Home Communications Why CB Radios: Miracle Communication Devices after SHTF?

Why CB Radios: Miracle Communication Devices after SHTF?

Is there a place in your plan for a CB radio after SHTF?

CB Radio after SHTF?

Is it worth having a CB radio after SHTF? That’s a good question. Let’s look at CB radio and find out.

What are CB Radios?

Citizens Band radio (also known as CB radio) allow short-distance radio communications between individuals on 40 channels within the 27 MHz (11 m) band. Citizens band is distinct from the FRS, GMRS, MURS, and Amateur Radio Service (“ham” radio) systems. In many countries operating a CB does not require a license, and (unlike amateur radio) it may be used for business or personal communications.

Like many other two-way radio services, citizens band channels are shared by many users. Only one station may transmit at a time; other stations must listen and wait for the shared channel to become available. Traditionally stations waiting to use a shared channel will broadcast the word “Break” during a lull in the conversation. This informs the other people using the channel that someone is waiting to transmit.

They can transmit and receive from a mile or two up to 20 miles (depending on antenna) and in some circumstances much much further.

CB Radio availability

CB’s are readily available, can be found laying unused in many garages, attics and basements. You can even find them still in older cars sitting in junk yards or scrap yards.

CB Radio Operation

CB radios are very simple to use. Even if you’ve never seen or touched a CB radio before, you could pick one up and be communicating in a matter of seconds.

  1. Ensure that there is an antenna connected.
  2. Turn on the power.
  3. Tune to a channel (channel 9 is for emergencies only and channel 19 is typically the hang out spot, or “calling channel”).
  4. Pick up the microphone, wait for a lull in any active conversations.
  5. When there is a lull, key the mic and say “Break”, hopefully they will acknowledge you.
  6. Key the mic and transmit your message.

It’s good form, to switch to an unused or less busy channel if you want to have a conversation. Use channel 19 to connect with your contact, then move to another channel.

Be aware that anything you transmit or hear will likely be picked up by many other people. Do not forgo OpSec in your communications. Do not give out any information that is sensitive.

cb radio

CB Radio use after SHTF

CB Radios will likely be one of the unsung heroes after SHTF.

Since they are still readily available, simple and have a decent transmit and receive range I expect the 40 channels (and sidebands) will be widely used for communications immediately following a disaster or grid down situation. This means that you’ll be able to listen to plenty of recon and local “news” reports from other folks, using CBs in your area, just by listening. This alone make the CB radio a must have!

CBs are available in Base station, portable and automobile version or the even more portable handheld CB radio.


  1. that is right the cb is going to be the only way to talk i still talk every day love it have a colectaion like a nut never got my ham tryed three times and i,am out 73 unit 3 enforcer

    • Hey Jim, thanks for your comment. Would you be interested in writing about HAM radio for our blog? I’m looking for how to/instructional, or review type posts. I’d pay you.

  2. Sorry, but the physics of CB radio means the likelihood that you’ll be able to communicate at any reasonable distance after an emergency is fairly low. Why? Simple really. There’s a really good chance that any major natural SHTF event will probably take out your CB base station antenna and tower.

    Even “if” the tower’s still standing, the antenna may very well be a mangled wreck, and even “if” both of those are still operational, your likelihood of having AC grid power is also greatly in question.

    Even if you have an existing antenna, the tower is still in place, and you have AC grid power, you still have the physics problem of the 11 meter band. If the SHTF event hits when skip is active, you may not be able to talk to nearly anyone local, as your signal could jump 1,500 to 2,000 miles on a single hop.

    Adding extra power just makes the skip issue worse, so CB owner’s have to hope for ALL of the following conditions after a SHTF event:

    1. Antenna is still together
    2. Tower or mast is still upright
    3. Grid electricity is still available
    4. The 11-12 year skip cycle is in it’s quiet period, otherwise every CB conversation will be with someone 1,500 to 2,000 miles away (which may be fun during normal days, but if you are trying to reach family members 25-50 miles away your CB radio is hopeless during high levels of skip)

    If anyone’s reading this after the latest hurricanes or earthquakes to hit Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, or Mexico, you’ll notice that FEMA, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross don’t ask for CB operators to help with emergency communications, they call out for both amateur radio operators (that have access to over 25 different bands or frequencies – not just one like CB) and satellite phone companies.

    Even “if” I had a F5 tornado wipe out my downtown area (and everything within 25 miles of me), both my handheld dual-band amateur radio AND my sat phone would still work (without grid power and without large towers or antennas), and I could easily establish reliable communications with the outside world in a couple of minutes.

    If you are interested in how this works, or if the several major SHTF events of the last few weeks have finally got you serious about reliable off-grid communications, visit our RF Gear 2 Go website at http://www.rfgear2go.com (it’s currently a work in progress but we’re prepper friendly and keep adding new stuff nearly every day).

  3. As a truck driver, I have to disagree agree with Craig. I use a cb on a regular basis and very early have a problem with skip. Conditions have to be nearly perfect to shoot skip. One another note, how many people are running up and down the roads all day with a ham radio that can give you a heads up on traffic, roads closed and other emenant conditions? How many people have a cb on the hwy? Well for starters truckers use cb radios all day everyday and are usually willing to give you any information they know about the road ahead of you. Fema might not use cb frequencies but as a prepper you really shouldn’t be relying on Fema anyway. I’m not saying cb is better than ham or vice versa, but depending on the situation at hand they both have there place.

  4. I agree somewhat with all of the above. IF the SHTF scenario occurs…how about a solar 12VDC supply for the CB and have a “small” portable antenna…granted range will be limited…but in a shtf scenario…that may not be a liability…why do you want to talk to somebody 2,000 miles away.?/..your needs will be immediate and community wide….5-20 miles….for both gathering for safety and information and such. This just seems logical to me…and IF you can afford it…why not both ham and CB…??And at the same time, how about a receiver that can monitor stations all over the world..???


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