To one extent or another I have been a prepper since I was in junior high school, 50 years ago. My dad was an avid outdoorsman who taught me to fish when I was old enough to hold a pole and taught me to shoot when I was 6 years old. By age 15 I was shooting skeet in state competition and began learning the art of reloading. I started bowhunting with a recurve bow when I was about 13 and had learned to make my own arrows, using blank shafts, by the time I was 15. Also, during my early teen years my best friend, who was a full-blooded Cherokee Native American, began teaching me about edible plants.
Now, 50 years later, I’m still learning. But age has taken its toll on my body. Two bad knees make it extremely painful to get around and impossible to escape and evade, run, or traverse rough terrain. Also, open-heart surgery two years ago forced me on to a daily regimen of medication which could be a problem when the SHTF. But, my lack of mobility does not mean I am unable to do my part in our survival group. In fact, I have a standing offer from two other groups to join up with them should the group I chose to link up with becomes unsatisfactory. I’m am not saying this to brag because all of my skills and knowledge come from God, without Him I can do nothing on my own.
I tell you this because the majority of articles I read on SurvivalBlog and most other preparedness web sites seem to focus more on a person’s tactical ability. I think many “groups” have the belief that unless you are physically fit enough to pass a Marine Corp PT test, then you are a liability. I should mention that I found SurvivalBlog just three months after Mr. Rawles started it, 15 years ago, and I read it daily.
What I have lost in physical ability I have made up for with other skills and knowledge. I believe make this ‘old timer’ worth having around. With this article, I hope to inspire other ‘old timers’ to make yourself valuable so that any group you choose to link up with will see you as a valuable asset and will welcome you into their fold. I also hope to cause groups made up of strictly fighting-age men and women to consider the benefits of having an ‘old timer’ or two in their midst. I will, hopefully, give you some basic information about each skill I think will make you valuable and give you a starting point to begin learning each skill or expand on skills you may already have.
Life is a continual learning experience so never think you know everything there is to know about any subject or skill. As I previously mentioned, some of the skills I have date back 50 years or slightly more but I still don’t know everything there is to know, so I keep my mind open to new concepts and ideas. There’s always a way to build a better mousetrap!
A lot of armchair preppers believe that when the SHTF they’ll just head to the mountains and live off the land hunting and fishing. That’s not going to happen. Wild game and even fish will become scarce or almost extinct within a few weeks to a few months. Because of that I’m not going to spend any time discussing how to master those skills. There are a lot of other skills that are more valuable and needed than being able to hunt of fish. Let’s start with communications.
I first became interested in radios and electronics when I was about 12 or 13. My dad bought me an 8 channel crystal controlled Hallicrafters CB back in the day when you had to have an FCC license. I still remember my call letters. (But due to OPSEC I won’t disclose that information.) In addition, my dad’s best friend got me interested in short wave listening and my dad bought me a Hallicrafters shortwave receiver and taught me how to make a long wire antenna. My love of radio resulted in me working through high school for an electronics and communications company, then going to college I majored in radio and television broadcasting. I had a very successful 30 plus year career both on-air and as a broadcast electronic technician. I got my General Class ham radio license more than 20 years ago when you still had to pass a Morse code test.
Communications skills will be essential once the balloon goes up and simply having the toys does not guarantee effective communications. It takes “an ear” to sort out and keep track of multiple communication streams at one time. That “ear” can be developed but like any skill, it takes practice. As a spot news reporter for our local ABC TV affiliate, it was my duty to keep up with what was happening with fire and police departments across a 13-county area. I had 9 scanning transceiver mobile two-way radios mounted in my truck plus kept four programmable scanners on my belt at all times. I even slept with the 4 scanners by my bed, when I slept. I literally was on call 24/7 for more than 14 years. In a SHTF situation, having just one or two scanners is not going to give you all of the monitoring capability you will need to ensure your group’s intel gathering capability and safety.
In my radio room, I have two ham radio HF transceivers. One is a set of Drake Twins, older tube-type technology. The other an all-transistor Yaesu. If I ever have time to dig into them and get them going again, I also have two old R-390/URR military surplus receivers but they both need tubes and possibly a power supply. In addition, I still have all 9 scanning transceivers and 4 handheld programable scanners I used in my news gathering days and a slightly more modern programmable scanner with ”close call” technology. Any transmission within the frequency range capability of the scanner within about a half-mile of my location, this scanner will automatically lock in on that frequency even if I didn’t have it pre-programmed into the radio. This could alert you to activity in your area you might otherwise be unaware of. I hope to acquire another scanner with “close call” technology but other priorities have been getting my financial attention lately.
Why so many radios? Program them so you spread the most important frequencies to monitor across the different radios. For example, When I was running news, I had one radio with the “Priority Channel” set to monitor our local ambulance service. Another had our county fire dispatch frequency as the “Priority Channel” three other radios. These were Trunk Trackers — dedicated to our local police and fire department who had begun using the trunking technology. The priority channel function would not work with the trunk tracking technology. Another was set up with a neighboring city’s police dispatch frequency as the “Priority” channel. All of the radios, except for the truck trackers had all of the frequencies from the 13 county area I needed to listen to programmed into them so the chances of missing something because of the radio being locked on a busy frequency was lessened. And regardless if there was any traffic on any of the “Priority Channels” that radio would shift to that frequency immediately upon detecting a transmission, so I was guaranteed to get the most important intelligence. These radios did not include my 2-meter ham radio which I used for storm chasing as a NWS Certified Storm Spotter.
Okay, but we are not in the newsgathering business when the SHTF, you say. Well, in a way you are. Whty? Because you need all of the current, up-to-the-minute intelligence you can get in a SHTF situation. And I’ll guarantee you won’t be getting it from the nightly news or local broadcast stations. By listening to the right frequencies for your area you can obtain valuable intel and make potentially life-saving decisions based on the correct analysis of that information. And, as I have mentioned, careful listening with “close call” technology just might alert you to a patrol operating near your home base and give you time to prepare an ambush if they are a hostile force.
I strongly suggest that you research frequencies in your area that are used by the authorities as well as other potentially useful frequencies and compile a list of those frequencies. (I have a spiral ring notebook for that purpose). A lot of police and fire departments have shifted to digital encryption which makes it impossible to monitor without some very sophisticated and expensive gear. But a wealth of intel can still potentially be gained from monitoring FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) frequencies. Here is a link to a chart of those frequencies.
The 2-meter band ham frequencies for your area will also be a potentially valuable source of info and you can legally listen to those frequencies even if you are not a ham operator. In addition, having a CB radio would be very beneficial and programming CB frequencies into a scanner would also make it easier to keep an ear on all of the CB channels.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)