Emergency Radio System Help/Advice

Howdy all. My first post to this forum, and I hope you guys can give me some directions!

We live in a remote, mountainous, forested subdivision (in the US, along the Canadian border if that makes any difference). Our area is all over an entire mountainside, and many of us have concerns about being able to communicate during power outage, forest fires, etc. So we have been looking at finding a radio communication system we can use to communicate over an area of say 15 miles at the maximum, and an altitude difference of 3000 feet from highest to lowest.

We had considered an FRS radio system as they seemed relatively inexpensive and boasted distances of up to 35 miles. But in reading some of the threads here, sounds like that would be mountain peak to mountain peak, in other words a direct line of sight. And even with their long-distance claims, 1-2 miles would be more likely. So that’s a no go.

GMRS sounds like it would be more robust, but again in reading these forums, sounds like that system wouldn’t work either (unless I read this wrong).

So, is there a radio that would get the distance we need without having to set up base stations, etc.? Handhelds would be optimal so we can use them out around our properties (such as looking for a lost child in the woods). Realizing that power comes with a price, what are we looking at cost-wise?

Thanks for your wise counsel in advance! Hope there is a system out there that will fit our needs!


Hi, JB. Unfortunately, 15 miles of range is not realistic with a handheld radio, especially in mountainous terrain. To achieve 15 miles of range, you will probably require at least one repeater, placed at the top of a high peak would be ideal. Even the most powerful handheld radios (5 watts max allowed by the FCC) will still probably get 1-2 miles in most situations. Use of a repeater system or using base station radios would be the easiest way to extend this range.