Letter Re: Questions About FRS Radio Capabilities

Dear SurvivalBlog:
At my condo complex in Florida, we’ve been wondering if we could use consumer two-way radios–such as Motorola Talkabout two-way radios–to communicate successfully between (from inside) condo units. We would do this during scenarios such as a severe hurricane.

The question is whether those radios (which, of course, come in several models with different specs) use the right frequency band and and have adequate power to penetrate the multiple concrete walls that would be line-of-sight between the communicating radios. We assume–in planning for worst possible case–that both line telephone and cell phone service would be down, and are looking for ways to directly communicate with each other during the height of a storm when we couldn’t safely walk from unit to unit.

Does anyone with relevant expertise have any ideas on this? Thanks for your assistance. Best Regards, – Gregg T.

JWR Replies: The key question is: How much reinforced concrete? As I recently noted in the blog, reliable communication in a cluttered urban environment is “iffy” for the typical FRS and GMRS hand-held transceivers on the consumer market. My preference is for the MURS band hand-helds. Not only will you get better range, but you will also be operating in a less commonly used frequency band. This will give you marginally better communications security. (But with the oft-repeated proviso: no radio transmission should be considered 100% “secure.”) I recommend the MURS Radios company (one of our advertisers) as a reputable source of transceivers. They also do custom frequency programming, and sell both accessories and MURS-compatible perimeter intrusion detection systems.