Survival Communications – The C.B. Radio

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Even during small scale disasters (earthquakes, seasonal storms, etc.) your normal communications channels can become compromised. In fact, it doesn’t take much to bring down an entire cell network, making the ability to communicate during a disaster one of your top priorities.

Cobra CB Radio

While ham radio is always my first line of emergency communications, a C.B. Radio is another important part of any good survival communications plan.

Made popular during the 1970s, because of movies like Smokey and the Bandit, for decades C.B. Radio was one of the most popular forms of short distance communications. Although its popularity has faded, due to development of mobile phones, the internet and the Family Radio Service, it still remains extremely popular among truckers, radio hobbyists, and survivalists.

Citizen’ Band radio (better known as CB radio) is a short-distance radio communications that takes up 40 radio channels from 26.965 to 27.405 MHz. A properly tuned CB has a range of around 20-30 miles, but if illegally tweaked can transmit hundreds of miles.

CB FREQUENCY / CHANNEL INFORMATION

CB Channel Frequency Frequency Use
Channel 1 26.965 MHz
Channel 2 26.975 MHz
Channel 3 26.985 MHz Unofficial Prepper CB Network (AM)
Channel 4 27.005 MHz Used by many 4X4 clubs
Channel 5 27.015 MHz
Channel 6 27.025 MHz You’ll hear many operators using illegal high-power amplifiers
Channel 7 27.035 MHz
Channel 8 27.055 MHz
Channel 9 27.065 MHz Channel 9 is the universal C.B. emergency channel
Channel 10 27.075 MHz
Channel 11 27.085 MHz
Channel 12 27.105 MHz
Channel 13 27.115 MHz Often used in some areas for marine use & recreational vehicles.
Channel 14 27.125 MHz Frequency for many walkie-talkies. FCMA (Federal Motor Coach Assoc) heard here
Channel 15 27.135 MHz
Channel 16 27.155 MHz Used by many 4X4 clubs
Channel 17 27.165 MHz Used by truckers on the east-west roads in California
Channel 18 27.175 MHz
Channel 19 27.185 MHz unofficial Trucker channel (but probably where you will find most of them hanging out)
Channel 20 27.205 MHz
Channel 21 27.215 MHz Used by truckers for North-South routes in some areas of the country
Channel 22 27.225 MHz
Channel 23 27.255 MHz
Channel 24 27.235 MHz
Channel 25 27.245 MHz
Channel 26 27.265 MHz
Channel 27 27.275 MHz
Channel 28 27.285 MHz
Channel 29 27.295 MHz
Channel 30 27.305 MHz 30 and up are often used for SSB operation
Channel 31 27.315 MHz
Channel 32 27.325 MHz
Channel 33 27.335 MHz
Channel 34 27.345 MHz
Channel 35 27.355 MHz
Channel 36 27.365 MHz
Channel 37 27.375 MHz Unofficial Prepper 37 (USB)
Channel 38 27.385 MHz Unofficial SSB calling channel, LSB mode
Channel 39 27.395 MHz
Channel 40 27.405 MHz

CB Resources & Radios

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Responses to " Survival Communications – The C.B. Radio " Please share your thoughts...

  1. CBs have become quite popular again. We use standard VHF while fishing though that is dying more and more as people now use cellphones to communicate, which often work pretty far offshore. Though it’s required to have by the coast guard in the charter industry, and always a good backup!

  2. Butch says:

    If one were to want to get their C.B. radio illegally tweaked
    how would they go about doing that?

    • Damian says:

      They would go about doing that illegally, however it’s only illegal if you get caught;)

    • Big Man says:

      CB Radio is ok for a few miles. Then you HAVE to lean on a Ham Radio Operator to get any kind of distant communications… Tweaking a CB won’t help as well as a decent antenna. DR-DIPOLE.COM makes a great survival antenna for the Ham Radios and for CB. Spend your money on a GREAT Antenna, not 20 or 30 more watts that won’t get you an extra couple of miles… Good luck.

      • Tom says:

        http://youtu.be/MerNwhklCHI

        Those few miles are in the thousands with a decent radio and good antenna. I’ve worked almost every State from my truck, except Hawaii. Alaska, Ireland, England all from a pickup truck in Maine.

        • ashton harvey says:

          is it true that if you run enough power into a home base station that it can go as far as a ham radio?

          • dale says:

            yes.. I have a radio base with power and it don’t take much power for a base 200-300 watts is plenty.. I have talked from one end of the usa to the other.. even Cuba, so yes you can do a lot even with not so much power.

    • mic says:

      Has a cb and a linear amp. Most truckers use linear amps to push the cb power up higher. Mine is 400 watts and is considered small by most truckers. I know of a guy who has 1,500 watts. On my 400 watt model I can talk approximately 50 miles consistently and further depending on weather, skip, propagation etcetc. Have talked all the way to California and Im in Georgia but thats not consistent.

      • John M says:

        The legal limit is 4 watts, right? Are you saying truckers pump out 100-300 times the legal power limit? Or am I misunderstanding how the numbers work

    • Bobby says:

      Just go to any truck stop, get on ch 19 and ask where the nearest cb shop is. Go there and ask them to pump up your output and they will to as much as your radio can accomplish without a kicker. You can also ask them to install a kicker and they’ll give you the pros and cons of it. Decide on your own then at least you’ll have more information to make your decision.

  3. Richard says:

    Go to any decent size Truckstop ,Many have a CB shop, Take your radio in and tell the guy what You want to do. Any good radio tech can do the work, works best with the better quality radios,if Your in an area with several truckstops there may be several shops in the area, get on the radio and ask the Drivers who does the best work, if You listen to channel 19 You can hear the difference between the stock radios and the ones that work real good

  4. meives says:

    do you need a licence for a cb radio?

    • DJKulp says:

      during the 70’s, a license was required … that changed mid 80’s. For Citizen’s Band Radios. HAM radio still requires a license.

  5. Badger359 says:

    You may consider applying the survival triangle or triad concept to the situation of “comms” or communications. 1/3 of your comms would be spread out this way. a)Ham radio “long range”, b)CB or SSB for mid-range and c) GMR’s for short range. Just a thought friends.

  6. Viktor Zimmerman says:

    Can you also transmit the CB frequencies on your ham radio and eliminating your CB radio?

    • Paul says:

      You can but its illegal if the FCC checks your equipment. AM Transmitions sounds bad using a ham radio.

      • CBER says:

        Not true I run a galaxy dx66v and it is a 10 meter ham set to cb frequencies and it is crisp and clear the nasty sounding ones usually happen when someone sets modulation too high cber

  7. Brian says:

    “Tweaking” a CB radio is illegal if it allows the unit to transmit with more power and/or transmit outside of the defined channels.

    Unless it’s a life, limb, or property emergency, transmitting outside of licensed ham bands is illegal when using ham equipment.

    Also, avoid expecting GMRS (or FRS) radios to be able to attain their advertised distances unless you and the other person are on mountain tops. Average range for a “bubble pack” radio is probably 1 mile in the city, possibly 2 miles in a suburb barring any significant obstructions (hills, tree, buildings, etc). If you add an external antenna to the device (licensed GMRS only), you can extend that a bit further. Also, Motorola 355R (I think) can access repeaters and thereby extend their range significantly (like tens of miles). We ham radio operators use repeaters quite often to talk distances in the VHF/UHF ham bands. You can also purchase old commericial hand helds and mobil units that can be reprogrammed to operate in the GMRS bands and also use external antennas.

  8. Desmond says:

    Well I do know this about RADIOS’s
    using a modified CB (Citizen Band radio) is agenst the law
    trasmitting on CB with a HAM radio is agenst the law (it is Evan on the test for HAM)
    fmrs/gmrs I forget witch one is the licenced one but most who have them dont have a lenience for them.

    The other thing is in a emergency ALL RADIO COMMUNICATION is leagal (Property and life)

    FYI KF7KIP (Ham operator)

  9. sniper says:

    FYI adding a linear amplifer to a CB dramatically increases the radio range… but yes it is illegal…

    items can be purchased at radio shack… or ham radio dealers

    also check ebay and amazon

  10. Kevin says:

    Better than CB radio is HAM radio. its the same thing but on a wider scale

  11. Pamela says:

    Go to tenfourstore.com…. CB radios for way less then the cost of “radioshack….the dudes that work there are so young they dont even know what CB is …lol… i go to tenfourstore.com for all my CB needs … as in being prepared for the possible end of the world …LOL..i guess !!

  12. jimbillybob says:

    Im gona get mah radio strong so i can get drunk and broadcast my stupidity to as many people as i can. This is mah neat toy. Who cares if it interferes with folks using other technologies like da internet. Da goverment cant tell me what to day out ta get meh. Go Wallmart!

    • Scott says:

      Hey Bimjillyboob…stick to your hillbilly inbreeding partys and leave the surviving to those of us that matter

  13. Mike says:

    Two-way radios are good and depending on your needs will determine which type to get.

    Citizen Band (CB) radios are legally limited to 4 watts output power.
    The newer General Mobil Radio Service / Family Radio Service (GMRS/FRS) radios need to have a license for the 5-watt GMRS channels; technically the FRS channels have a lower power output limited to 500 milliwatts (half a watt) even on the same GMRS radio so if you only use the FRS channels, you do not need a license; but they are included in the same GMRS radio… so to ‘legally’ communicate on all of the channels you will still need a license from the FCC, currently costing $80 for five-years, no test.

    Even the HAM hand held radios are mostly 5-watt power output, but they get to go further by going through local repeaters with increased power. Also, with the license, the HAM operator can legally increase the output of their hand held radio based on the frequency range the operate within.
    The HAM radios in cars and home base stations will typically have the higher output and longer range on their own.

    Since the FCC no longer requires the Morse Code for the HAM license, if you are technically savvy in electronics, there are practice tests and study services you can find online, so it might be worth your efforts to study and get your HAM license, if only to be the ‘communications expert’ in your extended family.
    QRT

  14. David says:

    In my area, Chanel 15 @ 27.135 MHz is where mud ducks like to hang out ( people trying to make the most of running legal power ). If You are frustrated about not being heard without running a linear, this is the channel to listen to. Perhaps you could add a “legal power” comment to channel 15 on your list of channels, it would be nice if we could spread the word through out the country that there is a place where 4 watts can be heard. thanks, David aka KG2LI

  15. peter nielsen says:

    can some one tell me can we transmitte on 27 mzh the oz channel

  16. Rattler says:

    I have been into CB for many years over 20. I have used it to contact mexico, CA,PA,Fl and many others this is done on SSB/LSB and bare foot. SSB/LSB use AM 10 meter spectrum there are a number of off spectrum channels that are open and unregulated just need to tune them in. you can even scramble and de-scramble for security vary easy.

  17. KG4RYT says:

    CB is a great survival radio. When the grid goes down CB will be king. I know i’m a HAM radio operator endorsing CB radio, but CB radio is best just because of the numbers they make a much better emergency radio. They are cheap, easy to use, and widely available. SSB is the best mode, but AM CB will do very well. Highway CB Channel 19 is king, try contacting someone on 2M 146.520 simplex about road conditions or any other traffic matter, When the grid goes down so do the repeaters. For off road CB is king, if you guys go off road in a 4×4 a CB radio is almost a must. Most amatuer rigs can not handle the abuse. FRS, GMSR useless.

    • chiefcrash says:

      That may have been true before, but these days it’s swinging back to ham radio. No morse code test + $30 chinese ham radios = explosion of new hams (and preppers playing with radios)

  18. Emily Taylor says:

    I have a galaxy 10 meter CB that putts out around 200 watts. Though I’ll lower it to around 40 (maximum driver watter for my linear) or so watts when using an amp to run it at 600-800.

    Running a wire dipole or 24 foot Imax veritcal I can talk all over the state pretty good on AM, when I switch to using USB I can go all over the country. Any further and I use a Moonraker 4 which I was lucky enough to find new in box on ebay. I’ve talked on 27.555 to the bottom of chile, australia, and china still 5-9.

    Local and statewide ragchews are great.

    • Jason says:

      10 meter is HAM. 11 meter is CB.

  19. SNIPER says:

    what about marine radios, since they use differant freqs, and everyone else is using cbs jamming up the airwaves and you need to talk is this a better option?

  20. Monty says:

    Is a cobra still a good CB set

    • Off Grid Survival says:

      Cobra is still a great CB Brand…. I’ve got a mini review of one of my Cobra radios up at http://offgridsurvival.com/emergencypreparednessgifts/

    • Gurnis says:

      Cobra & Uniden are both great brands. The Cobra is a bit easier to modify (or so I hear). If you want a handheld then the Magnum 1012 is another good choice.

  21. msj says:

    I work about 40 miles from where I live. I work in a military industrial complex. I want to be able to communicate with home given another 9/11 type incident (my cell phone was useless). What do you recommend?

  22. Tom A says:

    I am working to establish procedures for militia groups to communicate after any event where the need for militias to become active occurs. Realistically, a national network of committed CB operators who are already in possession of mobile cb radios with SSB (Single Sideband) capability and small amplifiers that will enable them to reach out from 50 miles up to 250 miles or more. Certainly, after any event where life and property are in danger, many of us will risk upsetting the FCC. More to the point, if the SHTF and anarchy breaks out, the FCC will not even be a consideration.
    I am a licensed Ham Radio operator and I have a mobile 10 Meter band radio as well as a decent CB Radio with SSB and a few small linear amplifiers ( 200 watt, 300 watt and 450 watt). In an emergency situation, these radios become my lifeline. In my bug out bag I carry a Hummingbird Marine VHF HANDHELD and four small personal radios with range of about 2 miles. The marine radio is because I live in Florida and that radio could be a wealth of information in emergency. The personal radios are for squad movements
    I will be putting together my findings and presenting them to the militias for review very soon. I am always interested in hearing opposing points of view, additional plans, criticism etc., as long as it is constructive. The goal is to establish a ready network capable of disseminating information across the country in the event the grid goes down or another event occurs and normal channels are shut down.

    • Gus says:

      can I run 500 w from car with one battery ? what do I need ? thanks

    • James says:

      Yours is the 1st intelligent post in this thread! But I would caution the reliance on those kickers you’ve got. In SHTF you may not have the power to run them. I think SSB in the 10m & 11m bands is the most likely solution. You can talk a great distance on 11m SSB with 12-30 watts. I’d opt for the President Lincoln II or the YetiCom Optima as both have very stable SSB. And since CB will be the most common radio out there, you can still talk short range on those channels also. Your squad movement radios should be highest quality FRS/GMRS with upgraded antennas and lots of code words for stealthy communication within your group. You must also have a backup plan for radio silence should the need arise. Radio signals are very easy to detect and track. Regardless of who your enemy is, whether it be government, terrorist, or just another group after your supplies, you must be able to go “Code Zebra” to avoid detection. There’s a reason why red lens flashlights and small signal mirrors are still around. But they aren’t much good unless you know Morse Code or some kind of code to flash messages to group members. So it really depends on how prepared you & your group want to be. But getting back on topic, the mode of communication with the best chance for success will be CB for local area and SSB for extended range. Your next issue will be powering your electronics. I recommend a homebrew solar panel made from taking the solar cells out of several solar landscape lights and wiring them together on a piece of fabric that can be folded up and stuck in your pack. You only need enough of these tiny panels to generate 6 volts for most handheld devices. Make one for each group member’s pack. You can make a larger solar array for the SSB radio or just combine the group’s already made panels together to get the voltage/amps you need. As for a power supply, you can toy around with R/C car batteries to get the voltage you need from 2 of these batteries wired together. Cordless drill batteries might also work. I saw a guy wire two 7.2v R/C batteries together to get 14.4 volts for his SSB radio. But he had to charge the separately. I have two 12v cordless drill batteries wired together to double the amps instead of the volts. I use a 7amp charge controller between the landscape solar cells and the batteries. It was the smallest charge controller I could find, and not an MPPT, but it works and I can keep the batteries wired together at all times. Ideally you want a 13.8v battery pack with 14v to 16v of solar charge current going into the charge controller. This setup will power your SSB rig 4-10 hrs a day depending on power output and not using a kicker with the radio. Your radio cannot be tracked when your are listening, only when you are transmitting. So even during Code Zebra you can still listen for any talk on the airwaves to hear whats going on around you/your group. One way communication is better than no communication at all. For antenna I recommend a thin wire half-wave dipole strung between 2 trees. It works great, lightweight,rolls up very compact, easy to setup. A better setup might be a dipole made with aluminum tubing as it won’t require a Balun or a antenna tuner, so less things to carry.

  23. citizen band says:

    A CB radio or “citizens band” radio is the perfect medium range communications tool. The average store bought 2 way radio usually operates on GRMS or FRS frequencies. These frequencies are limited to a few miles and are limited even further by buildings, tress, mountains and all obstacles. CB radios can obtain ranges up to 150 miles, sometimes more. CB’s operate on a different frequency than traditional consumer radios which allows them to obtain these extended ranges and makes them a preferable communications tools.
    Many people thought that CB Radios are extinct, but they’re still here and widely used to date. They are very useful and the cost to buy one is quite cheap as compared to the price of cellular phones. There usually used in business, industries, personal use and many more other applications.

    • KG4RYT says:

      You can pick up old CB’s for around $10.00 at flea markets, and yard sales. Best just to buy a one new for about $40.00 – $55.00. Get a magnet antenna and keep it for emergency and or road use.
      For the highway, no other radio comes close to it.

  24. Gurnis says:

    The antenna is the most important thing with a CB. With a SolarCon A-99 mounted atop a 20′ tall roof peak, you will get out about 25 miles with no added power. Ideally you want the tip of the antenna about 65′ off the ground for maximum range using stock power. If you live in a mountainous area then ideally you want the antenna mounted on top of a ridge or mountain peak. No amount of mods or added power can overcome a poor antenna. But even a cheap CB can talk a long way on stock power with a good antenna setup. So put your money into the antenna, not the radio. If you feel that you just have to run more power then I recommend installing a RM Italy PCN 60 Stinger Board. This will increase power output to 25-35 watts. If you need more power then try the RM Italy AD 203 Stinger Board, which has an output of 150 watts PEP.

    But before increasing output power just remember that higher output means more drain on your battery. There are 1500 watt amps out there but that won’t be much help in a SHTF situation unless you have a huge 12v battery bank. And if you have to flee on foot, you won’t be able to carry much of a power supply. My base station is a mobile radio, connected to a SolarConn A-99 base antenna. But I also have a compact dipole tuned for the 11m CB band that weighs nothing and fits in a pocket. For a great “on foot” power supply I have two 13.2v cordless drill batteries that weigh 1 lb 6 oz each. and fit in a backpack. To recharge those batteries I have a compact homemade “flexible” solar panel made from solar landscape lights, with a small 7 amp charge controller. Each battery provides up to 5 hrs of CB listening and easily provides 1 hour of transmitting because my power output is only about 9 watts. So both batteries give me 10 hrs listening and 2 hrs talking per day. And I can recharge batteries while hiking unless I’m in a wooded area. And I can be on air in 10 minutes with my system.

  25. Bobby says:

    Just thinking back to the late 70’s, early 80’s when I drove semi’s otr and used a 100 to 300 watt kicker. The problem I had and never resolved was while I could step all over the other traffic on 19, I did so at the cost of replacing expensive antennas quite frequently as they were not designed for that power output.

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