after an EMP

Just a few examples of the ways you rely on modern forms of communication in emergency situations include:

  • Receiving alerts via text of natural disasters and dangerous weather (for this particular case it is always adviced to learn the lost art of reading nature’s signs);
  • Checking your favorite news app regularly for signs of SHTF;
  • Calling your family to let them know your spouse has to be taken to the emergency room;
  • Listening to the radio for traffic updates, including road closings and delays;
  • Emailing your boss to let them know that you have a flat tire and are going to be late to work.

When our communication is cut off, three things happen immediately:

  1. We lose our ability to send information;
  2. We lose our ability to get information; and
  3. People get scared.

If you are concerned that a SHTF situation, whether natural or man-made, could cut you and your family off from vital information you need to survive, take heart – by using a simple communication device, your family can continue communication with each other and with important sources of help, such as the Red Cross or your local emergency shelter.

To prepare your family for communicating in an emergency, you have several options of communications devices. From devices that just transmit (such as shortwave radio) to devices that will allow full two-way communication with other parties (such as amateur ham radio), each type of device will allow you to stay as up-to-date as possible on emergency situations in your area thanks to special frequencies that broadcast vital information you can use to survive.

Related: How To Tell When People Are Lying to You (in a crisis)

Before we get started on the main types of frequencies used in SHTF communication, it is important to point out that in order to pick up any broadcast, you need a reliable device that you are able to keep charged. Devices with multiple charging options, such as solar-power and hand-crank, provide better insurance against a disaster preventing you from charging your device, while having multiple devices ensure that you will backups in case your main source of communication isn’t functioning.

The main types of frequencies used in SHTF communication:

  1. AM/FM (one-way radio)
  2. SW (shortwave, pre-recorded broadcasts that are listen-only)
  3. NOAA (weather broadcasts, listen-only)
  4. VHF/UHF (amateur ham radio)
  5. FRS (two-way radio, can be used by anyone)
  6. GMRS (two-way radio, requires a license)
  7. MURS (handheld radio or stationary unit)

As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages for each. For example, NOAA frequencies are your best bet for hearing notifications of a hurricane in your area; however, should you need emergency assistance because of the hurricane, you can’t use the frequency to call for help. Some devices have frequencies that are available to everyone, while others require a special license in order to broadcast. Prices of devices range widely, as does the level of expertise needed to operate each device. You can choose the device that is right for your family by considering what your communication needs are, your proficiency with each type, whether you will be able to obtain the proper license to broadcast with certain devices, and the budget you are able to spend.

Regardless of the type of device you choose, there are frequencies available for each that will help your family survive emergency situations. To find out which frequencies you should use on three of the most popular prepper communication devices, see our handy reference list below!


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is a government-operated radio system for sending out warnings in the event of a hurricane, solar flare, nuclear attack, and other emergencies. Broadcasts are local and repeated approximately every 5 minutes around-the-clock. You can purchase a special NOAA-enabled radio that is pre-set to the appropriate frequencies and will alert you of emergencies whenever the radio is turned on.

NOAA broadcasts can be heard on the following frequencies:

  • 162.40 MHz
  • 162.425 MHz
  • 162.45 MHz
  • 162.475 MHz
  • 162.50 MHz
  • 162.525 MHz
  • 162.55 MHz
  • 163.275 MHz

Ham radio frequencies

  • 34.90 & 163.4875: National Guard
  • 39.46: Inter-department emergency communications by local and state police forces
  • 47.42: Red Cross
  • 121.50: International aeronautical emergency
  • 138.225: FEMA Disaster Relief Operations
  • 142
  • 154.28: Local fire departments inter-departmental communications
  • 155.160: Inter-departmental state and local communications during search and rescue
  • 155.475: Inter-departmental emergency communications for state and local police
  • 156.75: Maritime weather alerts
  • 156.80: Maritime distress, calling, and safety
  • 163.5125: National Disaster Preparedness (Armed Forces)
  • 164.50: Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • 168.55: Disaster and emergency channel for civilian agencies of the federal government
  • 243.00: Military aviation emergency
  • 311.00 & 319.40: U.S. Air Force
  • 317.70 & 317.80: U.S. Coast Guard (Aviation)
  • 340.20: U.S. Navy (Aviation)
  • 409.625: Department of State
  • 462.675: General Mobile Radio Service (emergency assistance and traveler assistance)

CB frequencies

Citizen’s band radio is any easy way for anyone to communicate in an emergency without a license. Standard channels range from 1 – 40, with additional channels being available with freeband operation. Some helpful frequencies to monitor include:

  • Channel 3: Prepper CB Network
  • Channel 4: The American Preppers Network
  • Channel 9: reserved specifically for emergency communications/ REACT channel
  • Channel 19: the channel most widely used by truckers across the country

Emergency communication tips

Whether you choose to monitor NOAA broadcasts or utilize CB and/or ham radio frequencies, there are a few tips that can help you communicate most effectively in an emergency:

  • Have an emergency communication plan in place
  • Don’t limit yourself to only one type of communication: having multiple devices can save your life!
  • If speaking to emergency services, speak slowly and clearly and be able to provide details of your emergency, such as the number of people needing assistance, your location, and any life-threatening injuries
  • In a bug-out situation, the noise of your device may give your location away to others: make sure you are in a safe location before tuning in!

You may also like:

emp strike11 Survival Tricks Learned from Homeless People

How To Make Your Own Back-Up Generator (video)

The First Steps You Should Take Immediately After a CME

Emergency Bag to Keep in Your Car in Case of an EMP

Editor’s Note:

Thank you so much your comments, the frequencies weren’t wrong just incomplete. Unfortunately, our web editor had an error and displayed only the part of the frequencies after the point. I did check them before I posted the article. This is not an excuse as I should have checked them again but I promise I will be more careful next time. I’ve edited the article and now you have the correct frequencies.

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M. Adams
By M. Adams August 29, 2017 12:07
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  1. Robin August 29, 14:28

    Great info here! Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
  2. oldmathdock August 29, 15:13

    This is a nice compilation of useful channels. Good job!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Mama Vee August 29, 15:18

    Will all of these forms of communication operate in the case of an EMP? If not, what is BEST for this scenario? What about really quality walkie-talkies? What is their range?

    Reply to this comment
    • wa2qcj August 29, 16:55

      A radio, barring the tube type radios, allowed to be exposed to the affects of an EMP are most likely going to be inoperable. In the idea of prepping, putting communications equipment aside, in EMP proof containers is the way to be prepared. One thing that needs to be mentioned is antenna. Most non-technical people are not going to get good, reliable service from radio equipment using the antennas that generally come with the radios. You need to have a good quality coaxial cable on hand, and a larger antenna, even if it is just a very long wire, to send and receive radio signals. The more metal there is to receive signals with, the more the radio user will hear. The people to get to know in your area, are the “HAM” radio operators. Especially those that build their own stuff..

      Reply to this comment
    • Draco1264 August 30, 16:40

      Most expert’s claim turned off battery operated devices shouldn’t be that heavily affected by an emp shock wave. That being said still doesn’t hurt to keep a couple $30 baofeng uv-5r handheld transceivers in a Cooper mesh lined wooden box in the event of a EMP or solar flare with a way to charge them. Such as copper chef grill mats double layered on all sides of a wooden box and then spray foam rubber on the outside to extra insulate it and add a water resistant coating Incase of hurricane or tornadoes in your town.

      Reply to this comment
    • vocalpatriot September 6, 10:21

      These, as well as walkie talkies are All subject to potential damage by an emp. That does not guarantee they will be damaged but certainly may. storage in a faradey cage type container would help protect them … As long as they are IN that container when an emp actually strikes. and emp strike can happen any time and multiple times. So proper storage should be a daily behavior, and properly stored back up equipment is the only option to increase our chances for success.

      Reply to this comment
  4. wa2qcj August 29, 16:48

    The Amateur radio list, are the numbers frequency bands, or actual frequencies? The radio lists could use some clarification.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bill August 30, 15:11

      I totally agree with wa2qcj,, channels are useless info,, exact frequencies are.. luckily I’m licensed and already know,, but your info to the public is bogus..

      Reply to this comment
    • Bob August 31, 01:12

      I agree with you, I have access to all these frequencies as I am an emergency oierator with the sheriffs dept. But how can the average person obtain any use with these specs.

      Reply to this comment
  5. Andre August 29, 16:52

    Amateur (Ham) radio uses HF/VHF/UHF
    HF (High Frequency) = SW (Short Wave)

    Reply to this comment
  6. lc65 August 29, 17:40

    Mama Vee – EMPS will knock out ALL electronic equipment. You can protect your equipment by storing them in a Faraday Cage. Walkie Talkies (WT )operate on UHF around 450 MHz, these are referred to above as FRS . They are called Line of Sight. Meaning, you have to be able to transmit in a straight line ( not over hills, mtns ,etc. ). WT So, if you are high on a hill you may transmit up to 10, 20 miles, but in a woods or city maybe only 1-3 miles. Also, very limited by the type of antenna and power output.
    If you want to learn more on this subject go to the AMRRON website and start learning.
    CB radios operate on HF, down around 27 MHz. CB’s can use better antennas and more power ( these are legal considerations ) and have long distance capabilities, but only when atmospheric conditions are perfect. So, nominally better than WT in normal usage and sometimes can be much better.
    It is best to have all your bases covered.
    Also, you should be aware that there are many HAM operators around. They will be up and running in any event. They will have protected equipment as well as power sources and the know how. Find a local club and get to know some.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Rod August 29, 20:26

    Other than the CB channels listed the rest of this list is garbage. I am a licensed amateur and a professional broadcast engineer that deals with nation wide preps for broadcast stations.You can go to the NOAA page and find the real Wx. radio freq’s there. The “Ham Radio” list makes no sense whatsoever and should not be used for anything but starting a fire. You can find the real frequencies by simple internet searches. Let’s not make prepping any harder than it needs to be, folks!!!

    Reply to this comment
    • Smitty August 30, 00:09

      I agree with Rod. I also am a ham radio operators and those ham radio frequencies don’t make much sense to me either. They don’t seem to be very accurate. I am very aware of military and maritime frequencies and don’t see that accurate information in the list.

      I know in my area most NOAA frequencies are between 162 and 163 MHz .

      If anyone is serious about wanting to be prepared with ham radio frequencies, I would encourage them to study and get a license and use the equipment. Only then will they be proficient and know what frequencies would be the best one to use.

      Reply to this comment
  8. dave August 29, 22:30

    where did this bogus list of frequencies come from i don’t see one that is a real frequency. sure not something that is usable

    Reply to this comment
  9. Meathead August 29, 23:52

    I teach the local HAM licensing course and I always give the class: (1) Civilian Aviation Distress 121.5 MHz and (2) Military Aviation Distress 243.0 MHz.
    Reason: If they are ever in an emergency situation, can’t make contact with any ground stations and there is an aircraft within sight, use these frequencies to establish contact with the aircraft. The frequencies are constantly monitored and are commonly known as “Guard Frequencies”.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Dino August 30, 01:29

    I agree with Rod, your list doesn’t make much sense. I’m sure your intention was good, but you really should do some research and then re-publish this with corrected info. BTW, no such thing as frequency of zero.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Ray White August 30, 03:07

    Guys, the problem here is editing. For example, where his list reads .00 & 319.0 for US Air Force, it should read 311.00 & 319.40. So he wasn’t saying 00 freq, he just didn’t check to see how his post came through and most of his frequencies got truncated.

    So, as it is the list is junk but a minute on Google revealed this site that had the correct agency and frequency listings.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Rod August 30, 03:24

    Ray, I can understand how editing problems happen, and those of us who are extremely experienced in communications can figure this out easily. What concerns me is that those who are just being introduced to this information for the first time could become easily confused and when they try to use these frequencies and nothing works, will become frustrated and give up, hurting their chances for survival. I would suggest that this article be re-written and frequencies be presented in a table, with service, frequency, modulation type, and whether or not it needs licensing, or in the case of military frequencies whether they can be only used for receiving. The two aircraft guard frequencies are a good example of ones that can be used in a two-way fashion only in emergency. This table can also have a column for notations like that. Those of us with communications experience end up with an automatic knowledge when we see a frequency. The majority of people do not, and do not know what AM or FM means. They just know one is clear and the other can be very noisy. In my job I have to write instructions for people who are less than technically inclined so I automatically try to look at what information I am trying to convey from that perspective. I applaud the effort and willingness to write this or any other article. This one isn’t quite ready for prime time and I would hope the author takes our criticisms as helpful suggestions and not derogatory statements.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Rod August 30, 03:56

    Yes, I probably could, one of these days. Right now I am a bit burned out from writing having written and submitted 3 different EAS plans for a state that are in at the FCC for their study and then decision of which one they are going to approve. I spent the last two months focused on that and another project so I am taking a break from writing for a bit and giving myself some “play time” working on my personal comms that I have neglected for a few years. I have written a few articles for prepper sites but usually on EMP preps. I may put something together as winter sets in. Thanks for the idea, and thanks for thinking I could do it!

    Reply to this comment
  14. EK August 30, 03:56

    It does not take an EMP to make the cellular system unreliable. We went to view the solar eclipse in a remote rural area, and the network was completely overwhelmed by the many visitors, some from out of state and even from other countries. My family, which had travelled there at different times in several vehicles, was able to coordinate using decent quality walkie-talkies. We would have missed sharing this event together without them as all voice and data was gone and even simple texts were delayed.

    Reply to this comment
  15. New Prepper August 30, 14:32

    I would really appreciate a list of affordable and available radios along with communication lists. Nice to say that you need this or that type of radio, but doesn’t help much if I don’t know brands and who carries them in stock.

    Reply to this comment
    • SheepDog August 31, 15:42

      @New Prepper
      I agree 100%. This is what I was expecting in this article. A follow up with this information would be greatly appreciated.

      Reply to this comment
    • Draco1264 August 31, 15:59

      Baofeng uv-5r are $30 on Amazon and highly portable. I keep mine on me and listen to the police ban Incase of traffic accidents on my route.

      Reply to this comment
      • lc65 August 31, 17:10

        This is a great buy if you are limited in funds and want a lot of bang for the buck. Many prepper types have these. You can buy better antennas and the batteries are rechargeable. The radio operates on 2 HAM bands. 2M and 0.75M. You can pick up the FRS and GMRS frequencies as well.
        My biggest complaint is that they are ” relatively ” difficult to program.
        There are also a lot of videos on youtube to help out with usage.
        Remember, these are HAM radios. It is legal to listen on all freq. but illegal to tranmit ( unless an emergency )

        Reply to this comment
        • New Prepper September 2, 00:16

          Thanks Draco1264 an ic65,
          Nice getting feedback that is helpful. I suspect in an emergency the FCC won’t be interested in who’s broadcasting useful information.


          Reply to this comment
  16. wa2qcj August 30, 14:59

    Thank you for the update. This is worth writing down. Something to keep in mind, there are satellites that would continue to operate. Amateur radio has such as this in orbit now. Getting to it is not hard.

    Reply to this comment
  17. DJnRF September 2, 22:06

    I had tried to post my info on here but it was when there was a problem with the site. I notified the author of the site and he explained the ‘why’ his info was not complete. He suggested that I re-post my info. However, several in here have now corrected, or given more info.

    What everyone seems to miss regarding frequencies is that every state, county, or other local government has frequencies for their area. All are within the proper ones assigned to their type of service by the FCC, but not all are those the same across the country in every area.

    The FCC assigns groups of frequencies for Police use, or Fire Dept use, or many other different types of service. This also includes commercial broadcast frequencies, private enterprise business, or those for general use transmitting frequencies.

    Frequencies used for civilian contact of frequencies monitored by different government agencies (including the military) for emergencies are constant, and can always be found. The only difference is that the particular method of transmission can be AM, FM, or
    SSB. You cannot use an FM radio to contact an AM unit, or an SSB unit, etc. The ‘modulation’ (basically how your voice or signal is transmitted) is different between those three. An Amplitude Modulation transmission cannot be heard by a Frequency Modulation radio receiver even if on the same frequency. (ie: 156.275)

    If you are going to always be in your own local area in an emergency, your best choice is a radio that is on those frequencies for your area, and are most likely on FM. You MAY NOT transmit anything on the local frequencies for emergency if it is NOT an actual emergency. Check to see if your area has a station that monitors on one of the CB frequencies for a general use radio. In that way you can also use it for much other type of personal use by portable, mobile, or base. You may, of course, listen on many of those local frequencies, but listening to a weather alert radio is always legal. Emergencies will be transmitted by that service as well as your local broadcast stations of TV and radio.

    If you want some radio service outside of your area you can still use CB, but may also use the FRS (Family Radio Service) radios. However, you are limited on range of those by the power only allowed for those frequencies. Those are all portable units as mobile would be too high power for legal use. Some of the radios on the FRS frequencies are also on the GMRS
    service. Those particular GMRS frequencies on FRS radios are also limited on power, but you can get a license on the GMRS service to have portable, mobile, or base station radios with much higher power, and, therefore, must greater range. This is a general use service for personal and small business use. It may not be one where anyone in the area of the area of your emergency that is monitored by anyone. Where it might be great in your area, another area might not have anyone also on that frequency since your station frequency is assigned by the FCC. Frequencies assigned by the FCC are usually assigned to keep stations from interfering with each other. That can mean that no one else is close to you for your emergency. (Back now to the CB radio frequencies)

    Your best bet is a portable radio that can be programmed to actual emergency frequencies you would need, and just not use them except for real
    emergencies. OR more expensive equipment that can contact governmental emergency channels. These may be portable, mobile or stationary radios. If you are near, or on water the marine radios have an emergency frequency that is monitored in most areas. If you have an airplane, those radios have an emergency frequency.

    Most of the radios you might need with higher power for a greater transmission range are also more expensive to purchase, and require a FCC license.

    The best overall would be a amateur (Ham) radio on one, or more of the bands. This also requires a license, but they are not hard to get. You must read up on, or take some class from a local Ham operator to get. You will have a test to pass, but can then be issued your license. The cost for that is overall much less than the
    commercial type license. Those radios can be had that are able to get to many areas. Even if you would get a Ham to respond to your emergency call that is way out of your area, he will be able to get you help in your area.

    You can look online to find many emergency frequencies, but not all will be monitored to hear you within your area. Do NOT merely get a radio you THINK will be what you need before checking on what you might need for your area, or all areas.

    The suggestion posted in here about contacting a local Ham operator is darn good advice. He will be able to help you, and give you advice of where to find whatever you might need for equipment, or help.

    The information in this web post should be understood to be one to show you that there are many different options with some frequencies, but not intended to be all the information you may need. It should be that it is showing you that you must do research and thinking of what you will be best to need for your area or emergency.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rod September 3, 01:46

      I would like to add something to the above good information. Public Service (LEO, FD, EMS) especially at the State level are using “trunking” and digital modulation more and more. Trunking is where there are a group of frequencies, but a conversation may not be on the same frequency at all times. This technique is used to increase the number of users in a smaller amount of frequency space. It also makes “scanning” with a conventional scanner quite difficult. You will need a scanning receiver that can be programmed to follow each “talk group” so that a conversation can be followed. Digital modulation is just that. It is another modulation type like AM, FM, or SSB. You will need a receiver capable of handling the particular type of digital modulation that you are trying to receive. There is also digital encryption, and unless you are some kind of computer AND electronic wunderkind, don’t even worry about it. The radios that use this are all programmed independently with an algorithm programmed by the vendor at time of delivery. The newer systems can be reprogrammed remotely in case an encrypted radio is compromised.

      Reply to this comment
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