To communicate with emergency services in a localized SHTF. Flood and bush fire are very real threats in my AO. I may be a victim in need or I may be another set of eyes and ears to coordinate a rescue effort. Last year, my town was cut off for over 72 hours by flooding. The year before, my uncles town was evacuated before it was promptly surrounded by 20 meter high wall of flames in a bush fire. (The house survived). In my estimation, it would be useful to have a scanner (or ability to listen to emergency services communication) in the event of an emergency.
It's probable that you won't be able to communicate with emergency services directly since most of them have switched over to encrypted digital trunking systems. That's not something you just order out of a catalog, read a manual, and magically find a dispatcher waiting to talk to you. The most likely scenario is that you'll use some other radio type, which is being monitored by a volunteer who is probably a ham, who will relay your message to the emergency services.
- No its not for hobby use or talking to Mr. Crotchety down the lane on a Sunday afternoon. It's for taking along in National Parks where there are designated frequencies, its for marine use (fishing boat), emergency use, information gathering, and BOB use.
One radio will almost certainly not do all that unless you design it and build it yourself. The reason for this is that those are all different bands you list there. A radio that will receive in transmit in one of those bands will almost certainly be physically unable to receive and transmit in the others.
- I don't want to apprentice with HAM operators or other radio enthusiasts. I want a device to communicate with in an emergency. I can read a manual to figure out how to operate it.
You realize you just became the guy who says "Well, I'm going to buy a gun to protect my family with it but I'm not going to practice with it or get any training. You just pull the trigger, it's not hard", right? This is exactly the same thing.
Why does no one make this big of a fuss over cell phones?
Because cell phones have been simplified into a utility and radio hasn't. The analogous question to radio would be "I don't see why my Verizon cell phone doesn't work on ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile, in the US, in Europe, in Africa, and in the middle of the ocean where there's no cell tower.
Assuming a localized emergency (bush fire, flash flood, catastrophic hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, civil unrest are all present down here), the cell towers will likely be overwhelmed by anxious folks comforting loved ones. They are therefore no use in an emergency.
I want a device to communicate with, that reaches a greater audience than my own voice alone can reach. Again, don't care who is on the other end.
That is a stupid statement. You absolutely care who's on the other end. If you chose the wrong radio and what you end up with is one designed for land mobile commercial use, being able to talk on the frequency used by the local cement delivery company is going to do you no damned good in an emergency because no one will be at the cement dispatch office listening. You have
to define specific communications goals before you can chose what method will best suit them.
- I have no desire to be an actual expert in radio operation.
You don't need to be an expert in radio operation. You do need to be proficient, however, and that's as much about what to do once you push the key down as it is what to do to get the radio set up.
Sure I'll get a license if its the best thing to do, and as always common sense and proper ettiquete apply. But really, in an emergency as long as I know how to use the damn thing then I'll be better off with it than not having it at all ... Right or wrong?
Maybe, maybe not. Yes, luck plus a radio is better than nothing. However, without knowing anything other than what buttons do what on the radio, there's a million and one ways to push those buttons that will result in you not getting a message out to anyone. One of the most common is transmitting on the listed frequency of a repeater. Sounds like the right thing to do, after all, that's the frequency listed for the repeater! Turns out to be the wrong thing to do and totally useless.
Why all the fuss over a device to communicate with? IMO it just drives people away from an already dying hobby.
Because it turns out that 2-way radio communication isn't a simple thing to do well.
Also, it happens not to be a dying hobby. The number of licensed hams is increasing rapidly.
If theres punishment for not having a license then compliance is probably a good idea.
$10,000 and 2 years imprisonment for each illegal transmission (a transmission is each and every time you push the talk button so a single conversation can easily hit hundreds of "transmissions") plus confiscation of all radio equipment.