HAM license. Put a 2-meter mobile in your vehicle with a 5/8 wave antenna, and it wouldn't hurt to have a CB in there with a mag mount antenna. Should be able to get "someone". 2-Meter mobile radios (ham radios) typically put out 50 watts or more. A mobile radio in your vehicle with a 5/8 wave antenna can typically hit a repeat up to 35 miles or more away. Even on simplex (communicating radio to radio with no repeater), you can communicate further locally than you can with a CB. Just my opinion.
Nicely done! If you want to do further testing PM me and I can lend you a couple 4 watt GMRS programmed Motorola Genesis series radios. I also have a mag mount antenna and SMA adapter you could use with the Baofeng or the TYT.
If you want a nice dual purpose base station you can get a UHF Motorola GM300 with the "3" band split. That covers from 438-470mhz. With the 32 channel model you can have it programmed for your GMRS repeaters and some simplex and a good number of HAM repeaters and simplex too. Just have to remember what channels get what call sign.
The only down side to this is you either need a switch and two antennas or one antenna optimized around 455mhz which would give less than optimum SWR.
Judging the capability of the GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) by the performance of consumer-grade "Blister Pack" radios sold at Wally World is like judging the capabilities of the .22LR based on the performance of a Rohm revolver; or judging Pink Floyd by what you hear on a pocket radio. GMRS is a UHF/FM service and is very similar to the 440MHz amateur band and shares frequencies between the 450MHz-470MHz band used by business, Police, Fire and EMS. Your performance with a quality radio, such as those marketed to professionals has the potential to give you the same performance PDs/FDs get. The problem is not the band, but the twenty-dollar radios. As with guns, you get what you pay for.
Originally Posted by adric22
Your question of "Is there some other type of radio that would be more useful to have in such a situation?" is a qualified yes.
The finest transceiver in the world is useless for communication unless there is someone on the other end. If you were only concerned with short range communications with friends and family where no cell service is available, GMRS, with commercial gear such as that made by Motorola, Kenwood, Icom and others is excellent. How well GMRS will serve you to communicate with people outside you group depends on where you are. If you're in a major Metro area, or on a major highway during rush hour traffic, there is a good chance someone will hear and respond to an emergency call. The same location at 3:00 am-odds are no one is listening to respond.
Suitable radios-both mobile and Walkie-Talkies- can be found online for as low as $100, pre-programed if you look around.
Real-World RELIABLE range with decent radios:
HT to HT: 1-2 mi.
[TRIVIA NOTE-a Walkie-Talkie is a large radio on a backpack, like a PRC/77 (any 05 Bravos out there?); the more familiar hand-held radios are properly called Handie-Talkies (HT). You'll almost never hear anyone but a ham refer to it as an HT]
HT to Mobile: 2-4 mi. [NOTE: At longer ranges, the HT may HEAR the mobile rig, but the mobile rig won't hear the HT. The difference between 50 watts and a longer antenna on the mobile vs 5-7 watts and a stub antenna on the HT.
Mobile to Mobile: 5-15 mi.
Base to Mobile: 10-20 mi. There is no difference between the radios-they're the same. The difference is a better antenna much higher with the base station. In VHF/UHF communications antenna height is the most important variable.
In all cases, moving a few feet in urban or wooded environments; or a few hundred feet on open terrain can allow communication. [TIP: In a downtown environment, try holding an HT with the antenna parallel to the ground instead of pointing up. UHF radios antenna's are vertically polarized. As the radio waves are reflected off the buildings, they can shift polarity.]
Please keep in mind, these are rough approximations based on personal experience. Some of the variables to consider are terrain-heavily wooded areas absorb UHF quite a bit. Tall buildings block and reflect radio waves. Background (Static) noise and interference from other radios on or near your frequency can make it unusable. Atmospheric and solar conditions can enhance or decrease range.
I think there may be some misconceptions about repeaters here. First off, there are very few GMRS repeaters in the country. Unless you're lucky enough to have one in your area, and it is not closed to all but the owner, you'll have to build one. It's not as simple as putting a big black box in the closet with an antenna on the chimney. A high quality repeater can cost $3000 and up, then you have to find an appropriate high-altitude location with 120 volt power. You might want to find others to share the cost. This link: http://www.repeater-builder.com/john...o-repeater.pdf
will give you an idea of what goes into just the hardware for a repeater. There is a low cost alternative to conventional repeaters. https://www.argentdata.com/products/repeater.html
Then there's Amateur, or ham, radio. The term "ham radio" is a vague as " a gun." When you think about ham, you may think about world-wide communication capability. With a few exceptions, this capability is only found in High Frequency (HF) radios. HF ham bands range from 2MHz-30MHz. The reason HF gives long distance communication is because HF is reflected off the atmosphere, where VHF/UHF generally is not. The best way I can illustrate the difference between GMRS (UHF) and HF is to think about the difference between AM and FM on you car radio. You can pick up an AM signal hundreds of miles away, where an FM station peters out 50-60 miles out of town. HF DOES NOT REQUIRE REPEATERS! Unless local solar/atmospheric conditions result in a total HF black-out (rare, and will pass in a few hours), you will find a ham, somewhere in the world to tell your plight to, if you are skilled in HF.
On VHF and UHF ham frequencies, there are thousands of repeaters, and tens-of-thousands of hams on VHF/UHF . Actually, there are 700,000 licensed hams in the U.S.-not all of them are active. You've got to be in the boonies not to be in range of a fellow ham on 2 meter. I live in a county of close to 500,000 with over a dozen repeaters, yet if I put out an emergency call at 3:00AM, it will likely go unanswered because the few hams who may be awake at that time probably aren't listening to the radio unless there is an active emergency. Fortunately, a couple of the repeaters do allow a telephone patch.
An Amateur Radio Operators license allows you to do virtually anything physically possible with radio frequencies. It is the gold standard of personal communications. The entry level license is about as hard to get as a drivers license. The average person can pass the test with about ten hours study time. Morse code is no longer a requirement. In a perfect world, you, all your family, friends and neighbors would have a ham license. BROTHER, THAT AIN'T EVER GONNA HAPPEN! Not everyone will take the time to do it.
What I suggest in your case is that at least you get your Technician Class License (test required, good for 10 years $15 fee, no charge for renewal) as well as a GMRS license (no test, $85 fee, good for 5 years.) The GMRS license covers all your immediate family.
Get a mobile and at least two HTs, 32 channel, commercial grade. Most of the emergency responders are migrating to the 800MHz digital radios, leaving quite a few of the older radios as surplus at pretty low prices. You can program the 16 "Regular" GMRS frequencies, and 16 70cm (plenty for the common simplex/local repeaters) ham frequencies into the radios and you now have a radio that you can use for ham, while giving your family a professional quality, no-test-required radio, all in one. You mobile rig can quickly convert to a base by having a 12 volt power supply, and an antenna outside your house. With radios like this, your family, and any friends who also have GMRS licenses have quality local commo, with you serving as the link to other hams. Make sure everyone with access knows to stay off the ham frequencies except for emergencies. Under FCC regs, when there is an IMMEDIATE THREAT TO LIFE OR PROPERTY, AND NO OTHER MEANS OF COMMUNICATION IS AVAILABLE, you may use any radio on any frequency to call for assistance.
I hope someone Elmers you, 73