I have read several articles on the internet recently advocating ham and other long-range radios. While I think these are great and very useful, I going to talk about some advantages of short-range radios. In my opinion, you should divide radios in two classes, strategic and tactical. Strategic would include long-range two-way communications, television, AM/FM radio networks and shortwave.
Tactical would include the FRS/GMRS (Family Radio Service and General Mobile Radio Service). The manufactures of FRS radios claim the range is up to 2 miles. The actual range is closer to ¼ to 1 mile depending on the terrain. They are small inexpensive two-way radios that operate on 14 dedicated channels.
Many of the new radios coming on the market are hybrid radios, meaning that the radio is FRS/GMRS, and works in a GMRS band as well. The GMRS had a bigger range and many of these radios will list 22 channels and a range of 25 – 50 miles. The GMRS radios have a longer range, but the range stated by the manufacture always seems to be about twice what you actually get. The hybrid radios will be short range only if used on the FRS channels. You can still find some FRS band radios on the market.
FRS/GMRS radios can be purchased in pairs for as little as $35.00 a pair. The reason I have designated them as a tactical radio is their short range. In a real emergency, you may not want people to know your location. A radio with a range of less than a mile may be a great convenience in bug out location. It is much less likely to attract attention than a longer-range radio. More range means more potential listeners.
One caveat when using radios from different manufacturers–some features only work with radios from the same manufacturer, or even the same model. For example, we were unable to communicate using some of the CTCSS sub-channels, or privacy channels, on radios that were not the same brand. If using more than one manufacturer’s models, you should consult the documentation for the exact frequencies used for these sub-channels. Also, radio accessories are not standard, so any accessories you buy must be from the manufacturer of your radio. I would recommend that you standardize your radios so that they all use one type of battery, preferably doubles AAs.
FRS radios do not require a license; GMRS radios require a license from the FCC.