Fact Checked

What is a Handheld Radio?

Sonal Panse
Sonal Panse

A handheld radio is a compact and portable radio unit that can be carried anywhere and can be used at any time, even while the operator is in motion. Handheld radios are convenient for communication exchanges in a number of situations, including emergency alerts, rescue operations, adventure expeditions, marine explorations, and military maneuvers. The radios are regularly used to relay traffic conditions, route directions, weather alerts and other public service information.

The standard features of a handheld radio include an LCD screen, a built-in microphone, a built-in speaker, a flexible antenna and a rechargeable battery pack. Emergency radios have easy-to-use operational tools that can be easily worked in risky situations or in bulky protective gear. A marine radio is a waterproof radio that has a case preventing sea water from destroying the interior mechanism. Handheld radios are used in the same way as a cellphone, but the handheld aspect may not be ideal in some circumstances and so we have speaker-mikes and headsets that allow for a hands-free operation.

Handheld radios can be used to communicate in a variety of settings.
Handheld radios can be used to communicate in a variety of settings.

The battery pack can be a series of connected and rechargeable cells, or disposable AAA or AA batteries; there are various types of chargers to power the rechargeable battery pack. It is a good idea to get a handheld CB radio that allows for both types of batteries in case of situations where there is no power supply to recharge the battery pack. The antenna, also known as a rubber duck, is detachable and the handheld radio can be fitted with a stronger external antenna if necessary.

There are two main types of handheld radios, the ones that operate on two-band frequencies and the ones that operate on multi-band frequencies. Some handheld radios, particularly the ones meant to be used in emergencies, are usually able to transmit only on channel 16; this is the international emergency channel. Using this channel for non-emergency broadcast is considered an offense in many countries and violators can receive stiff monetary fines.

It is important to consider why the radio is being purchased before acquiring it. If it is intended for other communication purposes, it is wise to get a two way handheld radio that can transmit on other channels as well. Handheld radios normally have less communication ability than fixed radios, but improvements in technology have produced some very decent models that are quite on par with mid-range fixed radios. It is also important to select a handheld radio with enough power to communicate from whenever the users are going to be.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I remember hearing that one of the many problems on 9/11 was the failure of some of the handheld radios. There was a break in the lines of communications and brave men and women were trapped in the buildings as they collapsed. Can anyone tell me more about what happened as far as the radios go?


It is hard to know how long the batteries will last in something until you go out and actually use it yourself for the full life of a battery. But you will get a lot more out of your handheld radio if you get one that maximizes it's battery life.

I have one that can go for almost 10 hours straight with a single set of batteries. One day I listened to it non stop while I was on a fishing trip with some friends. Dind't cut out once and we even had music for the ride home.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Handheld radios can be used to communicate in a variety of settings.
      By: sallydexter
      Handheld radios can be used to communicate in a variety of settings.