Communication is key when life's normal, and it's even more important in times of emergency. Earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters can wipe out or at least severely interrupt landline and mobile phone systems. Depending on the circumstances, there's a decent chance that in such moments a CB radio will get you connected to the outside world.
To understand why and how a CB radio could work when a landline and cell phone won't, it's important to understand a little about how each operate. A landline phone is generally more reliable than a cell phone during and in the aftermath of a storm. This is because landline phone lines are buried underground, whereas cell phone towers are high above ground -- good candidates for toppling over during disasters. Additionally, phone companies keep backup generators and batteries ready when the power goes out to keep the phone system running.
Although more vulnerable to weather conditions than landlines, cell phone systems also have backup power available, either in the form of batteries or backup generators. But unlike most landline phones, cell phones themselves run on batteries. When the phone's battery goes out and there's no power to recharge, the phone is useless, even if the cell towers are intact and running on backup power.
In situations where both landline and cell phone service are unavailable, a CB radio could work. All it needs is a 12 volt battery, such as the one found in any car or truck, and an antenna. It doesn't rely on lines, wires or towers, and requires only the open air. According to Radio Shack, CB radios can transmit a signal that travels between one and four miles.
The term "CB" stands for "Citizen Band." In the early 1980s, the Federal Communication Commission dropped the requirement that CB users be licensed, although users are still bound by other FCC regulations. The 40 CB frequencies available for citizen use range from 26.965 to 27.405 megahertz. CB channel 9 (27.065 megahertz) is officially recognized by the FCC as an emergency contact channel.
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