Should Non-hams have BaoFengs in their emergency kits?

You would be hard-pressed to find a website that is outlining what to place in an emergency kit for your family home, car, or workplace, that didn’t include a battery-powered radio on the list.  But this doesn’t necessarily mean a Boafeng radio or other ham radio apparatus.

Emergency Kit Radios for amateur radio hams

Red Cross recommends that you keep a disaster preparedness kit in your home with enough supplies to meet your family’s needs for at least 3 days.  Canada Government emergency preparedness website also suggests your emergency kit should contain basic supplies that your family can survive on during an emergency — even in cases where the power is out for an extended period. Each emergency kit list includes a battery-powered radio and traditional these have been AM/FM radios.

The ability to hear AM/FM stations or listen to the Weatheradio transmitter is important during a disaster. Emergency communications with radio apparatus are often crucial when disaster strikes, like we recently saw when Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas: Cellular networks get overloaded and become unavailable, infrastructure fails, and internet connections go dark. That means you need a proper emergency radio apparatus. This has lead many people to have a simple and low-cost Ham radio in their emergency kit bag. With a simple search in Google for the term “baofeng emergency radio” and you will realize just how popular these radios are for the average citizen to add to their Emergency kit bags. 

Even in the ham radio community, it’s generally excepted that if you don’t transmit then it’s fine for none license hams to own amateur radio apparatus. Many of these low-cost Asian radios have become a gateway radio for people to enter the hobby and get their license down the road.

Unfortunately, this is illegal and against Canadian law, owning or possessing a radio apparatus is prohibited unless you are a holder of an amateur radio license.

Possession of radio apparatus is prohibited unless

4(1)(b) of the Radiocomunication Act essentially says that possession of radio apparatus is prohibited unless allowed by the act or a regulation Prohibitions 4 (1) No person shall, except under and in accordance with a radio authorization, install, operate or possess radio apparatus, other than (a) radio apparatus exempted by or under regulations made under paragraph 6(1)(m); or 3(a)(ii) of the Radiocommunication Regulations essentially says a licensed amateur is authorized to possess amateur radio equipment

Radio apparatus means a device or combination of devices intended for, or capable of being used for, radiocommunication.

It is important to point out that Canadian law is different then the American law. American Law is often cited when discussing the use of the Baofeng or other amateur radio apparatus.

Radios that transmit on specific frequencies such as the Family Band (FRS) or GMRS frequencies require appropriate licencing. In order to legally transmit on those bands, the radio requires a certification from Industry Canada. The BaoFeng family of radios is considered to be an amateur (HAM) radio and does NOT have the required certifications to transmit outside of HAM radio frequencies.

The BaoFeng radios can not legally be used to transmit outside of HAM frequencies unless the operator holds the appropriate certifications. Amateur (HAM) radio licences can be obtained from Industry Canada, see our blog post that contains HAM radio licencing resources.

FosPower Emergency Solar Crank Portable Radio
FosPower Emergency Solar Crank Portable Radio

Canadian law doesn’t allow for listening (scanning) radio frequencies with Ham Radio apparatus or with Baofengs radios. If you have a new BaoFeng UV-5R IC radio and utilize it to listen to local weather repeaters, emergency services, etc it isn’t legal for you to own this radio without a ham license. The good news is that that the ISED inspectors, don’t seem to really care. You could line your walls with ham radio gear without concern. They will act if you use it improperly and cause interference or otherwise cause complaints. Which is most often police by local ham radio clubs.

So the official letter of the law according to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada ( ISED ), and the Radio Communications Act is that these radios can only be used on HAM frequencies. Any other use would be in contravention of the Radio Communications Act. If you don’t have a Ham license you can not possess them and citizens should stick to a simple AM/FM radio in their emergency kit.

2 Replies to “Should Non-hams have BaoFengs in their emergency kits?”

  1. Dave Cason

    Ah ! Look another self appointed guardian of the airwaves !!

    What is the gratification “you people” seem to get-off-on over this ? What exactly is the big hard on you get from telling people NO, over and over and over again about ham radio?

    I see your types constantly slither out from under your rock and every time, it ‘s the same thing No, you can’t do this and NO, you can’t do that!!! YOU don’t have a license and I DO, there for I have been anointed by my god, king, and country to tell you NO !! No No NO !!

    It’s so god damm annoying and I hear it – ALL THE TIME, and holy crap, thank goodness you’re here because the bands are a din of devil worship rag chawing and satanic music literally 24 hours a day …. aren’t they !?

    You know what Super Cop? If I ever hear about a guy who got saved somehow, somewhere, by calling out for help and getting it on 14.200 one day – you know what I’d say? Good for Him and I’m glad we could help!!

    Someone’s gonna hear him and save his ass with or with a license and it’s STILL better to be tried by 12 then carried by 6 and now too even piss you off even more, guess what, most of my radios are open and mod’ed ……. So I guess we’ll see each other in hell.

    SHUT UP ! No one cares, and the bands aren’t exactly stacked with traffic anyway so go point your hair dryer at cars going fact in your neighborhood instead!!

    With ever so much love and affection !
    Dave Cason

    • lastwire

      I don’t disagree with you. I purchased radios long before I was licensed as a ham because I wanted my kids to have a way to contact me if we got separated on a hike or other activity. This has nothing to do with using the radio in an emergency, it’s about the Canadian laws that say you can not own a Ham radio (ie Boafeng) if you don’t have a license. Many people seem to think you can purchase and carry a radio, just in case they are in trouble. But the laws say you cannot and could be charged if found in possession of one in a non-emergency situation…I didn’t write the law…please forward your anger to your MP Michelle Garner.

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