Emergency Frequencies for Ham Radio Communication

Rick Brandt Written By:
Rick Brandt
Andy Klugman Fact Checked By:
Andy Klugman
Emergency Frequencies for Ham Radio

Apart from being a hobby gadget, the ham radio has another key function: Communicating during emergencies. At least, it has proved to be the most reliable device during disasters. Sadly, most amateurs do not understand that there are emergency frequencies for ham radio.

You can use the ham radio in emergencies such as fires, car accidents, and floods, among other situations if it has been programmed to use the emergency ham radio frequencies. Program it to receive the right radio bands. Otherwise, your radio would be useless during a life-threatening situation (God forbid!). Emergency frequencies operate across 7 VHF bands. These bands operate from 162.400 MHz to 162.550 MHz.

This article focuses on ham radio emergency frequencies. You do not want to be trapped in a disaster with a ham that could be a life-saver but ends up being useless! Do you? So, keep reading.

Emergency Frequencies: A Network of Reliability

Immediately after buying a ham radio and doing the ham radio setup, the next thing you should know is how to make contact during a disaster. You should, therefore, learn how to program your ham communication radio to receive signals during emergencies.

With emergency frequencies for ham radio, you can transmit and receive vital information even when other communication channels are down. This is because they never depend on conventional communication infrastructure.

You do not want to start programming your radio when disaster strikes; this has to be done before.

So, which are these ham emergency frequencies? They include:

  • FEMA Broadcasts
  • The NOAA Broadcast
  • The Local Ham Radio Frequencies
  • The National Ham Radio Frequencies

Let me take a moment to discuss them.

FEMA Broadcasts

When in need of humanitarian aid such as shelter, food, and water during disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) provides such aid. They broadcast over the VHF range (138.225 to 409.1250). So, program your ham to receive signals through any of their bands.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Broadcasts

NOAA provides emergency information regarding weather and other related issues. Also, NOAA broadcasts live weather-related information 24/7. To make this possible, it co-works with FCC.

So, you need to keep an eye on their frequencies because they are the sole source of weather-related disaster information. While this is true, you fully understand that weather-related disasters are deadly and can cause havoc within minutes. Hence, it is vital to keep an eye on NOAA’s daily updates.

To receive weather updates, program your ham radio to any of their bands as shown below:

  • 45
  • 50
  • 400
  • 525
  • 425
  • 475
  • 550

The Local Ham Radio Frequencies

Local ham radio bands help you keep in contact with the local hams. Consequently, you can call local radio operators in a disaster and explain the prevailing circumstances to get help.

Get in touch with the local hams to get the local frequencies. Alternatively, go to the local ham clubs. You will also get the local frequencies if you participate in ham communication radio activities and drills.

That said and done, you need to know the local repeaters and tune in to them. Why? Local repeaters come in handy when the only hams you need to communicate with are in a far range, probably the neighboring county.

So, also tune in to the local repeaters’ bands.

The National Ham Radio Frequencies

Though there are many national frequencies to tune your ham radio to, during a disaster, you need immediate help to save your life and that of your loved ones.

Therefore, using the national simplex frequencies is the way to go, and here is why: There are hams who are always monitoring these frequencies. Consequently, you are likely to get instant help at that critical moment.

Respectively, the 2m and the 70 cm frequencies are 146.520 MHz and 446.00 MHz.

Are these the only frequencies available during a disaster? No. There are other frequencies that help when you urgently need help since the respective organizations keep monitoring them.

Other frequencies you could contact include but are not limited to:

  • Search and rescue: 155.160
  • National Air Guard: 168.6250
  • Red cross-national relief: 47.42
  • Aeronautical International Emergency: 121.50
  • Inter-department police forces emergency communication: 39.460
  • Housing and urban department communications monitoring: 164.500
  • Inter-department fire communications: 154.295, 154.280, and 154.265

Do not stop at programming your ham radio to receive from these frequencies. You also need to monitor them to stay up-to-date with any crucial information.

What Radio Frequency Do I Use For Emergency?

Besides the radio frequency for emergencies, I have listed above, you could use other international radio frequencies when an emergency arises. These include:

  • Survivalcraft: 8364 KHz
  • NATO Submarine Rescue System: 2182 KHz
  • Combined NATO Submarine Rescue System: 4340 kHz
  • Global maritime distress and safety System: 406.0 MHz
  • Aviation International emergency frequency: 121.5 MHz
  • Aircraft safety and on-scene aid, including search and rescue: 156.8 MHz

Most critical emergency frequencies used in ham radio:

  1. Primary Emergency Frequencies: These frequencies, often known as “calling frequencies,” serve as initial contact points during emergencies. The most widely recognized primary emergency frequencies include 146.520 MHz for the 2-meter band and 446.000 MHz for the 70-centimeter band. While these frequencies should not be used for extended communication, they provide a channel for hams to establish initial contact and coordinate further communication.
  2. National Traffic System (NTS) Frequencies: The NTS is a network of ham radio operators dedicated to handling formal message traffic during emergencies. Frequencies within the 80, 40, and 20-meter bands are often used for NTS operations. These frequencies allow hams to transmit and receive important messages between affected areas and emergency coordination centers.
  3. Weather Frequencies: Ham radio operators play a crucial role in gathering and relaying weather information during severe weather events. Frequencies such as 162.550 MHz for the NOAA Weather Radio can be monitored to stay informed about changing weather conditions.
  4. Aircraft Frequencies: In situations where conventional air traffic communication systems fail, ham radio operators can monitor aviation frequencies to assist with communication between pilots and air traffic control.
  5. International Distress Frequencies: Ham radio operators also play a role in relaying distress calls on international maritime and aeronautical frequencies, such as 14.300 MHz and 7.110 MHz.
  6. Satellite Frequencies: With the advent of satellite communication, ham radio operators can utilize satellites in low Earth orbit to establish communication links, especially in remote and disaster-stricken areas.

The Vital Role of Ham Radio in Emergencies

During emergencies, conventional communication infrastructure like cell towers and internet networks can become compromised or overloaded. This is where ham radio’s reliability shines. Ham radio operators can deploy quickly and establish communication networks, enabling them to relay crucial information, coordinate rescue efforts, and provide real-time updates to authorities and affected communities.

Moreover, ham radio operators are often trained in emergency protocols, message handling, and disaster management. Their skills allow them to serve as effective intermediaries between different response agencies, ensuring seamless coordination and communication flow.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: Can You Use A Ham Radio In An Emergency?
Yes, you can use a ham radio in an emergency. In fact, the ham radio is the most reliable communication device during a disaster since it depends not on the conventional communication infrastructure.

Also, while other modes of communication go down due to the effects of, say, floods and tornadoes, ham radio communication is intact. However, you need to program your ham radio so that it can be of help during a disaster.

Q2: Why are emergency frequencies important for ham radio operators?

Emergency frequencies are essential because they allow ham radio operators to quickly respond and provide communication support during emergencies. These frequencies are carefully chosen to ensure effective coordination, message relay, and assistance to affected areas.

Q3: What are primary emergency frequencies?

Primary emergency frequencies, often referred to as “calling frequencies,” are initial contact points used by ham radio operators to establish communication during emergencies. While they are not meant for extended communication, they serve as a starting point for hams to connect and coordinate further communication on other frequencies.

Q4: How do ham radio operators assist with weather information during emergencies?

Ham radio operators monitor weather frequencies, such as those used by the NOAA Weather Radio, to gather and relay weather information during severe weather events. By providing real-time updates, hams contribute to keeping communities informed and prepared.

Q5: Can ham radio operators communicate with aircraft during emergencies?

Yes, ham radio operators can monitor aviation frequencies to assist with communication between pilots and air traffic control in situations where conventional air traffic communication systems are compromised.

Q6: What are international distress frequencies, and how are they used?

International distress frequencies are specific radio frequencies designated for distress calls. Ham radio operators can relay distress calls on maritime and aeronautical frequencies, assisting in emergency situations where communication is critical.

Q7: How do ham radio operators use satellite frequencies during emergencies?

Ham radio operators can utilize satellites in low Earth orbit to establish communication links, particularly in remote or disaster-stricken areas. This enables them to relay information and maintain communication when traditional infrastructure is unavailable.

Q8: How can I become a licensed ham radio operator to participate in emergency communication?

To become a licensed ham radio operator, you need to obtain a Ham license from the relevant regulatory authority in your country, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States. This typically involves passing an exam that covers technical and regulatory aspects of ham radio operation. Once licensed, you can access various frequencies, including those designated for emergency communication and don’t forget to renew the ham radio license after expired.

Parting Shot

The emergency frequencies for ham radios are vital when you need help during a disaster. Sadly, when a disaster has started, you cannot program your radio to receive and transmit to the said frequencies.

So, you need to program your ham radio immediately after setting it up to stay up-to-date with the key information.

While you may not program the ham radio to transmit and receive from all these emergency frequencies, you should at least have several; for example, FEMA Broadcasts, the NOAA broadcasts, the Local Ham Radio, and the National Ham Radio.

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