National Emergency Radio Frequencies: Simple How to Guide 2023

What are national emergency radio frequencies? Imagine being stuck in the middle of nowhere and your worst fears come to light. You need help but you have nothing but a radio and you’re not really too sure how to use it because you’ve never had to. Well in this post, you will learn everything from devices to tuning them in and of course a list of national emergency radio frequencies which you will need to help you in distress. Let’s have a look at a few minor technical details to get you up to speed first…

National Emergency Radio Frequencies – How Do They Work?


National Emergency Radio Frequencies - Frequencies

If you are an experienced radio user then you will more than likely skip over this section. (It wont be held against you!). But for those of you who may have gone out and bought yourself a shiny new radio for the first time, you may have a few questions surrounding their usage. So, you’ve opened the box and had a quick flick through the instruction manual. You’re pumped to start getting used to the damn thing. You’ve planned a hike or camping trip already for hecks sake! Then you get to this section that talks about frequencies….huh? What is a frequency and how do they actually work?

A frequency is the rate at which something occurs over a particular period of time or in a given sample. So in radio (or sound) terms, the frequency is the number of waves that occur per second. Waves are measured in Hertz, so 1 Hz is 1 wave. But, you’ve probably seen frequencies on specific devices that read 1000kHz or 225 MHz or 770 GHz. So what does the k, M or G stand for? They refer to amounts of the information that are transmitted per second in higher multiples.

k = Kilobyte so 1kHz = 1,000Hz (x1 thousand)

M = Megabyte so 1 MHz = 1,000,000Hz (x1 million)

G = Gigabyte so 1 GHz = 1,000,000,000Hz (x1 billion)


A wavelength on the other hand can be described as the length between 1 point on a wave to the exact same point on the next wave. For example, 1 peak to the exact same point on the next peak. When talking about the relationship between frequencies and wavelengths, the higher the frequency is, the lower the wavelength. A radio wave is an electromagnetic wave distributed by the use of an antenna. Each radio wave has a different frequency and when you tune your radio receiver to a specific frequency, you have the ability of picking up a specific signal.

I get it, it’s a little confusing but think about it like this, when you turn your radio on to a specific station, what you’re actually doing is turning into a specific frequency. So say for example you tune into 100.3, the radio frequency that you’ve tuned into is 100.3 Megahertz. We will have a look at this concept in more detail in a separate post but you get the idea.


The last sub-topic that needs to be addressed is channels. Now, channels are a simplified way of saying frequencies. Well not so simple but imagine saying, “Hey dad, can we watch channel 317.36MHz because the weather is coming on”

That would just be downright annoying trying to remember all the frequencies, hence why channels were formed. Now repeat after me: “Turn it on channel 4”

See how simple that was? This is the same with radio, people use channels instead of long frequencies. CB’s and FRS’s more often than not only have channels these days so you won’t have to worry about fiddling around with frequencies. Of course it’s still a good idea to understand how they work.

National Emergency Radio Frequencies – Useable Devices

To be correct in what is written here, Emergency communications are defined as:

Communications concerning hazards to the public’s safety that may cause a loss of life or property. They are not to be used in any other way than their intended purpose.

Let’s look at some devices that we can use to contact emergency services


There’s an array of different devices that are used as emergency radios in this day and age. Some are much better than others. Note that there are some legal issues/rules that you should definitely look into when using specific devices.

The most relevant radio types today are as follows:

Citizen’s Band (CB) 26 – 27 MHz (HF), 11 Meter Band, 40 Channels

  • Used mostly by truckers and some off road clubs (4WD)
  • Not extremely reliable, gets pretty crowded on the channels and the language on there can be pretty offensive at times.
  • Licence needed: No
  • Good emergency choice: No

Amateur Radio (Ham) 1.8 – 1300 MHz With Gaps In Between

  • Has a much wider range of frequency options
  • Powerful and broad – Can be tuned in locally as well as internationally
  • Can be used to transmit without a licence if in an emergency and you have no other way of getting help.
  • Licence needed: No if you just want to listen, Yes if you want to transmit
  • Good emergency choice: Yes

Family Radio Service (FRS) 462 – 467 MHz (UHF), 22 Channels

  • Overlaps frequencies with and can communicate with (GMRS)
  • Walkie-Talkie style radios – much better for personal use than CB
  • Licence needed: No
  • Good emergency choice: No

General Mobile Radio Services (GMRS) 462 – 467 MHz (UHF), 22 Channels

  • Overlaps frequencies with and can communicate with (FRS)
  • Business equivalent of an FRS – farmers, mill works, factories use them
  • The only radio option other than Ham that allows radio repeaters
  • Licence needed: Yes
  • Good emergency choice: Yes (for rural areas)
Two portable radiostations on the rock

Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) 151 – 154 MHz (VHF), 5 Channels

  • Not as common or popular than the others.
  • Very limited power
  • Latest versions connect to mobile device and can send text messages without cell network
  • Licence needed: No
  • Good emergency choice: Yes (for rural areas)

National Emergency Radio Frequencies – Tuning In

Now you have a fair idea of all the technical stuff but what if you just want to turn your device  on and start tuning in? As mentioned earlier, each device is manufactured and created differently. You will need to tune into frequencies on some devices. Others will just require you to flick through channels. It’s really as simple as it sounds. Each device will have a dial/knob that you can use to “scroll” through each frequency. Every analog device these days is clearly marked with certain increment frequencies. Digital devices however, are even more easier. They will show each separate frequency that you can dial into.

As far as channels are concerned, there will be a lot less to choose from. If you already know what channel to look for, you can just dial into that numbered channel.

Frequency List

Please note: To know which frequency to tune into for your local police or fire department, you’ll need a frequency guide or directory for your locality. Otherwise the below list is an extensive list of other emergency service radio frequencies

Maritime Mobile Service Frequencies

Marine VHF radio (short range maritime use) – channel 16 (156.8 MHz)

Cospas-Sarsat or SAR (satellite-based search and rescue) – 406 MHz to 406.1 MHz

Long Distance Distress Calls HF (High Frequencies)

  • 4125 kHz
  • 6215 kHz
  • 8291 kHz
  • 12290 kHz
  • 16420 kHz

Digital Selective Calling (DSC)

  • 2.1875 MHz
  • 4.2075 MHz
  • 6.312 MHz
  • 8.4145 MHz
  • 12.577 MHz
  • 16.8045 MHz
  • 156.525 MHz, Marine VHF radio Channel 70

Aeronautical Frequencies

Civil aircraft emergency frequency – 121.5 MHz and 243.0 MHz

NATO Military aircraft emergency frequency – 243 MHz

Cospas-Sarsat or SAR (satellite-based search and rescue) – 406 MHz to 406.1 MHz

Cockpit controls
Hand on cockpit controls

Search And Rescue Frequencies (SAR)

Aeronautical Auxiliary Frequency (International SAR operations) – 123.1 MHz

U.S. military SAR and direction finding (DF) – 138.78 MHz

Common national SAR – 155.160 MHz

U.S. Navy emergency sonobuoy communications and homing – 172.5 MHz

NATO on-the-scene voice and direct finding (DF) 282.8 MHz

Cospas-Sarsat or SAR (satellite-based search and rescue) – 406 MHz to 406.1 MHz

Emergency position-indicating radio beacon station (EPIRB) – 406 MHz to 406.1 MHz

Search and rescue transporter (SART) – 406 MHz to 406.1 MHz

Survival radio – 406 MHz to 406.1 MHz

Amateur Radio Frequencies

IRAU Regions (International Amateur Radio Union)

  • IARU Region 1: (Africa, Europe, Middle East, Northern Asia)
  • IARU Region 2: (The Americas – North, South And Central)
  • IARU Region 3: (Australia, Most of Asia, The Pacific Islands)

Click here for a full list of each country within the 3 Regions

The Following VHF, UHF Calling Frequencies Can Also Be Used To Make Emergency Calls

BandGlobalRegion 1
(Africa, Europe, Middle East, Northern Asia)
Region 2
(The Americas – North, South And Central)
Region 3
(Australia, Most of Asia, The Pacific Islands)
13 cm
23 cm1294.500 MHz (U.S.)1294.500 MHz (U.S.)
33 cmN/A927.500 MHz (U.S.)N/A
70 cm433.500 MHz (EU)446.00 MHz (U.S.)
1.25 mN/A223.500 MHz (U.S.)N/A
2 m145.500 MHz (EU)146.520 MHz (U.S. & Canada)145.000 MHz (Philippines, Indonesia & Thailand)
4 m70.450 MHz (EU)N/A
6 m52.525 MHz
10 m29.600 MHz
12 mRTTY/Packet only

MF And HF Frequencies

Emergency Centre Of Activity (ECOA) Frequencies Informally Established By The International Amateur Radio Union Regional Organizations:

BandGlobalRegion 1
(Africa, Europe, Middle East, Northern Asia)
Region 2
(The Americas – North, South And Central)
Region 3
(Australia, Most of Asia, The Pacific Islands)
15 m21360 kHz21360 kHz21360 kHz21360 kHz
17 m18160 kHz18160 kHz18160 kHz18160 kHz
20 m14300 kHz14300 kHz14300 kHz14300 kHz
30 m
40 mN/A7110 kHz7060 kHz
7240 kHz
7275 kHz

7110 kHz
60 mN/A
80 mN/A3760 kHz3750 kHz
3985 kHz
3600 kHz

Emergency/Disaster Relief Interoperation Voice Channels Of The Amateur Radio Global ALE High Frequency Network:

USB = Upper Side Band

LSB = Lower Side Band

  • 3791.0 kHz USB
  • 7185.5 kHz USB
  • 10145.5 kHz USB
  • 14346.0 kHz USB
  • 18117.5 kHz USB
  • 21432.5 kHz USB
  • 24932.0 kHz USB
  • 28312.5 kHz USB

Other Frequencies

Citizen’s Band (CB) Radio – Channel 9 (27.065 MHz AM) and 19 (27.185 MHz AM)

GMRS – 462.675MHz (Alaska and Canada) Also known as GMRS 675 or channel 6

MURS – 151.940 MHz

FRS – FRS 3: 462.6125 MHz

UHF CB (Australia): Channels 5 (476.525 MHz)  and 35 (477.275 MHz)

air transportation
Alarm for helicopter emergency medical service. Doctor looking from window on the road. Theme rescue, help and hope.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, an essentials list for national emergency radio frequencies. Admittedly, it is a bit of an extensive topic that requires a little pulling apart to understand. But hopefully this guide will help you in case that unfortunate emergency does actually happen to rear its head. It’s advised that you keep coming back and checking this list as it will be constantly updated. This is due to specific services changing their frequencies as it so suits them. Also, as a reminder, you should definitely have your required national emergency radio frequencies noted down and added to your bug out bag list as a safety precaution!

If you know of any other frequencies that should be added to the list, please comment below so it can be checked and added to the database. This will ensure that the most accurate information can be at the disposal of those in desperate need.

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