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Thread: Let's talk Comms.

  1. #1
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    Let's talk Comms.

    My recent post in another thread about all the things about modern civilisation that give me the warm 'n fuzzies got me think about one such item:

    Communication.

    Despite being the last man alive without a cellular phone, I enjoy being able to contact friends/family via the telephone. It's one of the big ones that I think we collectively take for granted, having never known life without some form of electronic/remote communication.

    Has anyone factored in comm-gear into their preps?

    How does one power the equipment in the event of disruption to the grid? I've thought about solar panels, but I don't know if they'll pump the juice necessary to power the gear.

    Options; there's tons. CB/HAM/GMRS/FM/UHF/SW/etc.

    I know very little about commercially available communications setups; yet it's something I'd definitely like to incorporate into my "OMG!" kit.

  2. #2
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    I keep a couple sets of FRS/GMRS radios at home. I use them for paintball, car club road trips, family theme park trips, etc. I keep plenty of batteries (alkaline, NiMh rechargeable, and energizer lithium) on hand at all times. I also have the radio that I use for the rescue squad. It is a VHF radio, programmed to transmit and receive on local fire, ems, and police bands, statewide ems, as well as receive weather channel and state police broadcasts. Unfortunately, it requires a computer and special cable/software to program (have to go to dispatch to have it programmed). This means that it is relatively worthless outside of my home county (aside from statewide EMS traffic). I have been looking out for good deals on keypad programmable radios (VHF/UHF) on fleabay, but they are few and far between. An important resource to have in addition to any radio system is a list of frequencies and the agencies that use them. Radioreference.com is invaluable as a resource - you can choose your state/local government, private business, etc. This allows you to preplan to not only have freq's for your local area, but also for your bugout location AND everywhere in between (provided your radio has enough channels).

    I also keep a handheld digital trunking scanner that also runs on regular AA's. This helps me conserve the battery of the radio, and will also pick up aviation, marine, CB, etc. signals.

    I don't know all that much about CBs or ham equipment, but it is certainly something I would like to explore. A simple CB radio/antenna combo can be had for under $100, but I don't know how effective it would be. Right now I'm pretty comfortable with what I've got.

    Oh, and I also keep a pre-paid tracfone and card (unactivated) in each car, and one in the BOB. You never know when you might need it, if you lose your cell phone, or you get no signal on your network (Tracfone will hit pretty much any tower out there). Besides, they were less than $20 each.

  3. #3
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    I have some FRS radios and a CB. There are still quite a few CB'ers out their so I would bet that they would be pretty popular in an emergency.

    My goal this year is to get my HAM license then purchase some portable VHF HAM radios.
    "The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental." John Steinbeck

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLandlord View Post
    Has anyone factored in comm-gear into their preps?
    Sure, but the question is, who do you want to communicate with? Both sides need a compatible device and the ability to power it.

    How does one power the equipment in the event of disruption to the grid? I've thought about solar panels, but I don't know if they'll pump the juice necessary to power the gear.
    Batteries, generally. Solar panels can work without batteries, but only during the day while the sun is shining. Most radios have reasonable power requirements so they aren't hard or require large power systems to run.

    Local few miles can be handled by hand helds with AAs or small battery packs. Larger, longer range, can usually run off 12v systems. You could run it from your car, or a solar panel.

  5. #5
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    2Meter VHF Ham is the way to go.
    My brother saw Deliverance and bought a Bow. I saw Deliverance and bought an AR-15.

  6. #6
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    This should be an interesting thread
    "Intelligence is not the ability to regurgitate information. It is the ability to make sound decisions on a consistent basis "--me

    "Just remember, when you are talking to the average person, you are talking to a television set"--RDJB

    One Big Ass Mistake America

  7. #7
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    Comms figure big in my wife & I's preps.

    With communication capabilities you are able to monitor what is going on in everything from your local environment to the world.

    When severe weather comes into our area, we fire up the 2 meter amateur radios and monitor Skywarn. This allows us to real time where the severe weather is. This has proven more than useful a time or two.

    Amateur radio has also given me the ability to help with post disaster recovery. May of 2003 a large F3 flattened the town where my parents lived. As we could not reach them by phone, (land line or cell) I loaded up the truck and drove the 2 1/2 hours down. The area had been hit hard, cell towers were down, the downtown area leveled. The local phone exchange building had been scrubbed down to the foundation.

    The only means of communication in our out of there for the first couple of days was by radio. The day after the tornado I spent driving around with my parents checking on the elderly population. I was able to relay message traffic to another amateur radio operator in a different town, she in turn was able to call families and let them know the status of their loved ones.

    A General amateur radio license and an HF radio give us world wide communications capabilities. Even during poor radio conditions we've talked to stations from New Zealand to Russia.

    Comms also give you a huge tactical advantage. They allow you to know what is happening somewhere else and by knowing that information, allow you to plan for those situations. You can be PROACTIVE, rather than REACTIVE.

    An amateur radio technician license is relatively easy to get. A little time studying the material, $14, and find a local test location and you will be good to go. The test is easy to pass with a little reading and studying before hand. If all goes as planned my 8 year old daughter is going to test the first of next year.

    Semper Fi

  8. #8
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    Preface: Don't jump in with comments about legality. Assume that when I'm talking about operating outside a ham band, I'm talking about emergency situations, which FCC rules clearly state is permissible (any mode, any power, any method available). This is a technical discussion, not a "OMGWTFBBQ!! The hams are going to DF your signal and come and paste pocket protectors all over your house!, and the FCC is going to burn your house down, fine you, and violate your daughter!" discussion.

    I've been working on this very thing the last couple of weeks.

    The Yaesu FT-897D is (imo) the best reasonably priced radio available for what we're talking about. After a simple modification, it is capable of transmitting 1.8-56mHz with no gaps, 136-173mHz no gaps, and 410-470mHz no gaps. Also, it is capable of USB/LSB, AM, FM, CW, and digital modes right out of the box. It puts out 100w of power on external 12V/23A power, and is capable of 20 watts on optional INTERNAL rechargeable LiPo battery packs. It has two very capable auto-tuners available for it, and they can be bolted right to the side of the rig.

    A homemade dipole antenna rolls up on an extension cord reel nicely, and all this fits in a small ruck. On the internal batteries, you can expect at least 8 hours of continuous operation before you need to recharge (which can be done from 110 or from 12vdc.)

    Couple this with a communication method known as NVIS, or Near-Vertical Incident Skywave, and things begin to get very interesting for the tactical communicator.

    I differentiate the tactical communicator from the ham dork (hereafter TC and HD) because of the following:
    • The ham dork does not necessarily want to talk to a specific station. Normally, he wants to talk as far as possible with little regard for a specific contact, except for wanting to contact someone in a specific country. Oddly enough, they actually have contests to see how many random strangers they can talk to. It takes all kinds, I guess.
    • The tactical communicator wants to talk to a specific station/unit/person. This is an important distinction, because a successful comm shot to a specific station is a much more interesting problem than simply getting an antenna up and talking to somebody.


    Without boring the shit out of you with technical details, just know that there are basically two methods by which radio waves propagate: skywave and groundwave. Skywave is when a signal is reflected off one of the layers of the ionosphere, and groundwave is a signal that follows (this is an oversimplification, I know, but I'm trying to keep this simple) the nap of the earth. Your range with a groundwave is basically limited to the horizon plus a small fraction that can vary based on some weird things that don't really concern us here.

    The usual method of communication at HF (high frequency, or 1-30mHz) is skywave, or some variation thereof. Basically this means you are skipping a signal off one of the layers of the ionosphere like skipping a rock across a pond. This results in the signal going much farther, but depending on several factors I won't go into right now, like skipping a rock across a pond you wind up with gaps in coverage (a.k.a. skip zones.) This explains why your Uncle Bob's ham radio can talk to Hoo Flung Poo in Yokota, but not to your Uncle Elmer's 75 miles away.

    NVIS is different. It is used mostly in military applications, because its maximum range is typically somewhere between 100-400 miles, which makes it less interesting for HDs. The truly interesting thing about it, though, is that it covers 0-whatever max with NO gaps in coverage, making it VERY useful for military applications that are out of VHF range because of distance, terrain, or whatever.

    One of the coolest things about NVIS is that it uses a LOW antenna, not a high one, because the lower your antenna is, the more the signal goes straight up, which is what you want in this application. It works like this: Picture taking a hose into your living room, pointing it straight up at the ceiling, and turning it on. You will get a more-or-less even distribution of water around the whole room, after it splashes (reflects) off the ceiling. So it is with NVIS propagation.

    OK - why is this interesting? Because you can throw up a dipole at 6 feet off the ground and have reliable comms with anyone in range, including WAY out of VHF range.

    More to follow if anyone's interested.

  9. #9
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    I'll be happy just to stay in short range contact with family and allies. Marine radios (Base and Hand Held) seem to work well with out all the jammed air waves when used inland. While not a next town deal I have had clear com past 20 miles. More then enough for my needs.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heavy Metal View Post
    2Meter VHF Ham is the way to go.
    Total Noob here: are these line of site? What are there range? LOS stuff doesn't go very far out here...

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