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 exam.

I usually describe the Ham radio licenses in the following way:

  • Technician class: a test on what you can’t do and why you can’t do it, along with an overview on what you are allowed to do and how not to electrocute yourself. After passing it you have access to VHF/UHF/50MHz with limited access to some HF.
  • General class: a test on how things function and an overview of the new things you can do, plus a reminder of how not to electrocute yourself. This includes access to almost all amateur frequencies.
  • Extra class: a test on the theory behind what you are doing, plus a few extra frequencies, oh… and bragging rights.

There are a number of free and cost resources. Since the question pool changes every few years, make sure you have the latest version. Some resources just focus on the answers; some go over the content and give you all possible answers. Personally, I recommend the KB6NU Technical Study guide. It focuses on what is needed to pass the test. Study this, and use the hamexam.org link to test how you are proceeding. When you are 90-100% successful, start looking for a local exam.

If you have looked into Ham radio years ago, please note that they stopped the CW (Morse Code) requirement. There are free, and at cost, study guides for each level of test, and you will learn more than you think while studying for them. Personally, I recommend a General class license; this has almost all frequency privileges while still being a reasonable test.

Establishing and Planning Communication

Knowing who you want to talk to, what kind of equipment they have, what time of day it is for both of you, and their location matters. Location isn’t just about distance; it’s about terrain, too. For instance, if you want to talk to your rural neighbor that lives in a valley two mountains and 60 miles away, your approach will be different than if the terrain was flat and there was 80 or just three miles between you. Almost all options here require a Ham radio license. Communications plans can be outlined with non-licensed technologies; however, they are extremely limited in power and distance.

Basic Questions for Communications Planning

  • With a map, identify where you are and where they are expected to be.
  • List distance in a straight line between you and them; use a ruler, map, and map key.
  • On the map, draw a circle around each person, team, and location and have those circles overlap. This will give you a better understanding of the distances you need to communicate over. Those distances will help you understand the bands you will need to operate with.
  • Identify major terrain obstacles, such as mountains.
  • What radio equipment do they already have and what frequencies do they support?
  • Do they fall within groundwave range of one or more frequencies above?
  • Are you both within range of a specific 2 meter, 70cm, or other repeater?
  • Is there direct line of sight between both locations (neighbor next door, with or without obstacles between you, and what the obstacles are if they exist).
  • Are they, or everyone you want to talk to, within 0-500 miles from each other (NVIS)?
  • Is direction finding a concern?
  • Do you or does someone else need to know the location of someone at given any time? (Tracking a bugout in progress).
  • Do different people within your communications plan have different communications needs? (urban, rural, highway routes, centralized communications hubs)

When Planning, Know How To Contact People

  • Have a plan. Knowing when to contact, who to contact, what methods of contacting and when are all critical in a good communications plan. Just as important as being able to contact someone is knowing how you and they are to respond when contact cannot be made. (See” 3-3-3” plan below.)
  • The 3-3-3 plan is a method commonly found on the Internet where you know at what time two people will try and communicate, and by what method. This has two goals. The first is defining the means of communication; the second is that by knowing when you plan to communicate, you can turn off your communications devices in between times, to save battery life. Here’s one of many excellent resources around planning one: https://radiofreeq.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/3-3-3-radio-plan-for-shtf-communications
  • Write down those numbers and plans. If all your contact information is on a cell phone and that fails, you lose all that information. Write it down, and use waterproof paper, if possible. One of the major downsides of the smart phone is that people no longer have to memorize phone numbers. Sadly, I am guilty of this.
  • Emergency services. Remember that there are ways to contact emergency services besides 911. All Fire, Police, Sheriff, and Ambulance services have their own local numbers, in addition to the relay with 911. When 911 lines become saturated during an emergency, remember you can call all emergency services directly. Having all those numbers written down ahead of time and programmed into your phone can make the difference between help and a busy signal.
  • Voice Mail. Remember if you have temporary access to voicemail, you can reset your VM to provide information.

Planning By Learning From Real Disasters

It doesn’t matter if you are planning for a hurricane or the apocalypse, the challenge is the same. Small groups of people have the need communicate between each other, and that group may have the need to communicate to a centralized or larger group.

If there is one consistent across almost all major disasters, it is that the existing communications infrastructure breaks down. Hurricanes, ice storms, and earthquakes take out cell and radio towers. Generators run out of fuel for those towers. Hard lines are cut or destroyed. Existing communications infrastructure almost always fails.

To combat this inherent failure of communications during a natural disaster, CERT teams have each member carry a small FRS radio to talk to each other while they go house to house searching for survivors. Those same FRS radios are ineffective at communicating between teams that are separated by distance, so frequently amateur radio operators are part of the CERT team, or accompany them with larger radios capable of providing communications between teams. These same amateur radio operators also provide team to central command communications in order to help direct search grids.

Note: CERT teams do not use FRS because the radios are better; they use them because many CERT members do not end up getting a Ham radio license, and FRS is really their only commonly available option.

Note: My local volunteer fire department uses low power VHF, similar to MURS. They can communicate within rural/suburban areas, but once they have to respond to a fire at the local mall their radios become ineffective.

This organization method, of having in-team communications and a “radio operator” to communicate with a larger organization, is no different in theory from how the military organizes communications. The method is effective.

Example Plan – License Dependent

Individual Portable Communications
  • Make sure your cell phone has cached mapping applications, applications listed in the “Cell phone” section of this document, and GPS. (You can always turn it off.)
  • Own a portable radio with FM/AM/NOAA and shortwave broadcast station receive options
  • Have an FRS, GMRS, MURS, or VHF/UHF Ham two-way handheld radio. Having a good IP rating may make the difference between having a radio and a paperweight.
  • Direct attach and “through up a tree” antenna options for handheld radios. (Example: slim-jim type rollup j-poles – http://www.n9tax.com)
  • Carry spare batteries for all electronics as well as the means to re-charge them at home and from in a car. Portable battery/charger/solar panel kits for hiking and camping might be an excellent option here.
Primary Mobile Communications Options

When selecting mobile communications remember terrain, common area usage, and expected drive routes matter. If many cars in your area and the expected route have CB radios installed, then a CB or 10 meter antenna will look common. If you expect a long highway trip, a CB might even be worth the attention, but if no one around you has one, it will draw attention. A 2 meter/70 cm radio usually has an antenna length close to that of an FM radio. On a jeep it would be hard to tell if the antenna upgrade is for an FM radio or 2 meter Ham. Unless your terrain has a lot of hills, a 10 meter radio may not be worth the lack of stealth.

Remember that almost all Ham and CB radios designed for cars run off of 12v DC. This means that they can be removed from a vehicle and used as a base station, and vice versa. In fact, almost all Ham radios are 12v DC, even if they are sold as base stations.

  • 10 Meter radio installed w/antenna installed or
  • 2 Meter / 70 cm dual band 25-50 watt, antenna installed. This has smallest antenna of all options if stealth is needed. 70 cm radios can often receive FRS/GMRS frequencies. Many good 2 meter radios also have APRS options, and can be configured to send tracking information out, should someone need to know your exact location.
  • CB radio w/SSB option, antenna installed (Note that 10 meter radios can often receive CB frequencies.)
  • FRS radio (glove box)
  • If long distance routes are expected, consider supplementing your mobile communications with a semi-portable HF radio designed for “Field Day” type events. An example of this is the ICOM IC-7200. With a quick stop to put up field designed dipole or magnetic loop, you can establish contact with a central location such as your bugout site. You can attach directly to your car battery or keep 12v batteries separate for it. This specific model even has carry handles similar to a PRC77 and comes in OD if you want to pay extra. It supports voice, CW, and, when combined with a USB cable and a laptop, you will be able to send and receive emails and notices via remote mail servers or direct between radios (winlink). When your trip is complete, it can be a primary or backup HF radio.
  • Cigarette lighter socket chargers
  • Caravan Mobile Communications – handout radio should more people bugout with you than expected.
    • Handout FRS/GMRS or
    • Inexpensive $30 2 meter/70 cm handheld radio (in an emergency bugout event, non-licensed might be able to use these radios in simplex communications between cars, simplex being non-repeater based communication). Dual band hand held 5w radios such as Baofeng, are often the same price as FRS radios.
    • Cigarette lighter socket chargers
Base Communications Center

The goal of establishing base communications is to allow for base to base HF, base to mobile, and base to personal communications, resulting in the ability to forward and provide traffic “messages and voice”. Think in terms of being able to handle global, national, regional, and local coverage.

  • HF 160-6 meter radio, make sure it is a “general coverage” receive radio. This will allow you to hear AM and Shortwave broadcasts.
  • 2 meter / 70cm dual band radio
  • In an ideal world, have separate voice, receive only, and data radios. Not all the data radios have to have all frequency coverage.
  • Antenna Tuner
  • CB radio
  • Note: You can use an AM radio, dialed into an unused frequency, to “scope” out the area you plan on setting up an antenna. The AM radio will get extra noisy around RF interference. If this happens, find a better location for the antenna.
  • Fixed, portable, or tree based tower
  • Make sure everything is electrically grounded for and around the antenna. For the most part, electric grounding is not RF grounding; you will need both. For electric grounding having 6-foot ground rods, copper wire and clamps to attach the ground wire to the grounding rod. For RF grounding, a.k.a. counterpoise, the requirements will be dependent on your antenna configuration.
  • Power Supply (AC to 12v DC)
  • SLA or other types of batteries (12v DC) – Radios work best in terms of reception, when running off of batteries. The AC current involved in a power supply that converts AC to DC can and will generate RF noise. Battery types and extending amp hours are beyond the scope for this article; it would take too much space.
  • Method of charging batteries, including passive methods, such as solar.
  • TV antenna to receive HDTV broadcast stations for information collection when satellite or cable goes down.
  • Laptop with radio cloning software
Supplemental Links and Information for Development

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part four of a five part entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

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Round 73 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

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

  1. Robert, NC says:

    In the “Supplemental Links and Information for Development” “battery technology” bullet point I really should have added this video.

    Thie link below is best overview of battery types, pros and cons, and solar requirements/components I have run across so far. I’ ve gone through it a half a dozen times and still learn something new.

    It gets technical but the explanations are clear and use real world examples.

    https://youtu.be/8SuvAKZt0Vs

    Thanks

  2. Jim Kennedy says:

    Well done article on a very important subject that I should spend more time on. I did get my general license, but rarely use HAM, (the wife HATES antennas/wires etc). Having a plan, getting used to using the radios now before things happen is a must. I will second KB6NU’s test guides (and his classes if you are in Ann Arbor). The discussion on distances, radio types, licensed and not-licensed was very well done. A good nudge to get me back into the game – thanks.

    • Robert, NC says:

      LOL, sometimes I think most stealth antennas are stealth from spouse not government. After I have some time with the loop I have on order, i’ll probably post something here. Also remember that imperfect antennas can still work. I have a walkout basement, with about 2/3 under ground. My arrow 2 meter/70 cm open j-pole works fine from the basement, and my g5rv does a decent job there too, though it is wrapped all around.

      In section 3 of this article there’s a link to a book called “Your first amateur HF radio” there’s a whole section in that book on stealth and apartment antennas.

  3. Midwest Marco says:

    R. in NC, thank you for an excellent series. Some ideas….

    Remember whenever you are transmitting on a radio your intended recpient is listening….but others could be listening too. The unintended listener could be a good guy or a bad guy. If you’re part of a group you may want to consider using deception, misdirection, and codes. If you are using Ham radio it is illegal to use code on Ham bands. My suggestions are only for use on unlicensed bands. If you’ve read about WW2 you may have heard about “First United States Army Group”. It existed only on paper. The allies used deception to fool the Germans. This deception included false radio traffic. You could consider the same. An example would be if your bug out ranch has two LP/OPs, OP1 and OP2. James and Rich are in OP1, Mike and Susan in OP2. You base command radio operator call for an hourly OP check in. If you think someone’s listening, command calls for OP1, OP2, OP3, and OP4 to check in. James answers as OP1, Mike answers as OP2 then hands the radio to Susan. She checks in as OP3, then Rich checks in as OP4. Perhaps Rich “accidentially” mentions a geographical landmark near their OP. It’s not really near the OP, but the unintended listener doesn’t know that. I’m a great fan of the movie “The Great Escape”. They dug tunnels “Tom” “Dick” and “Harry”. It wasn’t the tunnel in Hut 109, it was “Dick”. On the radio don’t call the barn “The barn” call it “Harry”. Remember just like play acting make sure everyone in your group is in on the plan and practices. Deception is a force multiplier.

    Receiving and listening on a two way radio takes a certain amount of power, but when you transmit it takes much more power. So in practice you always want to conserve battery life by transmitting on the least amount of power you need. So in the LP/OP example above you have a fixed location(s). The base command is also a fixed location. With Ham radios you can choose High, Medium, and Low power. With the two fixed locations you can test and determine the minimum power needed. Lower power, better battery life. An added benefit is the lower power means your signal is less likely to travel further out and perhaps be intercepted. But…you need to make sure you know how to up the power if you need to leave the fixed location. You don’t want to run and lose communication because now your power is too low. If you’re mobile you should always transmit on high power to power through obstacles and terrain height variations. In a previous post the author descibed antennas. If you have two true fixed locations you can communicate on VHF/UHF with low power with a Yagi antenna. Yagis are also called “beam” antennas. The received and transmitted signals are in a narrow beam. Better reception, plus the signal is less likely to be intercepted since it’s focused in a direction. Google “DIY 2 meter Yagi” for ideas and plans.

    If you are an experienced Ham you may want to consider learning and testing a Cross-Band repeater. It’s something you really, really want to have right before you turn it on. The risk of interfereing with other Ham transmission is great. Check and double check your settings. But, you can greatly expand your reach using a repeater. I have personal expereince with a Kenwood TM-V71A on cross-band repeating as our Ham group supported a rural marathon ouside of regular repeater coverage. We did a one-way repeat with transmit on VHF and recive on UHF. The Hams in the field had VHF/UHF dual band handheld radios with the dual watch cababilites set on V/U. Another option that I have no expereince with, but see as a non-ham option, is a simplex repeater. Chinese manufacturer Surecom (409shop.com) has them. It records than re-transmits a message. Not legal for Ham, but an interesting concept.

    The author covered the 12 volt power standard for Ham radios. He also talked about moving mobile radios as both a base and a mobile in a vehicle. You may want to consider standarding all your power connections with Anderson Powerpoles. They are accepted by many RACES and ARES groups to allow quick change out of radios and other 12v powered accessories. Think of a Powerpole as a red and black Lego block. One on each end. Click the Legos together and you are connected. Strip, crimp and connect now then in an emergency you can swtich out a radio quickly with a Lego click. The author also mentioned using cigarette lighter chargers for your Ham batteries. Only use the cigarette lighter for charging. I’ve seen pictures and decriptions of Hams plugging in mobile radios in the light socket. Bad idea. Sockets are set for low amperage, mobile radios high power draw high amps. You run the risk of popping a fuse or worse. There’s a reason all mobile radio manuals show you connecting the radio directly to the battery. Do that.

    If you have issues with noise like alternator hum either running mobile HF or generator I reccomend the Powerwerx DC Line Noise filter.

    Odds ‘n Sods: Have RF antenna connector adapters. Standard Ham connectors are called UHF connectors. Have extra UHF connectors, barrel connectors, adapters BNC to UHF, male to female, female to male, etc. They are a couple of bucks each. Better to have them and not need them than the other way around. Have PDF versions of your Ham radio manuals on your phone and/or laptop. With new radios the PDF versions are on the manufacturer’s Web site. With old radios some nice Ham has scanned in and put the PDFs online. Google your make and model. Consider buying an earplug with inline PPT button/microphone for your handheld radio. Out in the field only you hear the incoming message. In the house with the earplug in and radio on your belt as you move from room to room you won’t miss an important incoming message.

    • Robert, NC says:

      Great points, thanks. One thing your comment on split band repeaters reminded me of is operating split in band That’s when you send on one frequency and listen on another. Many HF radios support this option. You will have to reverse sync between two sites, but it will work.

    • Joe says:

      so I don’t see anyone commenting on this report
      on here Is this fake news or what?

      • Hugh James Latimer says:

        @Joe,
        It’s not that big of a deal. I don’t know why people panic anytime a training is held. If you don’t train, you don’t work out the bugs. It’s a good thing to train and the DOD is involving civilians through their MARS program. it’s a communication exercise and most people will be blissfully unaware of it. if they have shortwave radios and know what frequencies to listen on, they will hear message passing traffic.

        • Joe says:

          Thank you sir Im new to all this

          • Robert, NC says:

            Historically each military branch had their own MARS groups, and their primary role was to pass health and welfare messages between military personnel and families. This was true up to and including the Gulf War. All messages are in the clear (not encrypted). Since the internet has spread to almost every corner of the world, this role has become almost irrelevant.

            This drill is simulating no-grid, no internet, conditions by having all the HAM MARS operators run on battery and backup power.

            It sounds to me like they are trying to adapt to this new environment by being a backup in case the internet is not available, such as under SHTF conditions. But that’s just my opinion.

            Consider it a test for your personal comms plan, by being able to hear what is going on. Check against the following:
            Even if you don’t have the equipment to transmit yet, can your portable radio setup receive those frequencies?
            Did you need to adjust the antenna to get the signal?
            Did you forget and have to recharge your batteries?
            Do you have usable spare batteries for the radio and can it recharge by non-grid methods?

            If you don’t have a shortwave capable radio, the Kaito Voyager is a good starting point. It is inexpensive, and has a number of recharge methods. See amazon for variations of that radio.

      • Robert, NC says:

        This is the same as “mack’s” comment in part three starting with “ If you are in the USA, might wish to consider this Short Wave Radio exercise.“

        I posted a response here. If you need more clarification let me know.

        Thanks

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is all well and good but..all this assumes you aren’t dealing with an EMP situation. In that event you will need some repairable 1950s tube gear and knowledge of CW and repair techniques and parts. This modern stuff is nice but if you can’t fix it it’s all junk.

    • crystal-peak-bunker says:

      Do you have recommendations for vacuum tube gear? Heathkit HW-101? or what about building something like a vintage single tube 1929 era transmitter?

      • Robert, NC says:

        It would be irresponsible of me to make a recommendation on selecting, building, or repairing tube radios. My knowledge on the subject just isn’t there yet.

        I will recommended that you get involved in your local HAM club. There’s always some old tube junkie around, and if you don’t have a club within a reasonable distance try contacting the clubs that restore the WW2 navy ships transceivers. For example: http://www.ac4rc.org/battleship/battleship.html they might be able to recommend something, and they specialize in that field.

    • Robert, NC says:

      True for equipment that’s unprotected. William T. Prepperdoc has a book titled “EMP-Hardened radio communications” which is excellent. I have to admit though, much of the work coveted in it is beyond my current skill set when adding protection to live radios.

      Instructions for making faraday cages for spare gear and parts is simple enough, and can be searched for online. Depending on strength, height and your distance from the EMP epicenter, using disconnecting your antenna coax and power cables from a radio after usage “might” give you an edge if you live on the coast.

      I avoided topics like finding and testing used equipment, and tube radios in general for a reason. The audience for this article is primarily people just starting to review or implement a communications plan.

      Although tube radios may have less features to learn, and be easier to “dial around”, they require skills and knowledge that has to be developed. No major company makes new tube radios that I know of, and even tube test kits are hard to find.

      In other words, baby steps for those just starting out. This is my recommended order of learning:

      1. Study for your tech license, get some CBs or Baofeng HT’s once you pass that
      2. Get a good VHF/UHF radio and a good antenna. Get on your local repeaters, and start using it.
      3. Start studying for your general class license ASAP, and start saving up for an HF radio.
      4. After you have your general class license, go right into studying CW. I don’t mean learning that .- is “a” I mean cramming it into your brain until you understand what is sent at conversation speed. I have link in this article to an excellent app for learning. [Personally I set the character speed to 30, and start very slow with the word speed, increasing as the weeks go on. ]
      5. By now you probably already have an HF rig in mind. Talk to other hams, before buying, make sure to check eham.net reviews.
      6. When you are active on HF, and can handle 20wpm on CW then it’s a tossup between getting a tube or extra class first. [i do recommend having a tube ex/tx set, but again, that’s a skill set to develop or a person may just end up with either junk, or a nice little plugin camp fire].

      That’s not the order you have to follow, just a recommendation.

    • Robert, NC says:

      Please note that tube radios are not immune from an EMP as far as I know. I believe this is a myth. The better way to state it is that they are less susceptible to EMP/CME events. During the Carrington Event in 1859 even spark gap Morse Code transmitters were effected. See my comment about PreperDoc’s book on EMP hardening below.

  5. J.T. says:

    Great compilation of radio communication information, links and insight into licensed and unlicensed transmissions. Especially like using digital – great alternative to CW for those of us that haven’t mastered this skills, and digital gives you very short messages that can contain lots of information using some COMSEC techniques while being compliant with the regs. Personally use a stripped down laptop with only digital communication software (FLDigi), low power radio (FT-897 or a mono band transceiver), SignaLink, and a portable dipole antenna. All are in EMP proof ammo cans, with a dedicated can for power (battery, small inverter, solar charger), the construction described in a previous article on this blog. I’m able to be setup and transmitting in about 15 minutes – easily getting out (based on conditions) to 500-1500 miles – have developed a 3-3-3 plan with a small group of operators to carry traffic and get local updates. Always operate per the Regs but be ready when there’s an emergency using effective COMSEC techniques.

    • Robert, NC says:

      Digital/Packet based radio, EMP proofing, and alternative power setups are a big part of ham radio and it’s expansive enough for a dedicated set of articles all their own.

      I’m currently testing a lesson plan for getting people to 20 wpm CW in months instead of years, along with documentation for setting up hand held APRS configurations and using that to integrate with cell phones (in case of a regional SHFT like hurricanes).

      This, along with SDR USB for scanning with GNURadio and small Raspberry Pie type builds, and COMSEC methods will probably be my next set of articles, but I want to get an easier and simpler set of methods running before posting here.

  6. Robert, NC says:

    Supplemental: MARS/CAP

    When I first started shopping for a radio on he internet I would see MARS/CAP option under the accessories section of the radio. These options are for supporting Military Affiliated Radio Service and Civil Air Patrol frequencies. These frequencies are not within the HAM radio allowed frequencies.

    Most HAM radios can receive the MARS/CAP frequencies but not transmit on them. The MARS/CAP option will allow the radio to transmit on those frequencies. Note that unless you are a member of MARS or CAP you cannot legally transmit on these frequencies.

    Another item to point out is that the frequencies are not defined, and often the MARS/CAP option on the purchase site will not list what frequencies are opened up for transmit. In general, MARS/CAP options open up all frequencies that the radio can receive, but there is no guarantee on that. On a HF radio this will usually include the CB band frequencies, on a VHF/UHF HAM radio it will probably include FRS/GMRS.

    There are a number of MARS/CAP instructions for different radios, and you can often make these modifications yourself. Keep in mind that on some radios you will be making some changes that takes serious skill.

    My radios have these options for SHFT only. I had the changes made at gigaparts at time of purchase because after reading what was needed, I found that my icom would need a soldering tool and some really small surface mounted diodes. I drink too much coffee for that level of precision.

    If you get or add a MARS/CAP option, only consider transmit for SHFT, those frequencies specific to MARS/CAP are monitored by Uncle Sam.

  7. Robert, NC says:

    As this set of articles starts to rotate out of page #1 of the website, I wanted to thank everyone for their feedback and comments. All of them have been really useful, especially for those new to radio communications.

    Sometimes I forget that we have an entire generation that hasn’t even heard of CB’s let alone portable FM/AM/shortwave radios or HAM radios. I really wanted to contribute something to introduce those to this whole set of technologies to these folks and encourage others to improve their own skill sets in this field. I think we accomplished that. I will stay subscribed to these for future Q&A, so don’t be shy asking questions.

    And for those wondering, I originally posted this article as “Robert, NC” but the editor shortened it to “R. In NC” two aliases same person, and my brain seems to have skipped right over that difference while rushing to the comments section. [note to self, stockpile more coffee]

  8. Joe says:

    Being a newbie to prepping and especially the communication aspect that I understand is critically important, I appreciate this series of articles so much. This part of prepping seems very complicated to us newbies but its giving me a motivation to move on with this most neglected part of my preps that sadly I have not even addressed Thank you all for patience with folks like myself who are true beginners

    • Robert, NC says:

      Thanks Joe. Remember you don’t have to know everything at once. There’s a lot of information, and new terms here.

      I recommend just going to Dave’s website https://dcasler.com/ham-radio/ and YouTube page. Take a look at the “Ask Dave” section and randomly pick videos that seem interesting to you. You can do the same with the ARRL tech license book. Skip over the stuff that makes no sense, go to the interesting part, then work back.

      Other good YouTube videos are from “Ham Radio Concepts” and “OH8STN” But Dave Casler‘s “Ask Dave” section is really geared towards answering newbie questions. Even after I got my general license and I wanted to re-wire my station with Anderson Power connections, I went to his video on it.

      Another thing that helped me was getting a PIXIE QRP kit. These are really small, often poorly made kits for sending Morse Code on usually 40 meters. They, for the most part, are junk, and the instructions are worse. You will need to solder them, putting the diodes and capacitors in the right place. Get a few. vakits.com has them in better quality than what you will see on eBay or amazon, plus you can get one already built as an example.

      Seeing the diodes, crystals and capacitors, and putting them together (often wondering if I was doing it right) helped me to understand them. These usually run fro $7 to $15 each, which makes blowing them up a little less painful.

      I put vakits.com as the recommended vendor because they have crystals in the tech license range (7.110MHz) and most pixies on eBay or amazon are in the general class range (7.023MHz).
      http://vakits.com/catalog/ham-radio-kits

      Now get rid of all those cute cat videos and check out that “Ask Dave” YouTube page. If you are wondering, I have nothing to do with that page, I just found it very useful.

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