Selecting a Portable Handheld Two-Way Radio, by R.

Recently I purchased a good two-way HT (slang for a hand-held Ham radio), and I thought I would share my thinking process behind picking it. General Points Here are a few general points. (Later I will get into the specific details.) Conditions and Reasons May Differ First off, I want to say that these are the conditions and reasons I used to make my choice. Yours may be different. I have a Ham radio license. This means I can operate within a wider frequency range than those frequencies covered by an off-the-shelf radio (FRS/GMRS). If you just don’t want to …




Letter Re: EMP Computer Question

Guys, What laptop would you recommend for storing in an EMP proof environment, to be used after an event to retrieve electronic files such as Survivalblog/Mother Earth News archives? There are so many options, and choosing the wrong one could be frustrating to say the least. I have hard copies of some essential books, but there are just too many helpful things in electronic format to ignore if it would be possible to retrieve. Thanks for all you do! – P.H. HJL Replies: If the device is to be stored in an EMP resistant container, there are no special considerations …




Radio Communication Methods During Emergencies- Part 5, by R. in NC

So far, you’ve learned about the FCC and non-FCC license communications devices and equipment that is used with them. I touched on the use of Ham devices in an emergency, if you don’t yet have your Ham license. Now, let’s wrap up by learning how you can obtain your Ham license and move on to establishing and planning your communications. Getting Your License Ham radio licenses come in three levels, increasing in complexity of test and allowable frequencies. The FCC does not charge for the license, but your local Ham radio club usually has a $14 fee for giving the …




Radio Communication Methods During Emergencies- Part 4, by R. in NC

We’ve previously covered non-FCC license dependent communications devices and are wrapping up our examination of FCC license dependent communications options, with special consideration for their use in an emergency. Today, we’ll also begin looking at resources and accessories that help us improve communications. VHF/UHF Radios Almost all of the “base station” VHF/UHF radios are designed as car Ham radios. Because of this, they can be very flexible in usage. Most of these are 25-50 watts, and some are even stronger. With the limited range of VHF/UHF, I think that going over 50 watts is probably not needed. FM is the …




Radio Communication Methods During Emergencies- Part 3, by R. in NC

We just took a look at non-FCC License Dependent Communications, including use expectations and purchase considerations. Today, we begin examining FCC license dependent communications devices. FCC License Dependent Communications GMRS GMRS radios operate on the same frequencies as FRS along with a number of additional channels. They can use up to 50 watts, and the FCC allows for better antennas and repeaters. GMRS will require a license. No test is needed, and the FCC license covers all residents of a household. On last check, the license cost $85 dollars. Pros and cons, along with distance, are similar to FRS, with …




Radio Communication Methods During Emergencies- Part 2, by R. in NC

Today, we’re continuing to look at communications devices in this communications overview section of the article. So far, we’ve look at Ham radio/licensed devices, but now we’re moving into non-FCC license dependence communication devices to consider. Cell Phones – Using During An Emergency and Improving Reception During an emergency it is very common that the local cell phone towers become saturated. Many people attempt to connect at the same time, resulting in busy signals. In addition, some cell towers have special equipment that restrict public use and dedicate additional bandwidth to emergency services. This section covers how to get a …




Radio Communication Methods During Emergencies- Part 1, by R. in NC

Communications Overview and General Guidelines About This Article A modern two-way radio combines transmit and receive components together and is known as a transceiver. In this article I will use the terms radio and transceiver interchangeably. I’m also trying to write this to the largest audience possible and for that reason I may sacrifice technical accuracy in order to express the concept. Not all emergencies will require advanced communications equipment. Common usage technologies, such as email, voice mail, and SMS texting, should not be ignored. The more options you are able to take advantage of, the better your chances of …




Preventing Failure to Communicate- Part 5, by JMD

We’re continuing to evaluate how to prevent a failure to communicate when we do not have wireless electronic communications available to us. We’ve been exploring our options. Yesterday, I wrote about the different types of communications and types of interference to communication. I wrapped up yesterday’s part of the article by introducing what you should do to prepare. The first part, of course, was plan. Let’s take a look at the second part and conclude the article with the subsequent steps to prepare. Document Once you’ve got a good handle on your requirements and solutions, you should create a couple …




Preventing Failure to Communicate- Part 4, by JMD

We’re continuing to evaluate how to prevent a failure to communicate when we do not have wireless electronic communications available to us. We’ve been exploring our options. Yesterday, I wrote about various channels of communications. Today, we’ll move into various forms of communications to consider. Electronic In the beginning of this article, I mentioned that it was about alternatives to wireless electronic communications. However, that doesn’t rule out wired forms of electronic communication. Wired communications tend to be point-to-point, are very hard for anyone to intercept, and can send large amounts of information. The biggest disadvantages are that they require …




Preventing Failure to Communicate- Part 3, by JMD

We’re continuing to evaluate how to prevent a failure to communicate in the event that our normal, electronic communications equipment are not available to us. We are exploring our options. Yesterday, I wrote about common content items and encoding. Let’s continue. Medium The medium defines what carries the communication through the channel. For written communication, the medium will usually be paper. For most signal-based communications, the medium will be inseparable from the channel. In the case where communications is sent by a flashing light, light is the medium. Channel The channel is critical to all communications. It determines how the …




Preventing Failure to Communicate- Part 2, by JMD

We’re continuing to evaluate how to prevent a failure to communicate in the event that our normal, electronic communications equipment are not available to us. Yesterday, we looked as some definitions and began defining our own communications requirements. With that in mind, let’s move forward. Options Now that you’ve (hopefully) thought a little bit about what your communications requirements might be, let’s take a look at some possible options for the various elements. Sender/Recipient As I mentioned earlier, the best starting point for figuring out a communications strategy is by making a list of everyone it will need to support. …




Preventing Failure to Communicate- Part 1, by JMD

Communications failure can be prevented, though it may not be in the form we’re expecting. Ever since the earliest cavemen grunted at each other and painted pictures on their cave walls, humans have been communicating in one form or another. Communications are critical to any multi-person activity. Many people consider having radios and other electronic communications devices a core part of living a prepared lifestyle. Virtually every survival- and preparedness-related forum or blog has one or more sections dedicated to this. Things like shortwave radio communications, protecting your radios from EMP, powering your radios in a grid-down scenario, et cetera. …




Letter Re: Approaching Grand Solar Minimum

HJL, I have recently heard about the grand solar minimum and am wondering if you guys have any thoughts on it? It seems to have some pretty serious implications regarding more extreme weather and how our climate is changing (which it always has been). I live on the gulf coast so preparedness for me has always been important due to hurricanes. My question is: out of all the climate hype that we have been inundated with over the last decade or so, is this something to really be taken seriously? It is wise to stay prepared nonetheless, however if the …




Essential Communications on a Budget, by TCM

Communications within a survival group and with the surrounding area is not just important; it can be a matter of life and death. The lack of communications taken to the extreme can be illustrated by imagining yourself with your eyes and ears covered. Now, try to defend yourself and your family. We all know it is not possible. Being without, at least, basic communications is almost that dangerous. I’m not suggesting that you should blow your entire prepper budget on high dollar electronics. There is a low-cost, but effective solution. This article will offer some practical solutions for emergency communications, …




Letter: Faraday Cage Question

Good afternoon!

I have a question on adapting a homemade Faraday cage. I am getting a little paranoid about these two North Korean satellites in orbit over our country.

Would a metal mailbox, such as can find at the local hardware store, be acceptable protection? I am trying to put together something simple for really, really cheap! It has a larger size and is easier to obtain. It is also cheaper than some of the other options I have been reading about on constructing a Faraday cage.  T.B.

HJL’s Comment:

Most any metal container will work as a Faraday cage with a few simple preparations. The metal needs to have a good electrical connection between the various parts. If you are using painted metal, you will have to remove the paint where the electrical connection needs to exist. Galvanized metal works really well. If a metal mail box is not large enough, you can consider a 30 gal trash can with a metal lid….