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Notes for Thursday – February 11, 2016

February 11th is the birthday of the late Burt Blumert (born February 11, 1929 in New York City, died March 30, 2009). He once owned Camino Coin Company (as did Dr. Ron Paul). JWR was a Camino Coin Company customer, starting back in the late 1980s, and can remember Burt personally helping him dolly out his first purchase of 100-ounce Englehard bars. That was back when they cost just $580 each. Those were the days!

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Today, we present another entry for Round 63 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $12,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Tactical Self-Contained 2-Series Solar Power Generator system from Always Empowered. This compact starter power system is packaged in a wheeled O.D. green EMP-shielded Pelican hard case (a $1,700 value),
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul PMAG 30-rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt; (an equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package (enough for two families of four) plus seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate (a $325 retail value),
  8. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  9. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304, and
  10. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  3. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  4. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  5. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  6. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  8. Safecastle is providing a package of 10 LifeStraws (a $200 value)

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A $245 gift certificate from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Precision Rest (a $249 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 63 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

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Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 2, by Hal2000

It would take thousands of words and dozens of illustrations to explain trunked radio systems. So, we will look at the thirty thousand foot level.

What the communications industry did was to take lots of frequencies, lots of transmitters and receivers, and lots of computers to allow lots of users access to communications. They did what the cell phone industry did. For a large metropolitan area, they would build a dozen or so transmitter and receiver sites and connect them together with fiber optics and computers. This system would consist of anywhere from 5 to 35 frequencies, depending on the size of the area and the expected number of users.

By using a hierarchical structure, assigning priorities to users, and lots of software they could pack hundreds of users onto a trunked system using the minimum number of frequencies. It is truly mind boggling how it all works, and it is really cool. But we don’t need to know how it works to take advantage of it. The thing you need to know about and remember is something called a talk group.

In order to monitor a trunked system, you need a new scanner. Unfortunately, this scanner will cost you a lot of money– generally in the area of $400 to $600. To make it easy on yourself, you will need software to program it with. Gone are the days of punching in a few frequencies and hearing everything that is going on.

The reason this scanner is so expensive is that in the transition from repeaters to trunked systems digital came into being. Gone is the old analog mode. Analog is what you hear on the old AM radio band. Analog voice is now converted to digital bits that are transmitted via radio. Almost all trunked systems are digital now using a mode referred to as P25. There are still trunked systems across the country that are not digital, but they are few and far between. Do your research.

Gone are the old scrambled transmissions. Since analog speech is converted to digital bits these bits can be transmitted as is or rearranged before being transmitted. If they are transmitted as is, it is known as an unencrypted transmission. If they are rearranged before being transmitted, it is known as an encrypted transmission. The way the bits are rearranged before being transmitted is done by a software key. This key is kept very secret and without it there is absolutely no way of unencrypting the transmission. The new digital scanners don’t have a way to use the key even if you knew what it was. Search the Internet for digital scanners.

However, we still have the same problem we had in the old days. The powers that be can encrypt all their transmissions and if you bought that very expensive scanner all you will have will be a very expensive paper weight, right? Wrong!

Remember when I said that hundreds of users are packed onto a trunked system? Since a trunked system costs millions of dollars, most law enforcement agencies can’t afford them. So they partner with all the businesses and anyone else who needs communications to help defray the costs. All the old individual repeaters go away, and everyone ends up on one trunked system. The simplex and repeater frequencies are repurposed for trunked systems.

What this means for us is that all the unscrambled people we used to listen to are still there, unencrypted, but on the new trunked system. But something else has happened that makes scanning better.

Remember our new phrase we learned earlier: the talk group? A talk group is just what the name implies. It is a group of people who share the same characteristics grouped together and given a number. This number is referred to as a talk group.

Talk groups are neat things. Law enforcement has used talk groups to further define their departments. Now everybody has a talk group. The dog catcher, the narcs, the beat cop, EMS, fire, and sheriff all have their own talk groups. One talk group cannot hear or talk to another talk group, so each individual talk group thinks they have their own private radio system. It really is pretty cool how it all works.

Another neat thing about talk groups is that they can either be encrypted or unencrypted. Where I live, only the narcs and a few other specialized talk groups are encrypted. This leaves all the other talk groups unencrypted, providing lots of things to listen to. All the non public safety users are unencrypted so you can still hear all the people you used to hear.

There is one caveat at this point. Different areas of the country look at things differently. There are five trunked systems in my area. One encrypts almost everything, one encrypts sensitive talk groups (narcs, special ops, et cetera), and the other three encrypt almost nothing. So you need to do your research before buying a digital trunking scanner to make sure there is something to listen to.

Remember I said your old analog scanner was ready for the trash heap? That’s not necessarily so. Generally speaking, only major metropolitan areas can pony up the money for a trunked system. Usually what happens is that a private or government entity will fund and build the system and then sell users air time on it. It’s similar to what your cell phone provider does.

But what about the small towns around where you live? They probably can’t afford to buy time on the new trunked system or the necessary equipment, so what do they do? They keep their existing repeater system. So you end up with two scanners– your old analog scanner programmed to the repeaters in the region around where you live and your new digital scanner set up to monitor the trunked systems in your metropolitan area. Lots of good information can be obtained using this method.

Okay, we have our scanners and we have searched and found stuff to listen to. Generally you can determine the agency you are listening to by the content of the conversations. It may sound like law enforcement or fire but for what city? There is a fairly simple way to determine who you are listening to on an analog system.

The FCC requires all transmitters to identify themselves at regular intervals. This can be done by voice or morse code. A lot of dispatchers will include the callsign of the repeater as part of their normal dispatching. But the identification of analog systems is mostly done using morse code. All preppers should be familiar with morse code and how numbers and letters are formed. You don’t need to be able to copy morse code in your head, but you do need to be able to understand the dots and dashes used to make up numbers and letters. Write down the dots and dashes you hear, and then look them up in a morse code chart to see what characters you have.

All local law enforcement and commercial transmitters have a call sign assigned by the FCC. These usually consist of two or three letters followed by three or four numbers. So all you need to do is copy down the call sign and look it up on the FCC website. From there you can see the reference copy of the authorization issued by the FCC. This document shows the actual licensee, call sign, type of radio service, issuing and expiration dates, the coverage area, and the frequencies being used by that system. It is a wealth of information and will tell you all you need to know about who you are hearing. (Go to fcc.gov, then select Licensing & Databases, then select ULS, then select search licenses, then select advanced license search. For searching, it is not necessary to register or log in.)

I need to stress that all of this information is public. You are not breaking any laws or doing anything surreptitious by viewing this information. Everything in the FCC database is public information. But before getting too excited, you will not find any information on the FCC website about government or military stations.

Morse code identifiers apply to analog systems. Digital systems are identified in a different manor in a way that is much too difficult to describe here. Don’t worry, because trunked systems are much easier to identify. Simply visit the radio reference dot com website and look up your city and state to find all you need to know about local trunked systems. You can also find information about your regional analog systems on radio reference. However, please always verify for yourself the information you find there.

In addition to your public and non public service agencies, there are several other things you need programmed in your analog scanner. These are FRS, GMRS, MURS, Citizens Band (CB), aircraft, and Ham radio frequencies. The basic nature of FRS and CB frequencies are short range transmissions. That generally means that if you hear someone on them, you can expect them to be very close by. Act accordingly. You can get skip communications on CB frequencies but with the sunspot cycle heading toward minimum, skip will be less and less likely. Search FRS, GMRS, MURS, and CB frequencies.

There is one more thing you need to know for your scanners. Ever since 9/11 there has been a great effort expended towards something known as interoperability. Whenever there is a large emergency event, resources are pulled in from surrounding areas to help. This caused a major communication problem, because there were only a few frequencies set aside for mutual aid use. Everyone had their own systems back home, but when they all got together they couldn’t talk to each other.

There are now a lot of frequencies set aside for mutual aid or interoperability use. These are known as NPSPAC (pronounced nips pack), VTAC, UTAC, ITAC, and 8TAC frequencies and are designed for multiple agencies to talk with each other. Activity on these can be analog or P25 digital, but they will not be scrambled or encrypted. Please be sure you have these in your scanner. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear much on these frequencies. You can be assured there will be lots of activity in an emergency situation.

Search the Internet for NPSPAC, VTAC frequencies, UTAC frequencies, ITAC frequencies, and 8TAC frequencies. Also search for NIFOG. This is the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide produced by the Department of Homeland Security. This is a booklet you need to have on your bookshelf. It has a list of all these frequencies and how they are to be used. It also lists the incident command frequencies and how they are used.

One more warning about listening to a scanner. You have to do it on a regular basis. You can’t buy one, stick it in a Faraday cage, pull it out after SHTF, and expect it to be of any value. You need to find what is in your area, program it into your scanner, then turn it on, and listen to it. Listen daily! You will hear things you don’t understand at first, but the more you listen the more you will understand.

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Letter Re: Constitutional Carry

Hugh,

I noted the entry in SurvivalBlog.com today about Idaho seeking passage of a “Constitutional Carry” bill. Here in West Virginia, with great grassroots mail, email, and phone support, as well as attendance at the capitol in Charleston, a similar bill passed last year in both the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by the governor in the final week of the legislative session, leaving “no time” to override the veto. This year the measure got an earlier start, and hopefully we will get it passed and manage to override the promised veto in time for the end of the yearly session, which is only three months in this state.

I thought that maybe the blog readers, particularly those in states trying to get similar measures passed, might be interested in the WV experience. As noted, we’re still not there. (Note: the Charlestown WV Gazette is a left-leaning paper. Sometimes it manages to “overlook” reporting on such things.) – TD in WV

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Economics and Investing:

What does Wal-Mart owe the towns it leaves? 9 experts weigh in – There are a variety of opinions, but the bottom line really is that Walmart does not owe the community anything. Smaller businesses were driven under because the community chose to save a few bucks. It is the community itself that bears the responsibility. – RBS

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CEO of shipping giant Maersk says economy is “worse than 2008” TRUNEWS with Rick Wiles – RBS

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Items from Professor Preponomics:

US News

Fed’s Yellen Says Global Risks Could Pose US Growth Threats (Reuters) Excerpt: “But Yellen acknowledged that some of the weaknesses in the global economy have become self re-enforcing, with weak growth in major manufacturers like China and oversupply on commodity markets rattling the world’s oil and mineral exporters. A broad sense of a world slowdown, in turn, and uncertainty about the depth of China’s problems, has tightened financial conditions for U.S. businesses.”

Obama Proposes $4.1T Spending Plan in Final White House Budget(Reuters) Meanwhile, unbridled spending proposals flood forth from the government’s tax-and-spend conveyor belt. Excerpt: “The president’s final budget continues his focus on new spending proposals instead of confronting our country’s massive overspending and skyrocketing $19 trillion in debt,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi.” The Washington Free Beacon is also following this story: Obama Budget Would Add Another $9.3T to the Debt

Perdue Bill Aims to Aims to Control Fed’s “Financial Mess”(Washington Examiner) In order to begin resolving our debt, we must first examine, understand, and adjust our spending. Excerpt: “Without an honest and accurate assessment of the federal balance sheet, Americans don’t know what the government takes in and what it spends,” Perdue said. “There should be no hidden trust funds or unaccountable spending programs.”

International News

The Walking Dead: Something is Rotten in Europe’s Banking System (Contra Corner) Excerpt: “All signs are that things are in fact in danger of getting out of hand, even if it seems to us as though it is time for at least a brief pause in the mini panic in risk assets we have observed in recent weeks. This is just a reminder that oil prices and the yuan are not the only things on the minds of market participants at the moment. As is seemingly always the case, when it rains, it pours.”

Fresh Banking Crisis Fears Send FTSE to Lowest Level Since 2012 (The Telegraph) Excerpt: “Health of the financial system and danger of negative central bank interest rates cause bank stocks to fall to lowest level in nearly four years.”

Bonds Follow Bank of Japan into Negative Territory (New York Times) Excerpt: “The Bank of Japan’s new policy is intended to stimulate the economy, which narrowly avoided falling into recession last quarter. By making it unprofitable for banks to hold cash, Mr. Kuroda hopes to encourage them to lend more freely and get businesses and households to spend. He also wants to give a lift to consumer prices, which have been sagging after a welcome but short-lived bout of inflation.”

Personal Economics and Household Finance

IRS Announces Taxpayer Data Stolen in Cyberattack (Washington Examiner) Excerpt: “Using personal data stolen elsewhere outside the IRS, identity thieves used malware in an attempt to generate E-file PINs for stolen Social Security numbers….” In other tax related news: Anyone who might have made overpayments should be aware of the deadlines for recovery of those funds. From the Washington Free Beacon: IRS Kept $4.75B in Overpayments that Taxpayers Can No Longer Claim Back

A Deep Pantry – What It Is and Why You Need One (Just Plain Living) Excerpt: “One of the first things I hear when I suggest people start building up a deep pantry (or food storage – use whatever term works for you) is that they can’t afford to buy extra food for storage. My experience is that you probably can’t afford not to.”

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SurvivalBlog and its editors are not paid investment counselors or advisers. Please see our Provisos page for details.

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Odds ‘n Sods:

FBI surrounds last occupiers at Malheur Wildlife Refuge – RBS

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SurvivalBlog reader JFJ sent in this article for deposit into your own SHTF reservoir of knowledge: Finding a winch anchor where there is none.

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3-in-1 ‘wearable shelter’ for Syrian refugees – While “invented” with the Syrian refugees in mind, this garment shows some promise as an item in a BOB. – G.P.

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Patriots may be faced with being placed on a red, blue, or white list, but if you are a Muslim terrorist you can rest easy. Obama DHS scrubs records of hundreds of Muslim terrorists – S.M.

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MS-13 foot soldiers use ‘surge’ to cross border, ‘colonize new criminal territory’ – Not good news for those in the Southwest. – P.M.

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Notes for Wednesday – February 10, 2016

February 10th is the birthday of Zvi Zvika Greengold (born 1952), a Centurion tank commander who was one of Israel’s most notable heroes of the Yom Kippur War. He was awarded the Medal of Valor.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 63 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $12,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Tactical Self-Contained 2-Series Solar Power Generator system from Always Empowered. This compact starter power system is packaged in a wheeled O.D. green EMP-shielded Pelican hard case (a $1,700 value),
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul PMAG 30-rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt; (an equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package (enough for two families of four) plus seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate (a $325 retail value),
  8. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  9. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304, and
  10. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw Code Red 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  4. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  9. Safecastle is providing a package of 10 LifeStraws (a $200 value)

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A $245 gift certificate from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Precision Rest (a $249 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 63 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

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Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 1, by Hal2000

Knowledge is power. At least that is how the saying goes. For the sake of this discussion let us consider knowledge to be synonymous with information. When it hits the fan, where do you plan to get your information?

I want to make you aware of all the information available via radio. I don’t mean the AM and FM radios in your home and car. These will most likely be spewing forth whatever the government line is for the day. I am talking about police scanners, shortwave radios, and amateur or Ham radio.

I know some are going to think that there is nothing to hear on police scanners now days, but please bear with me. There has been a tremendous evolution of police scanners over the last five to ten years. Shortwave radio has remained pretty much the same, but Ham radio is currently undergoing a slow change over from analog to digital communications. I want to make you aware of these changes and how you can benefit from them.

This was intended to be a short primer for preppers who are not familiar with police scanners, shortwave radios, and Ham radio, including a high level overview of what these radios do and how you can use them in your prepping. It soon became apparent that a lot of background information would need to be included, and before long this blossomed from a small article to a very large article consisting of many parts. Without the added detail, it would not be of much value.

I tried to stay as non-technical as I could, but if you are going to play with radios you will have to understand some very basic things. My intent is to make you aware of what is currently available and how you can use it to your advantage. If you want more detail, there is plenty of information on the Internet. However, before you can search the Internet you have to know what to search for, right? I will provide search keywords throughout the article where you can obtain much more detailed information.

For those who are already familiar with this information, don’t be too critical. As you know, there is a lot more detail that I could have included, and while a few things might be generalized I intend for this article to be a starting point for those who currently know nothing about the topic.

Some Basic Definitions

In order to understand what you will be able to hear and where you will hear it, you need to have a basic understanding of frequency ranges, different modulation types, and where they are most prevalent.

Khz – Kilohertz

This is a measurement of frequency. 1 kilohertz equals 1 thousand hertz (or cycles). Your favorite AM station might be 980 on the dial, which means 980 Khz.

Mhz – Megahertz

This is a measurement of a frequency. 1 megahertz equals 1 million hertz (or cycles). Your favorite FM station might be 101.1 on the dial, which means 101.1 Mhz.

HF – High Frequency

This describes the range of frequencies from 3.0 Mhz to 30.0 Mhz.

VHF – Very High Frequency

This describes the range of frequencies from 30.0 Mhz to 300.0 Mhz.

UHF – Ultra High Frequency

This describes the range of frequencies from 300.0 Mhz to 3 gigahertz (Ghz).

CW – Continuous Wave

This is the earliest form of communication. Basically you rapidly turn your transmitter on and off, forming the dots and dashes that make up the morse code alphabet. This mode takes up very little frequency or bandwidth.

AM – Amplitude Modulation

This is the oldest form of voice communication and why it is sometimes referred to as Ancient Modulation. You will hear this primarily on the standard AM broadcast band, International shortwave broadcasts, and aircraft communications. It consists of three components– a carrier and an upper and lower sideband. This mode takes up quite a bit of bandwidth.

SSB – Single Sideband

This was an improvement on AM modulation. The AM carrier and either the upper or lower sideband are removed from the signal before being transmitted. This mode takes up more bandwidth than CW but less than AM. You will almost never hear it referred to as SSB but rather USB or LSB depending on which sideband has been removed from the transmission.

FM – Frequency Modulation

This mode modulates the frequency and can take up a lot of bandwidth. Wide band mode is used for FM broadcasting while the narrow band mode is used in VHF and UHF communications.

Analog

This is the most common mode of voice communication. Your voice is used to modulate a transmitter, and there is no digital processing of the signal.

Digital

This is the new wave sweeping pretty much all VHF and UHF communications. Your voice is digitized and then sent via the transmitter. Before being transmitted, the bits representing your speech can be rearranged resulting in an encrypted signal unable to be heard without being unscrambled by the receiver.

Radios

The most important radio for a prepper is a Police Scanner. My first police scanner was a Regency 10 channel crystal controlled scanner, circa the early 70’s. After a few trips to Radio Shack, I had crystals for the local police, fire, and highway patrol. It was simple. Plug the crystals into the radio, turn it on, sit back, and listen to the action. But as we all know, nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable and as it turns out expensive.

Next came scanners that didn’t require crystals. You could simply program the frequencies you needed into the scanner then sit back and listen to the action. But then you began to hear strange sounds coming from the radio and you couldn’t understand as much as you did before. Welcome to scrambling technology. With the progression of technology came changes to voice communications. The powers that be began to scramble their conversations so the general public couldn’t understand them. Was this done to keep you from using a scanner in the commission of a crime or because of technical improvements? It was probably a little bit of both. Soon you realized that you can’t hear all the stuff you used to hear, so you lived with what you could hear or took up another hobby.

About this same time technology continued to improve and simplex gave way to repeaters. An explanation is due at this point. Simplex communications means that the dispatcher talks on one frequency and the officer responds on that same frequency. It sounds simple, and you may ask how else would they talk to each other. The problem with simplex is that while the dispatcher may be transmitting with lots of power and an antenna in a high location, your vehicle transmitter has a much lower power level and a small antenna. The farther away you get from the dispatcher and as you go up and down hills, you and the dispatcher may or may not hear each other all the time. There are lots of dead spots or areas where one person can not hear the other.

So what do you do? Along comes something called a repeater. This device is a combination transmitter and receiver. It receives on one frequency and retransmits what it hears on another frequency. The dispatcher and officers transmit on frequency A and listen on frequency B. Why do you want to do that? The advantage of a repeater is that you can locate the repeater in a central location and mount the antenna very high. This helps eliminates dead spots and greatly improves the coverage area.

As the coverage area improves, more people with scanners can hear more. So you begin to hear even more scrambled communications as the powers that be become even more paranoid. Soon you realize that you can’t hear as much police and fire activity as you used to hear, but something else happens about the same time. Even though repeaters are more expensive than simplex communications, the greater coverage area begins to interest other types of users. Businesses, TV and radio stations, traffic reporters, school districts, trash trucks, public transportation, and lots of other people who want or need communications begin to set up and use their own repeaters. These are known as non-public service operators.

What we have now are lots of repeaters with lots of information being passed, and only the police and fire comms are being scrambled. Everything else is in the clear and easily understood on your scanner.

So how can we take advantage of this? Granted, the really juicy conversations on the police repeaters may be scrambled, but there is a tremendous amount of information on the other repeaters. How many bus drivers, cab drivers, school bus drivers, trash truck drivers, traffic reporters et cetera know anything about OPSEC? Virtually none! If there is a major traffic incident or fire or robbery or car chase or anything else happening, you may hear some of it on the police channels, but you will hear a lot of uncensored information about it on the non-public service repeaters. It’s information you may want to know if you are bugging out or just want to know what is going on around your neighborhood.

At this point in time everything is cool. You have all the police and fire repeaters programmed in your scanner as well as all the non-public service repeaters, and you are hearing lots of stuff and are happy as a clam.

But then everything changes. Along come cell phones. What do cell phones have to do with scanners? The technology behind how cell phones work is adapted to public service communications. As you drive along talking on your cell phone your signal is transferred from cell to cell. Hence the name cell phone. A cell is a location with transmitters, receivers, antennas, and computers that handle your phone call for a very small area. This small area is known as a cell. As you can imagine, there must be a very large number of cell sites in order to allow you a continuous conversation as you drive from point A to point B. You are right.

Let’s back up a little at this point and talk about the radio spectrum. The radio spectrum is a finite resource. There are only so many frequencies available for simplex, repeaters, and cell sites. So the problem becomes how do you pack more and more people into a finite resource? For public and non-public service users, the answer is something called trunked radio systems.

This is where your programmable analog scanner is relegated to the trash heap. (Don’t throw it away yet. We can still use it, and we’ll talk about how later).

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Two Letters Re: Bug Out Boats

Hugh,

I don’t know if this is the kind of information you like to pass along. A coworker was planning to live on a sailboat. My brother had lived on a sailboat for a year, so I asked him for suggestions. His advice to help prepare you for the experience:

  1. Buy a good shredder and set it up beside your basement entrance.
  2. On Friday, shred your paycheck on your way into the basement.
  3. Huddle in a cramped corner, preferably under a leaky pipe.
  4. Don’t come out until the end of the weekend. – S.R.

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Hugh

I have not seen a topic that has generated so many positive comments as this one on this site for a while. A few years ago this was discussed here and I wrote in about my plans for a bugout retreat. My preference was a small lake island inland or a small offshore island which could be defended by a few people for a short period of time during a reset crunch period. The reasoning was in part a group of people trying to get at you would need some type of craft to get to your location, and the odds are in the defender’s favor big time against any group on land versus a group in a moving sinkable platform. A few people on a habitable island with some resources, having a built-in body of water for a “moat” and with a few defenders and maybe some guard dogs, would be a tough nut to crack. The boat was a means for transportation and not a retreat in itself. My choice for a boat was a tritoon (3 tube) pontoon boat (not a twin tube), which has the load capacity and only requires only about 6″ of water under the “tubes”. I have used a 24′ tritoon off shore in the gulf, and on inland lakes up North and out West. With a 150 hp outboard they skate on the top of the water (able to outrun even some speed boats) and are very stable even in fairly rough water. Remember, a boat is another “means to an end” to be considered in order to put a barrier between you and the golden horde, most of which are not going to be able to even get to “that island” out there in the water. If you are increasing your chances, you are increasing your odds of survival. I agree with most of the submittals on the subject as each area and circumstance dictates different requirements. This is mine for trying to go where most will not be able to reach you. God bless this country and our people. – J.M.

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Economics and Investing:

Fed May Lack Legal Authority for Negative Rates: 2010 Memo – G.P.

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Collapsing America: America’s Infrastructure Decaying Into 3rd World Status.

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Items from Professor Preponomics:

US News

2016’s Economy Begins with a Whimper (Mises) Excerpt: “During many Fed tightenings, the stock market and overall economy improved for years afterward because the Fed stimulus had actually brought a temporary form of economic recovery. But rarely, if ever, has the mood turned dark so fast after the Fed officially announced that the recovery is sound and the life support can be removed.”

Puerto Rico Emergency Fiscal Measures to be Exhausted by June: GDB President (The Fiscal Times) Excerpt: “In a Friday briefing to U.S. congressional staff members who asked about the island’s proposed debt restructuring, GDB President Melba Acosta said Puerto Rico was “really at the end” of finding creative ways to stretch its cash.”

International News

Franco-German Central Bankers Call for the Creation of Eurozone Treasury (The Telegraph) When the existing mess can’t be cleaned up, just add another layer of centralized control, right? Here’s the argument: Excerpt: “While monetary policy has delivered a lot of support for the euro-area economy, it cannot bring about long-lasting economic growth…. More integration appears to be the most straightforward solution….” Read on. This article is rich with insight into the present, and the future.

Deutsche Bank Shares Drop Again as European Banks Get Pummeled (Wall Street Journal) Excerpt: “The pressure that prompted the bank to reiterate its liquidity position reflected how nervous investors have become.”

Global Bond Rally Near “Panic” Level with Japan Yield Below Zero (Bloomberg Business) Excerpt: “The flight to quality gained momentum Monday because of speculation Deutsche Bank AG would have trouble paying its debts…. “That really spooked the market,” Gorman said. “People immediately thought there’s a problem where banks can’t pay and they can’t fund themselves to pay. It does feel like we’re reaching a point where the market is panicked.”

China’s Foreign-Currency Reserves Drop $99.47B (Market Watch) Excerpt: “The foreign-exchange reserves fell by $99.469 billion from the previous month to $3.231 trillion, with capital continuing to leave the shores of the world’s second largest economy….”

Argentina Offers $6.5B Cash Deal to End Debt Battle (Reuters) There’s a catch. Excerpt: “The payment will be financed through new sovereign debt issuances.”

Personal Economics and Household Finance

12 Months of Prepping – The First Year (Backdoor Survival) Here’s a great way to organize household efforts to live prepared. The calendar outline is manageable and incremental. It’s truly a starter list based on a relatively short time line for needs and provisions, but it’s an excellent way to begin and to build momentum toward longer term emergency preparedness and self-sufficiency. If you’re just getting started, this is a helpful resource tool… Now. Go get to it!

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Reader’s Recommendations of the Week:

Three books recommended by SurvivalBlog reader T.A.

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston

Demon in the Freezer: A True Story by Richard Preston

Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI by Peter Lance

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SurvivalBlog reader L.P. recommended “A Boy Ten Feet Tall” by W.H. Canaway. It’s a story about a young boy who loses his parents in an air raid in Suez and sets out on his own to find his aunt, who lives in Durban. He is unaware that Durban is 5000 miles away. Having read it as a young boy himself, it inspired his independence ever since.

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If you have a favorite book or movie that you think other survivalists/preppers might want to know about, send it to us.

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Odds ‘n Sods:

Rebellion in California Excerpt: “The dissidents from the northern counties who want to secede from the Golden State are “a bunch of Bible-thumpin’, gun-totin’, wild-eyed pistol-wavers.” And that’s how one of their supporters describes them. Welcome to the…”

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Federal appeals court rules ‘assault rifles’ protected under 2nd Amendment

JWR’s Comments: The court’s “in common use” argument is laughably specious. Submachine guns, short barreled rifles (SBRs), short-barreled shotguns (SBSes), sound suppressors, and even belt-fed machine guns would be “in common use” today if it were not for Congress enacting the unconstitutional National Firearms Act of 1934, which imposed a local chief law enforcement officer’s consent, fingerprinting, and a draconian $200 federal tax on each machine gun, sound suppressor, SBR, and SBS transfer. ($200 in 1934 dollars would be the equivalent of $3,545 in 2016 dollars!) In 1933, you could mail order a Thompson submachine gun without any governmental paperwork whatsoever, for around $120. But in 1934, owning an unregistered Thompson became a felony. Don’t be fooled by the manipulative political rhetoric. Whenever you hear phrases like “in common use” , “commonsense gun laws”, and “suitable for sporting uses”, beware! The 2nd Amendment is an absolute. Failure to recognize it as such makes it vulnerable to gradual erosion of our rights. The Second Amendment wasn’t written to protect the right to own deer rifles or duck hunting shotguns. Rather, it was intended as a key safeguard to keep the citizenry always armed on an equal footing with any regular army.

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It was recently publicized that Hitlery Clinton was paid $675,000 to give three speeches by the investment firm Goldman Sachs. Assuming those lasted one hour apiece (including the preliminary wine and hor’ d ourves chit-chat), that works out to about $225,000 per hour. Nice work, if you can find it. And this is the same Madame Clinton who refers to herself as a defender of “the middle class”. So obviously she must have slaved for many months to write each of those speeches. Thank goodness there was no quid pro quo for Goldman Sachs and this candidate for the highest office in the land. That, of course, would be unthinkable for someone who is so “ethical”.

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Forced Vaccination for all Hospital Workers Passes Indiana Senate Unanimously – Submitted by D.S.

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Anger: Anti-Beyonce Rally Planned For Next Week At NFL Headquarters

HJL’s Comment: Not being much on football, I didn’t watch the Superbowl. When I heard about this controversy I looked it up on YouTube. I’m afraid I couldn’t see much past the inappropriateness of the costumes, the heavy sexual overtones that pervades commercial TV today, and the irritating grating noise that passes for popular music these days. I was so offended by the performance I must have missed the issues others have been talking about. That’s four minutes and 23 seconds of my life that I’ll never get back. Now where did I put that bar of soap; I’m going to have to scrub the old eyeballs for some time to get rid of those images.