Letter Re: Communication Radios

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HJL,

Thought I would give my two cents worth regarding T.K. ‘s question about emergency communication in his valley. About 20 years ago I posed the same question to a ham operator friend of mine. His suggestion was for me to buy a cb with sideband. He claimed that would be the easiest and cheapest way to call for help if needed. He also stated that I may not be able to reach anybody locally due to my remoteness but should find somebody in the country if not the world to respond. I was skeptical at his claim to say the least but decided to give it a try. Soon after, I purchased an older mobile rig and antenna at the local flea market for under 35 dollars. That started my journey to becoming a ham operator myself. With that first setup, I logged many hours talking to places from Japan, Alaska even Australia. Most of my contacts were in the States however. Locally my signal would travel well enough to be able to communicate with my friend about 30 miles away. Which doesn’t sound impressive except that there was a very large mountain in our line of sight. When people would come to visit we had good reception throughout most of their drive up. It would be easy for me to get long winded about the possibilities, technicalities, probabilities, ect. So I will conclude by saying that my belief is that T.K. would do good to try cb radios and go up from there if need be. – M.Z.Y.

HJL Replies: CB radios are a good, relatively easy way to start, but you need to be aware that CB frequencies (known to hams as 11 meters) suffers from the same problems that 10 meters does. Ionospheric skip is highly unreliable. One of the nice things about obtaining a Ham license is that a much broader spectrum of RF is available for use. When 10 meters is down (due to sunspots, solar storms, etc…) other longer wavelengths are generally more usable. The really long wavelengths (80 meters and 160 meters) tend to be better at night. When 40 meters isn’t working so hot, 20 meters is usually good. With CB, you get 11 meter performance and that is all. Granted, in a SHTF situation, governance of the airwaves may not be an issue, but you really need to practice communications before then. To have the flexibility, ham licenses are practically a must.

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