Letter Re: Prepaid Phones


Yes, criminals use prepaid phones, but Patriots do too. I have been using a monthly, no contract, prepaid phone for over 15 years. Why? Because I do not like contracts, hidden fees, data charges, et cetera. I use Virgin Mobile. For $35 a month, I get unlimited calls, messaging, and Internet. There are no hidden fees or surprise charges, and I do not have to surrender my personal information or SSN. I like having to NOT give up my personal information every chance I get. So, understand, it’s not just criminals who use these phones; it’s also the poor people with bad credit, people against tyrannical locked-in phone contracts, and people seeking a “private” phone. My phone is MY private business and not the government’s. So, when you hear “burner phone”, remember it is not just criminals who use them.

Letter Re: Advice on Learning Morse Code


Learning the Morse code is not particularly difficult, but there are several common pitfalls that typically interfere with the learning process. The best advice I have for learning the Morse code is to get together with someone who is proficient with the code and work one on one with that person. This way, you can avoid developing bad habits that you will have to unlearn later.

If such a person is not available, then learning the code becomes a bit more difficult. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Morse code is an aural language. It is the pattern of sounds, not the number of dots or dashes, that make up the language. You can hum a song learned in your youth because you heard it a lot; you sang and/or hummed it a lot, and the sounds of that song became … Continue reading

A Random Walk Through The Risks of Silicon Valley, by Epaminondas

As a technology executive who has worked extensively with most of the big, high-tech firms (Microsoft, Google, Verizon, Dell, Qualcomm, and more), I thought that it could be helpful to share a perspective on the general role of technology on prepper thinking and planning. This readership is much more sophisticated than most, but the hard fact is that most of us cannot live an independent, off-grid lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Technology is the great enabler and force multiplier that can make it much easier to work remotely, maintain close contact with family and friends while benefiting from the vast knowledge of the Internet.

The danger zone here is around the data. Silicon Valley companies are not deliberately trying to repress freedom. They are providing technologies to drive new solutions and profits that can often have the unwanted side effect of providing Big Brother an unprecedented tool for compromising … Continue reading

Letter: Advice on Learning Morse Code

Dear Editor,
I have noted that the main characters in your novel Survivors use continuous wave (CW) Morse Code on occasion to stay in contact, around the globe. As a relatively new ham radio operator I am fascinated by CW Morse and have been trying to learn it for a couple years without a lot of success. Any words of wisdom or proven “best method” to learn CW especially for the over-50 age group? – J.S.

HJL Replies: There are a variety of inexpensive Morse code instruction tutor apps that will run on your smartphone or personal computer. While there are many methods of learning, I think one of the best is the “Koch” method. I’d highly recommend that you get a tutor program based on that method. Also, the skill of a straight key and a keyer do not really overlap. I really struggled to … Continue reading

Letter Re: The Vulnerability of Many Commonplace RF Electronics

Dear JWR,
Regarding the recently linked article on the hack of the Simplisafe alarm system, I’d like to alert readers to the fact that many, many radio frequency (RF) devices available on the US market have similar vulnerabilities. But it’s worse than that. These devices operate on one of several unlicensed radio frequency bands authorized under Title 47, part 15 of the FCC rules, most specifically Section 15.231.

There are transmitters available for purchase on 433MHz, as used by Simplisafe, and they are quite inexpensive. Many of these evaluation kits only require attachment of a battery and you are ready to transmit. Many car key (“remote door lock”) fobs use 315MHz, and 418MHz is also a common frequency for these low power transmitters. My point here is that you don’t have to have any computing or hacking experience whatsoever to mess with … Continue reading

Letter Re: Shielding Electronics From EMP

Another point on electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and Faraday cages is even something simple can be protective. There are 30 Gallon galvanized steel trash cans with lids (made in the USA!) available at my local farm and ranch store for $22. This makes for affordable and easy storage, and you can wrap things in common aluminum foil. Or even something like a steel cabinet or vault, but generally try to avoid gaps or spaces. It doesn’t have to be zero signal, but reduce the field strength enough to prevent damage.

Vehicles have some protection for many years. In the early days of electronic ignition systems, truckers with CB linear amplifiers were causing police vehicles to stall. And driving near powerful radio towers also caused some glitches. The protection added since the early 1970s isn’t military grade, but realize if your vehicle doesn’t even hiccup when it is next … Continue reading

Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 3, by Hal2000

Shortwave Radio

The next most important radio for preppers is a shortwave radio. Shortwave radio is generally defined as the part of the radio spectrum between 3.0 megahertz (Mhz) and 30.0 megahertz (Mhz). This is referred to as High Frequency, or HF spectrum. There are all kinds of transmissions you will hear on shortwave– Ham radio operators, International shortwave broadcasters, military communications, clandestine stations, numbers stations, and a whole lot more. You will also hear many different modes of communications as well. The bulk of what you will hear will be either standard AM broadcasting and SSB or Single Sideband transmissions.

I cannot stress strongly enough that every prepper needs a good quality shortwave receiver. With the advent of satellite and digital communications, the use of shortwave has diminished somewhat over the years, but there are still two types of stations you will want to monitor. These … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

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 Continue reading

Letter Re: Developing a Communications Plan for Your Group, by NM


Thank you for the excellent article by N.M. “Developing a Communications Plan for Your Group”. I too have been a Ham for 20 years and have a couple of additions to his article.

Great description on use of repeaters and simplex. When using simplex with VHF and UHF, here are some tips. Height and reducing obstructions are important. If you are using any hand-held radio and are having difficulty communicating with someone else, take a moment to think about your surroundings. If you are inside, move outside if you can. The building you are in will interfere with your transmission and reception. If you are on the ground and can move to a higher level, do it. Most hand-held radios are VHF/UHF “line of sight”. So you will have a better chance connecting if you are on the third floor than on the ground. I’ve also observed new … Continue reading

Two Letters Re: Developing a Communications Plan for Your Group, by NM


Good article. I have chosen to organize my FT-60 memory along paths home from destinations that are frequently visited. The ARRL repeater directory makes it easy. It goes hand in hand with thinking through where we might be at a given moment and the path we might take. I-95 sounds like a terrible path, until you identify the state prison along the alternate route. Many things must be considered. – RV

o o o

Good morning, Hugh,

The item Developing a Communications Plan for Your Group, by N.M. is an excellent treatise on “group comm”. I’d like to add one thing, though, regarding voice communications.

It is very beneficial to conduct training on how to communicate via voice; experience with “push to talk” cellular has taught me that while some people understand the concept of concise messages, the great majority using voice comm will engage … Continue reading

Developing a Communications Plan for Your Group, by N.M.

I’ve been a Ham for almost 20 years and held an Extra class for about the last 15 years. I’ve been involved in public safety communications for over 10 years and developed communications plans for a large number of public safety as well as public service events. I’ve developed numerous emergency response exercises, including exercises specifically designed to test and evaluate communications procedures, plans, and systems. I’ve written prior articles for SurvivalBlog on the different communications systems that are available and how to obtain your Amateur Radio license. This article will step you through developing and exercising a communications plan for your preparedness group.

Trigger Points

First, your group should identify “trigger points”, which are events that will cause you to start moving personnel and equipment to a predetermined location or checking equipment, like generators, topping off rechargeable batteries, et cetera. Most SHTF … Continue reading

Letter Re: Digital Communications Capabilities for Prepared Families, by Prairie Dweller

I would like to add a small bit of information to the fine work Prairie Dweller provided about digital modes in Amateur Radio.

One of the things that has kept me from exploring digital modes has been the requirement for a laptop or desktop system, generally running Windows. Firstly, I don’t do Windows. Secondly, two is one, one is none. How will you repair your laptop after TSHTF? How many laptops can you inventory? Do you have large enough Faraday cages?

Given the above, I would like to suggest creating your digital mode hardware setup, using a Raspberry Pi B+ (aka Pi 2). This quad core system is more than capable of running the FLDIGI software, where the original Pi struggled. Add a USB sound card, a 5V power supply, a connector cable for your specific Ham radio, and a few other minor parts… … Continue reading

Digital Communications Capabilities for Prepared Families, by Prairie Dweller

As most preppers know, regardless of where you are on your prepping journey, the ability to communicate is a vital need. We need to communicate with our families, and we need to get information about what’s going on around us. The need for communications, as well as the traditional methods for establishing them, has been well addressed in preparedness circles. What has not been addressed much is what digital communications capabilities have to offer you as a prepper. I have been an amateur and commercial radio operator for many years, and the capabilities of digital communications as compared to voice communications astonishes me still.

Digital communications involves the interconnection of computer hardware and radio equipment in order to send and receive messages that are generated by a computer by utilizing radio transmissions. While analog voice communications have their place, digital communications offer the ability to send messages over short or … Continue reading

Letter: Getting Practical and Tactical With Baofeng Hand-Helds, by Wrangler

Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:

Imagine for a moment that you are a licensed ham, operating in a tactical situation, observing your target. It is pitch black outside, and suddenly a team member calls you on the radio. Your radio goes “beep” and the screen lights up so brightly that you can be seen for half a mile. That is not a good situation!

One very popular hand-held radio available in the U.S. is the Chinese-made Baofeng UV-5R handheld dual-band transceiver. They cover two bands: 136-174MHz and 400-519.995 MHz. These hand-helds are mass-produced, so they are often bargain
priced at less than $35. There is also an iSaddle upgrade version of the UV-5R with a larger battery pack (3,800 MaH), available for under $40.

These radios are basic, and have their drawbacks. The default programming settings do not have tactical use in mind. But there are adjustments you … Continue reading