Civilian Emergency Frequencies
This page is about the various civilian emergency frequencies that you can monitor and USE in an emergency. Right now you are probably thinking "I have a cell phone so why should I even bother with learning about civilian emergency frequencies and how to use them?". Well yes cell phones are a good thing to have around but in an emergency you can't always count on them especially during a natural or man made disaster when cell phone frequencies may be jammed with other calls or even be out of service all together.
Knowing which frequencies to monitor on your scanner or other radio may allow you to hear a distress call that nobody else does and help save someone's life, not to mention knowing which emergency frequency to use and when and how may help save YOUR life!
First we'll start out with the time tested Citizens Band better known as CB radio. Since it's golden years in the 1970's CB has greatly dropped in general popularity but has remained a major fixture on our nation's roads and highways as a great way to get information on traffic delays as well as weather conditions and rest stop locations.
Monitoring of CB emergency channel 9 has decreased over the last 20 years as fewer REACT teams and law enforcement agencies continued to keep an ear on the channel but some still do and in an emergency where CB is the only available communications source, your first calls for help should be on CB-9 and if you don't get a response on 9 try trucker channel 19 or any channel that you hear activity on, but be sure to transmit the information "blind" at least twice on before moving to another channel because someone may have heard you but you may not be able to hear them for whatever reason and in case someone did hear you but didn't get all the information, announce what channel you are going to next so that the receiving station can follow.
Be sure to give a good enough description of the location including state and city so that a station outside of the local area could find it on a map and notify the local authorities. There are numerous accounts of calls being received by operators far away from the origin of the call. These tips apply to all radio bands when attempting to call for help.
General Mobile Radio Service
Now we will cover the General Mobile Radio Service also called GMRS. This is a licensed UHF radio band in the 462/467 MHz range for personal communications between friends and family members. In recent years this band has become more popular as equipment availability has improved and prices have dropped.
There are two general categories of GMRS radio on the market. One is the blister pack consumer type radio that you might see at the local RadioShack or WAL-MART for $30-$120 and the other type are what the GMRS old timers call "real" GMRS radios. These are commercial business/government type two-way radios that are programmed for the GMRS band and go from $150 and up depending on the type of radio (portable, mobile, base or repeater), number of frequencies you want and power output. These are by far the best radios for GMRS use and I highly recommend them.
Many REACT teams have turned to this band from CB because of fewer users and less channel noise so you vary well may be able to reach a REACT monitor or just another user in the event of an emergency. Due to the higher frequency band your signal range will not be as far as it would with a CB but if you happen to be in the right area you may get out farther then you think.
Unlike CB the GMRS rules allow the use of repeaters to extend the range of mobile or portable users so you should try to find out if there is a GMRS repeater in the area and if so what the PL access tone is if it has one. Note that the consumer "blister pack" radios are NOT capable of repeater operation because they lack a repeater offset mode which is required for repeater operation. If you want your GMRS radio to transmit at the maximum 5 watt power level and be capable of repeater operation then you will have to
Family Radio Service
The Family Radio Service is a sister band of GMRS and at one time was part of it and still shares channels 1-7 with GMRS users. FRS is a UHF, license-free, low power personal communications band similar to GMRS but has one primary difference, FRS users with exception for GMRS licensees are limited to no more then a half watt of transmit power making this band only good for EXTREMELY short range communications although there some rare cases in which FRS signals have traveled over 50 miles but this sort of distance is VARY unlikely.
Frequency CH Description Mode
•462.5625 FRS-1 Calling And Assistance FM
The VHF Marine radio band is used for maritime ship to ship and ship to shore communications and in most cases is not legal for landmobile use. The range of this band over flat open water can be vary impressive and more then enough to stay in touch along rivers and inland waterways. The U.S. Coast Guard has designated Marine channel 16 as the official emergency and distress frequency. In the event of a water emergency you should tune your VHF radio to CH 16 and transmit all information about the incident along with the vessel name and hull number.
The VHF Air Band is used only for aviation communications and like the VHF Marine band is not legal for land mobile communications in most cases.
You will not find any amateur radio frequencies listed on this page because there are so many different ones and no specifically designated frequency for reporting emergencies but amateur radio is a great means for emergency communications.
Remember...in a life or death emergency you are allowed to use ANY frequency necessary to call for help.
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