If you are not a HAM, there are a few options.
1) FRS frequencies. These are on all of the Motorola 'talkabout' radios. There are no license requirements for this band, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of these radios on the market that can be had cheaply. Typical range will be 2 miles or less.
2) GMRS frequencies. Most radios that do FRS will also do GMRS. Technically, you are supposed to have a special license (you only apply, and pay a fee/tax...no knowledge test), but the reality is that people are using this band everyday with no license, and there is no enforcement effort. Range is the same as with FRS, but there are GMRS repeaters that can extend your range, but you will DEFINITELY need the license if you want to join a club and get access to those repeaters.
3) CB frequencies. These are littered with trash talk, but should not be ignored as a viable communication channel in an emergency.
Many HAMs monitor GMRS as well. Some monitor FRS. Few monitor CB. In a SHTF scenario, I would imagine all three options will be monitored more actively.