There are basically 2 types of Ham Radio’s. Handhelds (HT’s) and Mobile/Base units.
Handhelds tend to be fine transceivers for emergency communications. They are small, light, easy to pack in your go bag or the glove box of your car or even keep in your purse. Where as normal 2 way radios are limited to 1.5 watts of power, HT’s are between 2.5-8 watts of power output which translates to farther distance. The real beauty of an HT over a regular 2 way radio is that you may be able to connect to a repeater outside of the emergency area. Connecting to a repeater which will retransmit your signal now gives you a distance of 50 miles or more. An HT’s range can be extended with aftermarket antennas, in fact a good aftermarket antenna is a must for emergency communications in my opinion, even if you can access the local repeater just fine on the stock antenna, a more efficient aftermarket antenna will allow you to use lower power, and give you a greater range therefore letting your battery last longer.
HT’s don’t require a lot of technical knowledge. They are mostly just turn it on, and use it. When it comes to cost some handheld units are about the same as a quality 2 way radio. The Baofeng UV-5R is a great radio for this type of situation.
Although a Mobile/Base unit are not as portable as a handheld they do have their benefits over them. Mobile units often benefit from better antenna installations and power availability allowing you to talk anywhere from local, to across the country and even across the world with no middle-man infrastructure such as repeaters. While the local and regional communications are probably your most important thought for an emergency situation, there are preparedness networks across the country that operate weekly to disseminate information to peppers. Two that come to mind are AmRRON (American Redoubt Radio Operators Network) and TAPRN ( The American Preparedness Radio Network). The Yaesu FT-857D is a great radio for this purpose and very popular among peppers.
In conclusion out of all the methods I have discussed in the 4 part series I believe the Ham radios are the best option. They give you better range which translates into more chance of getting help. They are currently in use more than CB radios even though there are a lot of truckers out there. The only drawback is that they require a license to operate which really are not that difficult to acquire for the beginner level you would need.