SHTF Communications

Yeah this is a non medical blog on a medical blog post. 🙂 But it is important. What if you or someone with you is hurt Cell phone doesn’t work anymore and you have a radio?

SHTF Communications

We spend fortunes on food, weapons shelter and hopefully medicine. But one thing a lot of preppers skimp on is communications. And the training to use them. A decent radio ad knowing how to use it can make the difference in making it home and spending a night in your car with temperatures approaching 0. Or worse.

Show pop quiz me hearties. Who here bases their commo off of  FRS “walkie talkies”? They are good little radios, decent range and inexpensive

Image courtesy of  Cobra radios

The maximum range on the box will say something like 16-35 mile range. Ummm yeah. I have some ocean front property in Yuma for sale.

Don’t get me wrong FRS works well. You can even build or buy repeaters for it. But it lacks a lot of features that you really need for survival communications.

Whoops My wife just told me this post needs a glossary.

FRS Family Radio Service A frequency plan set up by the FCC for low powered civilian radios No FCC License required

Repeater. A device the receives a radio signal and “repeats” it vastly improving range

Ham Radio. The Amatrure Radio service. It DOES require an FCC License The frequency spread ranges from 1.8 mhz all the way to 300 Ghz

Technician This the first license that can be earned Gives decent amount of frequency use

General. This class grants privileges on the majority of  ham frequencies

Extra. This class means that you can transmit on ALL Ham frequencies

Beam Antenna An outdoor antenna, usually mounted on a rotor, that concentrates more transmitter power (or receives better) in a certain direction. Basically :”beams” it’s energy

Call Sign.  A group of letters and numbers used to identify a station and the country authorizing its operation.

XX Meters. The Ham bands are set up by wavelength. And measured in meters. Wavelength of the ham bands can range  from  23 cm to 160 meters.
Wavelength  The distance between 2 “waves” of a radio transmission and this is converted to meters.

Frequency  The rate at which a vibration occurs that constitutes a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light), usually measured per second. IE 440 Mhz 5.2 Khz. Hertz (Hz) Is the vibration

HT  Handy talkie Ham term for a walkie talkie.

Dipole An antenna composed of 2 pieces of wire or metal. These are GREAT for on the fly antennas when you need much more than the original antenna

Image courtesy of the American Radio Relay League

Ok enough terms for the moment. Go on Amazon or Ebay  and you will see HUNDREDS  of Ham radios. Choices Choices. But WHAT can the broke prepper get. As I said there are hundreds of brands of radios available. I have Icom, Motorola Yaesu and Baofeng. I want to focus on the Baofeng radio.
The Baofeng is an inexpensive little 2 meter/70cm radio. The average cost of one is between 20-30 bucks. Seems a little high when you can buy a 4 pack of FRS walkie talkies at Walmart for 25.99

But the FRS HT is limited to what it is programmed for AT THE FACTORY. The Baofeng is infinitely programmable by you the operator. FRS Radios are limited to .5 watts  The Baofeng has either 5 watts or 1 watt Power equal range.
This is my UV5R    And my UV82 Note Pofung and Baofeng are the same radios

The most popular radios of the Baofeng line is the UV5R and the UV 82. I have both. The 5R and 82 are great little radios, They both have the same frequency range of 136-174/400-520 MHz Well below and above the 2 meter/70cm bands. The UV82 has an updated chipset and outperforms the little 5R but not by much.

So I bet by now you all are asking Why is a Medic talking about communications? Well a good medic with a radio can help diagnose and treat a teammate miles away.

I have a dear friend of mine who uses his Baofeng like very few others. He has one on a power supply with a hand mic connected to an antenna on his roof. Dual Band Ham Base station. Total cost 60 bucks. Including the antenna, coax RADIO and hand mic. Vs 400+ for a true base. And everyone he talks to can not tell he is on a $25.99  Baofeng

He also has one in his truck Permanently mounted in his truck. Total cost 45  bucks Radio Microphone and antenna. Vs 250+ for a true mobile setup.

Also incase anyone is interested you CAN hook a 25.99 Baofeng to a linear amplifier and boost your 5 watt radio to 50, 100 200 watts plus. Oh unlike CB radio it’s perfectly legal.

So one questions I get asked a lot is If SHTF will the  repeater systems be up? I do not have a good answer for that. But I can say they will more than likely be up longer than cell phones will.

Well Right now I communicate with prepper friends that are way out of range and or line of sight. So we use the local repeater system. But what if the local system goes down?

Make your own repeater. This little box

Is about 20-25 bucks on Ebay. It basically connects 2 Ht’s into a repeater. In another news letter I’ll go over exactly how to build one. Using the duplexer box 2 radios some home made Dipole antennas a waterproof box to put it all in A small 12 volt battery and a solar charger you can make a repeater that works well and cost 75% less than a commercially made one.

I am going to share a story from last night (2-7-17) on how 2 30 dollar Baofeng HT possibly saved a life.
Last night on the way home from working Albuquerque and there was a real scratchy signal on the Megalink (NM 2 Meter radio net) Picked up and worked the signal and it turned out this was a person who was stranded in a snowdrift in Colorado. The person had a handheld Baofeng radio and was making intermittent contact to the San Antonio repeater on the NM Colorado border. I live in Edgewood NM After about an hour I got a clear enough signal to find out her was in the Rio grande Natl. Forest. And later I picked out of the static he was on Forest Road 250. I then called the Rio Grande county Sheriff and they started a search for him As the evening wore on I finally got him pinpointed to Platero Lake area. He was rescued and all was well.

AAR* *After Action Report

1 Always have an alternative method of Communications By his having a 2 meter radio and a license he spent the night at home instead of a very cold Colorado night,

2 The County Sheriff had no idea how to make use of Ham operators to triangulate his position . If we could have got Colorado operators then the search time would have been cut drastically.

  1. Upgrade the radio to a Nagoya NA-771 antenna. The “Rubber Duck” antenna is at best just ok The bigger antenna is tuned and gives a lot more transmit power. If you are a “prepper” and do not have a GOOD radio plan do it. If you do not have your FCC license GET it. Do not fall into the “I’ll wait til SHTF ‘cuz then it won’t matter” You can not legally get on to the repeater network and PRACTICE your radio skills. By buying a set of radio and then putting them away you will have NO idea how to use them or even program them without a computer.

Having a set of these is well worth any expense, Yes you can spend 10 to 15 TIMES the amount of one of these for a Yaesu Kenwood or Icom, and not really have that much more of a radio. Plus, if you drop a $299.99 Yaesu into a creek it HURTS. 300 bucks in the water. Drop a Baofeng, 1 it may still work, Mine did, Or you are out 25 bucks. I know prepping can get expensive. But I look at it the way my dad taught me. “Boy get the best you can afford, and the lower cost best is the way to go”

Next time I’ll write a bit on home brew antennas.

Bjarni, WD5CMH
Below I included some links to the products I talked about

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