In the event of any disaster or SHTf event, the ability to get information about what’s going on and communicate will be vital. Grid down communications is also important in order to communicate with family friends and group members.
Along with police scanners and weather radios, there are a few other prepper comm options that need to be considered. In a grid down scenario there will be no internet, no TV, no radio broadcasts, and no cell phone service.
We hear about ham radio (amateur radio) all the time in the prepper community, and while it is the best option available, it’s not the only one.
The Basics of Prepper Comms
I mentioned in the show that we were going to go a little above the basics of grid down communications for preppers, but it’s important to understand the basics to get the most out of this podcast.
I recently wrote this article about prepper comms that includes 3 videos that goes over everything about ham radio and the other available radio services.
In the 3 videos I also covered what types of ranges you can expect from these radio services, and what the licensing requirements are. If you know very little about ham radio, GMRS and FRS radio, this is a great place to start.
SPP268 Grid Down Comms for Preppers (Part 1)
Today in the show I had a friend Wayne on to talk about grid down communications for preppers, why it’s important, and what options are available.
Wayne has been involved in preparedness for about ten years, been an FCC licensed commercial radio and television engineer for 45 years, and is a licensed Amateur Extra Ham Radio operator.
Wayne is an AmRRON Corp member, and is not a guy you will see all over the internet and on prepping websites. The reason I wanted him on the show is because he honestly knows more about this subject than most “prepping gurus” out there…like myself.
We also had a few questions we answered from members of the Facebook group. While some of these questions we answered, and some we covered extensively during the show.
Joe and Matt: Can you discuss Beofeng radios and Programming? We didn’t go into this all that much in the show because there is just so much to it. There are however a number of resources available online.
The easiest way to program a Beofeng radio (and some other radios) is by using the Chirp software. While this is easy and convenient, we also need to be able to program them manually in the event of a grid down scenario.
Here is a great video that goes over both the Chirp software, and manual programming from Tin Hat Ranch.
Harold: Have read in some Prepper fiction about running software that uses ham radio and allows you to send the equivalent of text messages. Does such a system exist? If so what’s the practicality of using such a system during a shtf event?
Anthony: I know this is a bit more on the advanced, but if you’re looking for longer distance HF comms between groups that is a bit less obvious, it’s worth looking at digital modes. For the purposes of the podcast, maybe just a mention that these things are possible.
Mark: Would be nice to have different systems spelled out, hand held, mobile and home. Like get this model and you will need this and you need this type of license to use it in normal circumstances.
Phil: What is the practical range limit for CB? What is the practical range limit for handheld/portable Ham equipment?
Notes From Wayne
Rather than write an article about what we talked about in the show, I decided to take the notes that Wayne gave me and add them here. These notes go over exactly what we went over.
I am not what I call a “social Ham” that likes to rag chew, talk about politics or other similar subjects over the air. I am solely into Ham Radio for prepping, but that also includes using the equipment as often as possible to stay proficient.
SCENARIO-based Prepping: My prepping is geared mainly toward an event that would take the grid down across a wide area, with no internet and no radio and TV broadcast stations for days, weeks or months. The logic is that if we prepare for a high-level then localized events become easy to deal with.
Purpose for Communications in SHTF Event: Communications for the Prepper is divided into two broad categories that have two very different purposes, Local communications, mostly between your family or MAG and possible nearby families and MAG’s AND long-range communications to mostly gather information and intelligence on areas outside of your local area. We will discuss them separately.
Local Communications: To communicate with people you know. Could be used between LPOP (Listening Post Observation Post) and home base, security patrols, foraging runs, as well as establish communications between other nearby groups.
Design: Communications must be independent of repeaters or Internet and only require the equipment and power source which is usually 12 volt or batteries.
Communications should be set up with a higher power (50 watt) base station with a good outdoor antenna.
This would allow for the longest possible range communications between the base and hand-held or mobile radios. If different hand-held radios were out of range of each other then the base station could relay messages.
Types of Radio systems
FRS: Not recommended due to ½ watt transmit power restriction.
GMRS: Advantages are Higher power (up to 50 watts), No test required for $65 licensing. A single license will work for the whole family. Will meet the base station design criteria above.
Disadvantages are Simple FM can be monitored by inexpensive scanners and Baofeng type radios. Can be DF’d (Direction finding triangulation to located transmitter)
Ham: 2 meter and 70 cm local communications radios. Advantages are Higher power (up to 50 watts), Different types of radios available that can provide at least some level of security from eavesdropping even while using simplex communications by using digital audio.
These methods will not be able to be monitored with a simple scanner or “Baofeng” type radio. Additional security can be obtained by separating the receive and transmit frequencies so that if anyone is able to listen with a higher-end scanner, they may only get one side of the conversation.
Different digital audio formats currently being used: D-Star, DMR (cheapest option and widest selection of radios) Fusion.
Disadvantages: Obtaining a Ham technician license requiring a written test is required for ALL users of the radios. This is unlikely to be obtained by all members of the family or MAG.
Ham Radio is self-policed but unlicensed transmissions are frequently reported to the FCC and the FCC will follow up on reports by other Hams and will take action against the offender. So unlicensed use is not recommended. HOWEVER, in a true SHTF (emergency) situation the rules do relax those requirements and other events may limit or remove investigation and enforcement.
In the second part of the series Wayne and I talk more about the why of prepper comms rather than the what. In my opinion, part 2 is even better than part 1.
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