I will be editing this post a couple times to add things but here is the basic stub for now:
Amateur (Ham) Radio Basics
You can talk over long distances with minimal equipment. Your cost to start is under $100. Many of these units will also operate on the family radio channels.
In the case of a disaster, Ham Radio is the only reliable method of communication. You can not rely on the telephone system or cellular telephones.
Our area is prone to several kinds of disaster including fire, flood, landslide, earthquake and volcanic eruption.
You need to be licensed but the questions and answers are available for study. No electronics study is needed, just two weeks of casual memorization, 30 minutes/day, 4 days/week.
(local information deleted)
Our National Radio Organization
They celebrated their 100th birthday in 2015. Lots of free information on the site.
Amateur Radio Relay League
Online exam practice
You first register with them - by doing so, they can keep track of how well you do on the various "elements" of the exmination and when you take a practice test again, areas where you are weak will show up more often.
A great starter radio outfit:
Baofeng UV-5R - $26
BL-5L 3800mAh 7.4V Li-ion Battery - $15
Nagoya NA-771 Whip Antenna - $17
Programming cable - $21
This setup lists for about $80 at Amazon. Please note - if someone else in your area has the same radio and the programming cable, you might be able to borrow it from them. They should also have a file with all of your local frequencies available.
Some of my favorite vendors: