This is another attempt to put a vital part of a security operation into an affordable box, that will provide ‘the mostest, for the leastest’, the quickest, and in the easiest way. In time, the basic tools will be the foundation of whatever improvements to an area of your security plan that fits you. At present, the discussion is about radio related topics as it pertains to a security operation. The pros know that actionable intelligence should drive defenses. We will likely not have the time to develop that lofty level of intelligence, yet there is one type of intelligence where the “low hanging fruit” is easily had. We seek to discover this threat, so that action will be taken. This certain and basic information, a no-brainer, is about threats that should cause one to heighten their defenses, if not put eyes on the problem. So what are we talking about? Bad guys using radios to coordinate movement, against you and yours.
At the end of the day is it not what you got, but what you can keep. The ability to keep what we got is the goal. As alluded to, ad naseum, *Security will be job one*. You can have a dedicated security team that is supported by everyone else, yet sadly most of us will be hurting for certain without enough hands that make work light. Can we have dedicated security team? Gotta S2 for you? Got no clue? How about your own SIGINT? No? Bummer! How can we cram, at least one of these important functions into something bite size that a prepper can chew? Can we consolidate capabilities, downsize one critical task? Is it possible to put at least some of it into a manageable size box that can provide at least some of what is the most useful? Can we adapted these tasks to regular folk’s background, without a steep learning curve? All these pesky questions were needed to be asked. As it pertains to the recent topic d’jour, we can indeed take a bite of the security problem out, by starting with a single scanner. The threat will not disappoint, and neither will a scanner, if used properly. Give Grandpa, or the big kid, a scanner for Christmas. You might be glad you did. It is a critical part of your security and commo plan, that does the first intel job: Warning.
My suggested purchase: The Uniden SR30c Scanner with the Close Call Feature. Take a look at the SR30c Scanner overview and frequency chart.
$99 is a reasonable price. You can buy one here.
This scanner would make a good Christmas gift. Thsiscomes at a time of the year it would be a good to have something to play with. However, it is a serious multipurpose tool for the prepper who can read instructions, who has a penchant for play, and desire to improve retreat security. It is potentially a big stick. This is very important part of your retreat defenses…listening, and it is easy to implement. And no one will hear to you practicing. A scanner can be mobile, or at a fixed location.
The best way to get it done is with a scanner with a Close Call type of feature, or variations the marketed name, that is essentially a frequency counter…but we can skip all that stuff, and make it simple, and use a regular scanner too. Yet the Uniden in several models that have a Close Call feature has an advantage. Even if one does not know what frequencies they should scan, if only they could follow in the instructions on a You Tube video, and set up the Close Call function, they’ve gotta winner in their hand. The Close Call feature can only be set to monitor either UHF, or VHF, but not both at the same time. I would chose UHF to see if it would pick up GMRS/FRS radio. Then use your own GMRS/FRS radio to test it out. Ideally, I would also have a second scanner that could be set to monitor VHF as well.
[JWR Adds: I concur! I’d recommend getting a pair of Uniden SR30c Scanners. That way you can have one set to UHF close call, and the other set to VHF close call. And that fits with the SurvivalBlog “Two is one…” motto.]
As security will be a major chore, these improve situational awareness and develop intelligence with a relatively inexpensive tool that can stand guard 24/7. It sips power, less than 250mah (1/4 of 1 amp at voltage), and without the Close Call, the older analog scanner, probably that Radio Shack thingy that you may already have in a box somewhere, those scanners need less power, as low as 75mah (milli ampere hours). Any scanner can work, but with any of the modern generation Uniden scanners with the Close Call function, frequencies that are unknown, and not programmed-in, can be picked up if the signal strength is high enough.
Using an external antenna, such as the discone antenna on the roof, will greatly enhance this ability. Using it with a directional antenna are like using big ears to hear at distant, or weak close in signal from a certain direction. Start with an omni-directional antenna such as 1/4 wave, or a discone. Another and second choice antenna for transmitting and receiving that can go mobile with a mag mount, or sit on top of the fridge, is the very broad banded Tram 1181 dual banded 1/4 wave antenna. Get two discones, one to listen on, one to talk on, and a Tram 1181 for mobile rigs. High gain is usually the game, but a multi tool will rule in the future electronic battlefield ahead.
- Tram Discone antenna. (Detailed in the second part of the article):
- Tram Dual band 1181 mag mount antenna. (I’ve tested piles of these, and they are usually good for 144 to 160, and 430 to 470 MHz.)
It is certainly worth the extra power consumed, the batteries used, and a 100 bucks to cover a muy importante part of the security plan. Scanners if used actively, are early warning devices, and an intelligence collection device. Cost of purchase is low, it is cheap to feed in terms of batteries, and it is multi-purpose. It can listen to your Dakota Alert Sensors, your communications net, and pick up radio transmissions from unexpected signal sources, be them friend or foe, and on frequencies well known, or unknown. Good stuff!
A quick and easy approach that makes it easier for those without a frequency list is to plug in the 2 meter ham band repeaters in your area, MURS, and Business band on the VHF side, and GMRS and FRS, plus any 70cm repeaters in your area, and set it to scan the list and use the Close Call option to monitor the UHF side. Even if you do, or do not have a MURS Dakota Alert sensor using MURS channels, or if using the Dakota Alert Sensors without external UHF antennas, then monitor the UHF side. Program with the computer to have a back up, and to make the process easier. There are other way to configure it (set it up), but this a good start for most folks. Any frequency flashed on the scanners display is a Close Call signal, and should be recorded by quickly writing it down, and added to the scanner list, then investigating the source.
Any signal that is nearby should be identified as either ‘friend or foe’, whether is a voice or just a mic click. If the Close Call hears it, it is dangerously close, by rural standards. Even if you hear a GMRS, FRS, or MURS from any scanner, then they are dangerously close. That is: within a 1/4 of mile if GMRS/FRS, and within 1 mile if MURS. Any unidentified user is not a friend, they are foes until proven otherwise. Put eyes on them, or stand guard. Using directional antenna, and a map and compass can start the process of determining who is on the other end. (For the low budget guys like myself, or as a field expedient means, string up some common RG59 TV cable, and strip out 19″ of the inner wire to act as a receiver antenna, and plug the bare wire on the other end directly into the thrift store scanner. Duct tape works. It doesn’t get cheaper than that. Rude and crude.)
I forgot to mention, most scanners including this Uniden series, does not cover the entire spectrum that the now ubiquitous Baofeng UV5r covers. It does not cover 512-520Mhz, or the 220Mhz Ham (amateur) band. A tri-band Boafeng is slow, but may be used to sweep the 220 to 260mhz range. And a Boafeng can scan a few frequencies well, or better, be use as a single frequency receiver to monitor the primary channel. Nor does this Uniden cover other military bands below 400 MHz, where the military uses intra-squad headsets on freqs between 399 to 400Mhz. Some older scanners and higher end scanners do. Yet often is forgotten is the 220Mhz Ham band. I do not know of a scanner for that. One can cover some of those loose ends with a bank of many scanners sharing an antenna. With a 20 dollar USB-RTL Dongle, and a laptop or Raspberry Pi, but these consume lots of power. Unless you have a large alterenative powerr system at your retreat, then leave that set up only to switch on to scope out potential threats.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)