27.555 is the CB DX calling frequency (a misnomer) for "freebanders". Being in the 11m spectrum, it's very fluky and inefficient. And, there are far fewer operators/stations available due to its being an illegal activity throughout most of the world. Decent propogation on this band doesn't occur until the SFI is in the mid hundreds, even when using SSB and large amounts of output power. Essentially, it's worse than even 10m, which many hams love to make DX contacts due to it's difficulty.
The 20 meter band is universally accepted as the most reliable band for use in times of emergency due to its ability to work in nearly all propogation conditions. At the lowest point in any solar cycle, it's not difficult to bend a signal halfway around the planet on 20m with only the 100w output of a standard amateur HF radio.
In a total collapse scenario (as if), my plan would be to scan through the local FM repeaters in order to find which have survived or are functional under emergency power. Second, to find out how things are coordinating on an international scale, like most other hams, I'll be turning to 20m. Knowing that there are ham stations set up around the globe that are already using alternative power, or are set up with back-up power, I'll have no concern about finding other stations to contact and possibly gain info or help.
Yeah...I showed one of my junior soldiers (and fellow HAM) my posting and it sparked a long discussion that roamed into the 20m range. I was educated on a few points and I think your 20m argument is valid...however I'm reminded that there's not very many good mobile units are 20m capable.
My research into the perfect zombie radio setup continues.
IC-706, IC-7000, DX-70TH, FT-100, all good and mobile-for-vehicles HF rigs. The station limitation with all these radios mobile is the antenna and even as stationary at home they're not exactly terrible radios.
Thanks for the FRS/GMRS info. I'm new and didn't realize my radio could do those. Probably won't but wth, with over a thousand memories might as well. Never know.
Comment on emergency communications. Just spent the weekend less than 40 miles from Sacramento. Had cell coverage less than 10% of the time. Had 2m coverage 95% of the time (surprised me as I was in some deep canyons on occasion). Most of the time I'd have had a ten mile walk for help. PLB or Spot is great if you're in a life threatening situation but stuck or broke down with ten mile walk doesn't count. The 2m would likely have eliminated that walk or at least let someone know my situation.
Hardest part about CBs is getting them installed properly and then the antenna tuned optimally. Most never or don't know how to tune their antenna and there in lies the rub...no range or very little range. Range is the most common issue with CBs even when tuned. They are basically line of site with lowest power settings (<5W), most don't even get a mile in range. Granted, CBs are generally significantly less expensive than a ham nor do they require a license (at least most of the people I know don't have a license for a CB or GMRs/FRS - even though in the USA one is required for GMRS). GMRS/FRS have come a long way from CBs and their range is significantly better (up to 20 miles I have heard) with less things (antennas, tuning, cables, etc.) to fuss about.
Not disputing what you said, though I think a better qualifier may be in order here...
27MHz CB radios certainly do need a proper set up (much like HAM does). However having that, it's actually quite normal to see a range of 10-20 miles in clear conditions using legal power levels (no external amplifiers). What tends to reduce a CB's range (besides improperly installed equipment like you mention) is either static radiated from external sources (power lines and/or vehicle equipment such as unshielded fuel pumps or HID lighting), and/or the elevated noise levels from the ionosphere refracting everyone's signals from around the continent (or world, even) into your receive all at once (sometimes occurs during daylight hours). Even at this however 1-2 miles should still be possible except maybe in some cases of severe interference from HID vehicle lights.
FRS/GMRS radios OTOH you would be lucky to get more than a few miles in typical use without the use of a repeater (which is only available on GMRS). Those "20+ mile" claims seen on many FRS unit's packaging is only for perfect ideal line-of-sight conditions (such as you standing on a tall mountain and the person you're talking to is also elevated above the terrain or any other obstructions). The good thing is that unlike a 27MHz CB, their range generally stays consistent at any given time per set of conditions, since their 462MHz band is not affected by (often uncontrollable) external noise sources near as much as 27MHz band is.
It should also be noted the wavelength of 27MHz CB signals is not conducive to it's use by handheld units, it's much too long for a short "rubber duckie" antenna to be even remotely efficient (and is why handheld CB units suck so bad). 10-20 miles is with using a good quality mobile-mounted CB radio & antenna. This certainly makes the smaller FRS units much more attractive for hand-held use.
After reading this thread... Canuck talked about the need to build a spreadsheet with some repeater information specific to geographic regions through the States, Canada, and maybe even for Mexico. I have technician lic and I am newbie. Yes I declare for everyone to read, I am a newb. This thread has some great info that has helped me with navigating around how to properly dial in and use my ham radio, well to some degree. Main uses for me is to be able to travel in my vehicle to remote areas and be connected to resources in case of an emergency. I guess there are directories out there and if anyone has a good direction for me please share a link to a database with repeater and area specific frequencies.