Letter Re: Long Haul Voice and Data Communications in a Post-Collapse Environment

Mr. Rawles;
In the event of total meltdown, have you thought about using bulletin board systems (BBSes) as a means of communicating? If, and that could be a big if, the phone land lines were still operating, but ISPs were down, then a BBS would be a excellent way to keep folks informed. Pre-Internet I ran BBSes with multiple phone lines with great success. Just an idea.

Also, while on that topic, has there been any discussion as to shortwave frequencies that you may support? Is there/are base stations set up for relays of news and information? A survival Net so-to-speak. I come from a hard core marine/yacht background and the are cruiser nets worldwide, depending on what ocean you are in at the moment. Something like that for landbase usage would, to my way of thinking, help to ease folks’ minds, pass on latest news and to quiet down the rumor mills that spout false info. I can’t stress the need for people to become well versed in the ownership and usage of shortwave amateur sets. They can be had on the cheap and be in use now! This is not something that you have to stash away until you need it but a tool that you can enjoy for years to come. They are also a good way to access e-mail accounts when your current provider is down. I won’t this all this here as there are books on this topic and pages of programs that will work with a SSB/Ham system, either land-based or marine based. – LAS

JWR Replies: Since traditional telephone services, DSL, cellular services, ISPs, and the Internet are all more or less dependent on grid power, I expect them to all go down within a few days of each other, in the event of major catastrophe. There will, however, be some utility in ham radio based packet radio and digipeter networks, that can operate like BBS servers and even like a quasi-Internet. These can operate over long distances in the HF ham bands. There are also some regional 2 Meter Band networks that are partially served by photovoltaic-powered repeaters. So parts of those networks might also remain intact. Because many older hams are retiring, there are lots of used radios and packet TNCs on he market, selling for very reasonable prices.

Rather than “re-invent the wheel”, I recommend joining and expanding existing packet HF BBS networks, such as those listed at Totse.com. One word of warning: Do not just bookmark the Totse page. Like all the other World Wide Web pages, the Totse page will vanish if the power grid goes down. So be sure to print out an updated hard copy, roughly twice a year. (Mark your calendar.)

I also recommend joining an existing topic-based scheduled (“same time, same frequency”) HF ham call in. Perhaps some SurvivalBlog readers that are active hams can recommend an existing scheduled meeting time and frequency to discuss preparedness topics.

Parenthetically, I should mention that since the sunspot number is currently fairly low, this is now a great time to join a network. (If you can get connectively now–with such poor skywave propagation–then odds are that you will be able to do sp just about anytime in the future!)