Sparks31 Introduces Basic Grid-Down Communications Class

Sparks31 has introduced a new class which will debut in Watertown, CT – Basic Grid-Down/Down-Grid Communications (combined with his SIGINT class). Sparks will be bringing some classes to Washington state (including Yakima and Seattle) in 2019, and hopefully this class may be added to the lineup. Communication is critical in a disaster. Can you still communicate with those you need to if the internet and phone system go down?

This is a one-day class that covers all the basics you need to set up your monitoring post, collect signals intelligence (SIGINT), get on the air with amateur radio and personal communications services (FRS, GMRS, MURS, CB, Part 15), and establish communications networks and interoperability with other like-minded individuals.

Topics of instruction include the following:

  • Learning about Electronic Communications – A Primer
  • Communications Monitoring HF-to-UHF
  • Intelligence versus Information
    • Intelligence Requirements
  • SIGINT – Signals Intelligence
  • Listening Posts and SIGINT Operations
  • Communications Services
    • Amateur Radio
    • Part 95 & 15 (license-free or “license by rule” services)
  • Communications Networks
    • Interoperability – What it is, and how to make it work.
  •  Increasing System Performance
    • Antennas
  • Grid-Down versus Down-Grid Realities
  • Basic Crypto Systems and When It Is Legal to Use Them
  • Alternatives to Radio Communications
Cost for this class is $100. Please enroll via our storefront at https://squareup.com/store/sparks31/.

AmRRON Goes to AmCON 2, Activates for Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael has strengthened to a category 4 storm with winds of 145 mph as of Wednesday morning, October 10th. AmRRON has moved to AmCON 2 and activated for a regional imminent incident.

AmRRON incident plan. (pdf)

AmRRON Hurricane Michael Updates.

AmRRON list of hurricane resource links.

Related:

ARRL Headquarters on Alert of Hurricane Michael

The Cuban Federation of Radio Amateurs has announced that emergency nets for Hurricane Michael are already active in Cuba on 40 and 80 meters. Announced frequencies are 7,110 kHz (primary) and 7,120 kHz (secondary), and 3,740 kHz (primary) and 3,740 kHz (secondary). Operation is expected to be on SSB and digital modes as required. The NHC said western Cuba could see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated maximums of 12 inches. “This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the NHC said.

Team Rubicon – Disaster Response Veterans volunteering to help others.

Sparks31: Building Your Own Radio

Sparks31 has a couple of articles up about getting going building your own radio gear, whether you want to survive an EMP or just get on the air for a little less cash.

We Used to Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 1

We Used to Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 2

The first ham radio book I bought when studying for my license had the schematic for a simple 80 meter CW transmitter using a 6LR8 tube. The schematic looked something like the one above. This was back in the early 1980s when they expected someone at Novice Class level to be able to build a simple CW rig with the help of an elmer.

In an age where the Maker Movement is rapidly gaining popularity and adopting the manifesto of If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it, the original DIY hobby (ham radio) has degenerated into a bunch of appliance operators using equipment made in totalitarian countries.  When the balloon goes up, all the no-code, test-pool memorizing, Extras who passed all three tests in a single sitting are going to be left out in the cold with their Chinese dual-band HTs, unless they get up to speed.

What do you need to do?

  1. Find the local elmer who has had his license for the past 60 years and still runs something like a Harvey Wells Bandmaster or something he built himself.
  2. Put together your library.
  3. Get radios that you can actually fix, as opposed to appliances that become worthless if they break because they can’t be fixed.
  4. Build a kit or three.
  5. Learn the techncial aspects of ham radio.
  6. Learn CW.
  7. Graduate to rolling your own radios.

Good elmers are hard to come by. The good ones are at least in their 70s, and usually older. They still exist, however. The hardest parts for many of you are going to be a) getting the gumption to actually put the effort into looking for one, and b) not coming across as a total cock-walloping asshole. Oh well, as Frank would say, “many are called and few are chosen.”

There are plenty of online sources to build up your reference library, but you’ll want a few books in hardcopy format. Start with an ARRL Handbook from the late 1960s up to the 1980s or 1990s. Older and you’ll get into tube gear which is cool, but probably not something you want to start with. Newer starts getting away from sold state, discrete component, thru-hole PCB construction that’s easy to begin with…

Most of our local hamfests are over for the year as far as picking up used equipment and old books. The next big one in the state will be the Mike & Key Electronics Show and Fleamarket on March 9th, 2019. More locally, the Yakima Hamfest arrives in April, and they Kennewick Electronics, Ham Radio and Experimenters Swap Meet on May 4, 2019.

Off Grid Ham: How Much Battery Do You Need?

Chris Warren over at Off Grid Ham has a nice article up, How Much Battery Do You Really Need? The article discusses how much radio time you can get from a battery, or conversely how much battery do you need to run your radio.

It’s always some variation of “How big of a battery do I need to run my (fill in the blank) radio?” It comes up a lot, not just in my email but also on the various forums and blogs I visit. The question is too open ended and comes with too many variables to give a definitive answer, but there are some basic battery concepts that will help you sort through this confusing topic.

Before asking the question, provide some answers.
It certainly does not help that many of the answers floating around the internet are based on guessing, hypothetical conditions, and overly generous manufacturer data. Before you can know how much battery you “need”, first find out how much power all your stuff consumes and what you plan on doing with it in the real world. Off Grid Ham reader James (whose question was the inspiration for this article) asked about going off grid with his Yaesu FT-450 radio. The official Yaesu specifications state that this radio consumes maximum 22 amps/304 watts on transmit, and 0.55-1.5 amps/8-21 watts on receive depending on the audio level (these numbers are rounded).

Discharge reality.
James wants to run his radio with a 35 amp hour AGM battery and charge it with a 2 amp plug in charger. He plans on adding a solar panel at a later time. So what can he realistically expect from this setup?

A 35 amp hour battery can provide 35 amps for one hour. This is known as the C-rate or 1C-rate. The 2C-rate would be 17.5 amps for two hours, the 3C is 11.66 amps for three hours, and so on. Following the math, the 35 amp-hour battery should push James’ 22 amp transmitter for a little over ninety minutes. In the receive only mode, assuming an average of 1 amp, the battery will go for 35 hours.

But let’s deconstruct this…

Read the entire article at Off Grid Ham by clicking here.

Dialtone: Camp Comms

This is an older post from the Dialtone blog. Camp Comms talks about taking your radio gear outside to practice, the reasoning being that in a disaster/SHTF situation you may very well not be able to operate from your home/radio shack. This can be a tough one. You can spend a lot of time and effort training and/or exhorting your people (whether mutual assistance group, neighborhood protection team, assembly, committee of safety, militia, etc.) to acquire and use their radios. Assuming they do so, they become comfortable using them from home. You encourage them to upgrade to an external/mast antenna. Some of them may actually get excited about their radios and start doing upgrades on their own and getting into more advanced radio equipment and modes. So now maybe your problem changes to no one having communication equipment to they have it, but everything is perfect at home and they don’t want to take it to the field.

While there is a good argument for having some decentralized communication hubs in your area, there is always the possibility that your SHTF situation may not allow you to operate from your home/shack/otherwise stationary location. That may be because of opposition monitoring, because it is necessary to have mobile scouting or defense, because your home in uninhabitable, or numerous other reasons. If you have to go out, what equipment are you going to use and how will you use it? NC Scout’s RTO basic course takes this into account by getting you out of the classroom and outside, at least.  But you need to spend some time in your own area and weather to find what is going to work. Better to know now, then learn by trial and error and error when your life may be on the line.

In the arena of grid down communications, wilderness plays a big part. In a SHTF scenario you will most likely find yourself operating outdoors at some point. With this in mind, your training should focus on operating in a less than perfect environment.

20150907_174452-1

Many men lost there lives in this wilderness. …..

If you go outside and look around, you are sure to find somewhere you can practice your craft. It can be a park or maybe your friend’s woods? It may even be your backyard. Wherever you choose, get out of the house! Leave the comfort of your shack and go test your kit. You will not know what works for you until you find out what does not work for you! You need to work out the bugs now, not when the sky is falling. You can go camping and take your comms kit. Get your kids involved, set up a base station and give them frs radios to go “on patrol”.

43fd79d474cc0873870ec70bb42ff09a

On patrol. ….

The more comfortable you are with your gear in a real life situations the better off you will be. You need to be able to hike in with your gear. If it’s too heavy, now is the time to work it out. Most of the equipment we use lends itself to field ops, it’s light weight and small. Even a small gel cell battery and a CB radio will do the job.  Recently, I went into the woods with a set up just like that. I took my uniden 510xl CB, MFJ tuner a small gel cell battery and some wire. I was able to get comms established in a wooded area under approaching darkness. This is just an example, I could have used my Yeasu 817 or any other portable rig.

20150924_220752

Field Kit: Meets mission requirements.

You should also be doing this with your monitoring gear. You can pack in a scanner/comms receiver and set up a covert LP (listening post). You perform the same information gathering, just in the wild.  Bugs, dirt and snakes brings out the best in people,  throw electronics in the mix and now you have a party…..

Read the entire article here at Dialtone.

Related:

Dialtone: Quick and Dirty – a very brief Dialtone entry on field operations

Brushbeater RTO Course – Why You Should Take It

One of our members recently attended the Brushbeater RTO Course. He has written up his thoughts on why you should take the RadioTelephone Operator course if you can.

Earlier this month I attended Brushbeater’s RadioTelephone Operators course taught by NC Scout. Other people have done reviews of the class (see here and here), so I am going to structure this a little differently. Rather than give a blow by blow of the course as others have already done, I’ll try tell you why you, as a prepper, or member of a Neighborhood Protection Team (NPT), or member of a Mutual Assistance Group (MAG), should take this course.

The purpose of the RTO course is to teach you how to communicate via radio and do so effectively as a member of a communications team. Communication is the act of transferring information from one place to another. Successful communications means that the information has been correctly and effectively transferred from the sender to the receiver. How many ways can that go wrong in radio communication? You may be surprised. The RTO class attempts to identify and rectify some of those common problems.

First, you may not be talking to the right person in the right place. For this, you need a communication plan, or Signals Operating Instructions (SOI). The plan tells you how to identify/authenticate to whom you are talking. It tells you where (what frequency) to contact them. If you can’t speak to them on that first, primary frequency, then you have an alternate frequency and then a third, contingency frequency. Finally, the plan lays out an emergency method of communication. You may have one plan that you use week in and week out for practice with your team or for supporting public service events, but you should practice changing it as well. And if you are preparing for some sort of TEOTWAWKI SHTF WROL WTFBBQ where your NPT is fighting off the golden horde type of event, you’ll want to change it every day.

Choosing the correct frequencies for the location and distance across which you need to make contact is a part of this planning, too. Will line-of-sight frequencies be appropriate or are beyond-line-of-sight frequencies required? What frequencies do everyone’s radios cover? To what frequencies does any possible adversary have access? If our radios cover a frequency, is the antenna on the radio sufficient to make the contact? If not, can you build a field expedient antenna that will be better?

Make sure you can talk to the person you want, and that it actually is the person you expect – check.

Next, you need to transfer all of the information without forgetting or leaving out anything important. Here the RTO course emphasizes standardized report formats. Most of these have come from NC Scout’s prior military experience. You can modify these for your own group or make up new ones; the important thing is to standardize them and to not modify them to leave out anything important. Many experienced radio operators or prior-military service personnel are familiar with the SALUTE report (size, activity, location, uniform, time, equipment) for reporting enemy information, but there are many other useful reports as well.

A good example is the arrival report, used to tell the command element that you have arrived at the location where you were sent. In my own experience with public service and emergency response, your arrival is typically only sent with something like, “Net control, this is Wxxxx. I have arrived at Spokane Memorial.” While having an entire report for arrival, may take more air time, it can convey critical information. For example, you can add that there was a rollover accident blocking interstate 90 so take the 5th Ave exit to get to the hospital. Or you were sent to the Red Cross building on McClellan, but they had moved services a few blocks away to the high school at 5th and Stevens and you taking up your post there. Deviations in final position as well as deviations on your route the location can provide important information for higher up decision makers and shouldn’t be left out.

The RTO course covered and practiced sending and receiving several different types of eports. Just as important as sending all of the information is receiving all of the information accurately. NC Scout emphasized that the receiver should repeat back the entirety of the report to the sender to ensure accuracy. Just saying, “Report received” doesn’t cut it and results in time wasted, or worse — lives lost, because a response was sent to the wrong location or the wrong assets were delivered.

Make sure that all important information is accurately delivered – check.

Finally, if your group or team is going to run efficiently and effectively, your command and control must be organized. Units being sent out must know why they are being sent and what they are expected to accomplish. The command element/post must remain available and actively monitor any operations in progress. Enough radio operators must remain with the command element to communicate with all of the remote units without being overwhelmed. How many radio operators that is will depend on your specific circumstances, including your size, the number of remote units to be sent out, the type and size of the situation to which you are responding, the capabilities of the radio operators and so on. For example, a command center for a peacetime parade may have one radio operator, communicating with twelve remote radio operators, but a large marathon may have several different teams operating on their own frequencies with their own net control. Similarly, a Neighborhood Protection Team with one control point and one roving patrol can operate with one RTO in the command center, whereas a community under siege in a civil disturbance scenario may have several scouting teams out and a need for a command center RTO for each remote team.

The RTO course again uses some military procedures to help with the command function. Warning orders and operations orders are briefly discussed as methods to impart the goals and mission-specific procedures to the teams being sent out. Similarly, NC Scout briefly discusses what are intelligence and intelligence requirements and the inclusion on the requirements in mission briefings.

Control your communication teams effectively – check.

The RTO course teaches to all levels of experience. If you are new to radio communications, the class will cover the basics of radio operation, antenna theory, and propagation for line of sight and beyond line of sight communications at a level that is understandable for a beginner, yet provides insights to more experienced radio operators as well. The class I was in had people from no prior radio use at all the way up Amateur Extra ham radio operators and ex-military radio users. Everyone appeared to have gained something valuable from the class.

In a disaster or SHTF scenario, you will need to talk to someone. That someone likely won’t be standing right next to you all of the time. How are you going to talk to them when they aren’t in talking distance? Why might you use UHF instead of VHF to talk to them? Why might you need HF? Why might you want to use a digital mode instead of FM or SSB? What’s the best radio for my team? Who needs to have a radio? Who needs to know how to use one? Should you use FRS or MURS? Should you get an amateur radio license? Is burying a box of Baofengs enough to cover my communications needs in the future? If you’re not sure about the answers to any of those questions, or are confused about what some of them mean, then you should take this class.

Occasionally I teach classes for people to get their Technician amateur radio license, and I plan on using some of NC Scout’s antenna explanations in the next class. The training about reports has made me re-evaluate how our radio communications should be conducted. I drove seven hours for the class, and it was worth it.

Related:

Brushbeater: Scenes from a Recent RTO Course

Dialtone: Puzzle Pieces – Gear to have in your kit for field expedient antennas.

Brushbeater: Developing, Exploiting Signals Intelligence

NC Scout at the Brushbeater blog has an article up, Developing and Exploiting Open Source Signals Intelligence, in which he discusses the types of information that you should be collecting now for your data books on local communication capabilities as well as foreign.  A third of Americans expect a civil war in the next five years. If a civil war indeed happens, then it’s likely there will be foreign meddling. It’s easier to find out information about capabilities now than during any hostilities.

IMG_1309…Back in the early days of this blog I wrote short blurbs about the importance of things called Data Books– which should be nothing new for veterans of more elite units out there and for Long Range Marksmen. But Data Books are not limited to recording Data On Previous Engagements (DOPE) on our weapon systems– it should also serve as a quick reference on a large number of topics for us as we operate in an area. Things that really come in handy, such as:

  • Flora and Fauna, both good and hazardous
  • Key Terrain Features, including Human, in the Area of Operations (AO)
    • Local gathering sites
    • Local persons of influence
  • Equipment recognition guide and data cards
  • Technology present in my AO

That last bit is critically important- there’s a reason every Intelligence agency has a technology analysis branch. We have to know what a potential adversary’s capabilities are, beginning with his principle enabler- communications. As I cover in the RTO course, advancements in radio technology being fielded in all areas is changing at a rapid rate. Civilian data in the US is publicly published. Even military data is not terribly hard- the specifics take some digging but glossing over but FCC Frequency Allocations gives a great starting point as to what can be found where. It might be a really good idea, and one I cover in class, to write down all of the license free band frequencies; you know, like the frequencies those MURS, FRS/GMRS, and Marine are actually on? That way if I happen to come across a group talking on 151.82mHz, I know know they’re on MURS 1 and can begin communications mapping of their capabilities.

Wait, what? Communications Mapping is not at all a hard concept- I listen for you, write down where you’re transmitting and a compass bearing (if I can get it) while also writing down any other pertinent information. Things like callsigns, male/female voices, times, languages, accents, emotions, the level of training, and if they’re even hostile from the traffic itself are all items that can tell us the level of organization (or lack thereof) of our adversary. And while it sounds simple, it takes discipline and training to execute correctly and to also remember- you’ll be on the receiving end of this as well

Read the entire article by clicking here.

 

Related:

Sparks31’s TECHINT blog post and his SIGINT class

Sparks31’s Police Scanner Workbook

Brushbeater’s Signals Intelligence Resources

Brushbeater’s SIGINT for the Small Unit

Forward Observer Interview with Sparks 31 on Communications Monitoring

Sparks 31’s Reference Material

Selco: Observe and Prepare for the Confusion, Panic, & Mayhem of SHTF

Numbers & Oddities frequency database and files

Electrospaces blog on SIGINT and telecommunication security

Sparks31: SIGINT and COMINT

Why such an emphasis on SIGINT, and in particular COMINT?

It is a good solution for two problems everyone needs to solve. The problems being a short and long term way to get useful information that you can then turn into tactical and strategic intelligence…There are many ways you can answer these questions. One of the easiest is with COMINT. Tactical COMINT is easy. It doesn’t take much to listen for interesting dispatch calls. Strategic is not hard either. It just takes listening and taking notes over a period of time.

AmRRON T-REX Radio Traffic

Following are some messages received via amateur radio for the AmRRON readiness exercise. Errors are as received.

**EXERCISE***EXERCISE***EXERCISE**

a DRINKING WATER RESEVOIR IN SUTHERLIN OR HAS BEEN CONTAMINATED, THERE ARE DEAD ANIMALS IN THE WATER.

SAN FRANCISCO – ONLY THOSE WITH ALTERNATE POWER ARE OK.

***EXERCISE***

 

***EXERCISE***EXCERCISE***EXERCISE*** THERE HAS BEEN A CYBER ATTACK TO THE POWER INFESTRUCTURE NATIONWIDE. POWER WILL BE SPORATIC FOR THE FORSEEABLE FUTURE. INFECTIOUS DISEASE HAS HIT OREGON. THE DISEASE IS SPREADING FROM ANIMALS TO HUMAN AND VISA VERSA. ALL COMMUNICATIONS OTHER THEN RADIO ARE DOWN. PLEASE CHECK YOUR AMRRON SOI FOR COMMS SCHEDULES AND UPDATES. ***EXERCISE***EXERCISE***EXERCISE***

 

And here you can find one participant’s after action report for the exercise.

AmRRON T-REX “News” for Drill

The following is made up “news” for the AmRRON readiness exercise being conducted this weekend (July 20-22, 2018).

The Pre-Exercise Breaking News and Pre T-Rex Message Traffic are used as a ‘build up’ to set the T-REX training exercise scenario. We are also providing resources to help you with your preps! We look forward to training with you! The “Grid Down” portion of T-REX 2018 officially begins Friday, July 20th at 1900 zulu.


Note: We will be simulating GRID DOWN for T-REX beginning at 1900z (12:00 noon pacific time). AmRRON Operators will be running practice nets using the Communications Signal Operating Instructions. Hope to see you on the air! 73!

///Exercise Exercise Exercise/// The AmCON level has been raised to level 2 due to overload of emergency systems.

The spread of Disease X has began to result in travel restrictions as the president has declared martial law and brought in the National Guard to provide quarantine in some large cities. Anyone who is planning to relocate to another location should do so immediately as the window of opportunity is closing quickly, possibly already closed depending on your individual location. Public areas and gatherings should be avoided if at all possible. Limit contact with individuals and do not consume meat products that have been obtained within the previous 3-4 months to reduce risk ofcontracting Disease X through the food supply. Avoid meats or use long-term supplies.  NC SIGCEN

Brushbeater RTO (Radio Operator) Courses Near Missoula, Sept. 2018

NC Scout of the Brushbeater blog will be holding his RTO course in Hamilton, MT (south of Missoula), on Sept. 8-9, 2018 and again Sept. 15-16. There will also be an advanced class held on Sept. 13-14.

EDIT: The 15-16th class has been cancelled because of a lack of sign-ups.

Click here for registration information.

The Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) Course is designed to take the individual of any and every experience level and teach them the basics of effective small unit communications in a field environment. Students will learn what it takes to set up a plan and implement communications in an improvised setting be it anything from a retreat to a security patrol to regional communications networking groups. A heavy emphasis of the course is on improvisation and antenna building- each student will construct antennas from improvised materials which they keep. This is NOT a “ham radio” class. No equipment or previous experience is required; only a notebook and a good pair of shoes. It is the only course of its kind offered anywhere, in a friendly, laid back and respectful environment.

This class will teach students the basics of communications at the Team or Squad Level in the field. Topics of instruction include:

  • Identifying Equipment Requirements
  • Writing a Signals Operating Index
  • PACE Planning for Communications
  • Basic equipment capabilities
  • Traffic handling
  • Improvised antenna types, uses and construction
  • Setting up and running an NVIS HF station
  • Message Formats
  • Setting up and communicating from a Hide site

Two day course will culminate in an field training event running a TOC station and Hide site in the field. Students will each build an antenna and demonstrate competency in team communications basics during the field exercise. Amateur Radio license qualification is helpful, but not required. This is NOT a ‘ham radio’ class but each student will come away with a basic understanding of a team’s communications needs in a tactical environment and how to best meet them under less-than-ideal circumstances. No equipment is required for this course; however, if students want to get field practice with their own gear, it is highly encouraged but done so at their own risk. Instruction is completely off-grid.

RTO Course: $300 per Student in advance or $350 at the door

The Advanced Course picks up where the RTO Basic Course leaves off, with training focused on:

  • Advanced SOI/CEOI Planning
  • Planning & Coordinating Transmitting Sites/Directional Transmitting
  • Uses of Resistors and Constructing Directional Wire Antennas
  • Data Bursts
  • Advanced HF techniques
  • Basic Signals Mapping and Communications Intelligence

Advanced RTO Course: $300 per Student in advance or $350 at the door

$50 deposit required for the in advance class prices by August 15th.

 

RELATED:

Brushbeater: Montana RTO Course and Other Admin Notes

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) Simplified

NC Scout has a new article up at American Partisan about NVIS radio communications. If you were confused by some of the terms used in our Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Security article, this has some additional explanation of line of sight and beyond line of sight communication as well as, of course, NVIS which was briefly mentioned in that article.

HF radio wave propagation can be shot nearly straight into the Ionosphere, hence the name Near Vertical Incidence. What goes up, must come down. Knowing that all things have equal and opposite reactions, the angle coming down is also nearly vertical. Then it goes back up, and down again, and over and over. Like this:

near
Near Vertical Propagation

And it gives you a range Beyond Line of Sight, at the tactical level, like this (minus the TACSAT in the photo):

i-global-net-basecov,base,cs,csrange,op,nvis,legend
Tactical Coverage of NVIS Comms

With a regional picture looking something like this (which goes along with Planning your Footprint) pictured below.

Washington DC
Regional Coverage Using NVIS

So what does this give us? We now have Beyond Line of Sight Communications that do not rely upon repeaters. Once operators are decently trained and have a good amount of time working in this method under their belt, it can be very reliable.

Important to note is that not all HF bands work well for this. Generally speaking, 160-40M work best due to the way the frequencies themselves refract off the ionosphere. Experience as a Radio Operator should tell you when to use which band based on noise level, the amount of heard traffic, and beacon propagation near your operating frequency will give you a good idea if your traffic will be successfully transmitted or not.

Click here to read the article in its entirety at American Partisan.

 

RELATED:

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave Communication: Theory, Techniques, and Validation by Fiedler and Farmer (pdf)

Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety

Several people have asked what our recommendations are for radios; not only amateur radio equipment, but also scanners and shortwave monitoring. Communications are a vital aspect of our every day lives. Communication will be just as important, or more so, in a disaster or emergent situation. Having reliable equipment relieves the end user of much frustration and could be a life saver.

First, a very brief discussion of radio frequency is in order for those readers who have not made any study of radio previously. Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation which moves at the speed of light from the transmitting antenna. This radiation takes the form of electromagnetic waves. Higher energy waves have a higher frequency (number of waves per second) and a shorter wavelength (distance between each successive wave peak).  Lower energy waves have a lower frequency and longer wavelength. Frequency is measured in megahertz (MHz) or millions of waves per second. Different portions of the entire frequency range are grouped together and given shorthand names to aid in their discussion.

Electromagnetic wavelength

The portion of spectrum which interests us for purposes of this article runs from approximately 3 MHz up to 3,000 MHz. This range has been grouped into three sections.  High Frequency (HF) runs from 3 MHz to 30 MHz. Very High Frequency (VHF) goes from 30 MHz to 300 MHz, and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) runs from 300 MHz to 3,000 MHz.

HF is primarily used for long-range communication. HF signals are reflected from the ionosphere which allows them to propagate beyond the horizon. HF signals may take several reflections off the ionosphere and off the earth to travel great distances. This kind of atmospheric reflection is referred to as skywave propagation. VHF and UHF are considered line of sight frequencies. VHF and UHF are limited to distances not much greater than the distance to the horizons, assuming no obstructions to the line of sight. In certain atmospheric conditions, VHF signals may be reflected by the atmosphere, allowing for greater range, but this happening at UHF is exceeding rare and neither should be relied upon for communication. Most VHF/UHF signal propagation is direct wave or surface wave propagation, and reflection.

HF Skywave Propagation

 

VHF/UHF Propagation; Direct wave, Surface wave, and Ground reflected wave

Continue reading “Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety”

Sparks31: Monitoring Exercise

Sparks31 put up a couple of posts on running a monitoring exercise (MONEX) designed to use basic radio receiving equipment, get you experienced in listening, test your gear, and give you an idea of who is operating in your area and their frequencies. The first exercise in part 1 uses a portable broadcast FM radio and the second an AM radio, which just about everyone has. These are exercises that you can do on your own and only require the ability to receive. You do not need a license to receive radio communications.

MONEX Part 1

MONEX Part 2

MONEXes (Monitoring Exercises) are important because they help you understand what your listening equipment is capable of doing, they help you improve your skills in both COMINT and OSINT, and they help you figure out what frequencies in your area are useful for keeping an ear on events. Communications monitoring equipment is not something you can purchase and toss in a go-box for when the balloon goes up. You need to get proficient with the equipment before the s[tuff] hits the fan. Information gathering is as important a survival skill as firearms proficiency, or growing your own food. MONEXes are the way to COMINT proficiency.

RELATED

Consolidated Frequency List (pdf) This contains a long list of to whom various frequencies have been allocated for use. (H/t Sparks31)

Brushbeater: The Prepper’s Signal Kit

NC Scout at the Brushbeater blog has an article up discussing recommendations for line of sight radio equipment – that is suggestions for VHF and UHF transceivers.

As anyone who’s taken the RTO Course knows, the actual equipment itself doesn’t matter that much with some solid foundational training. One VHF analog radio, functionality-wise, does the same thing as any other VHF analog radio. Students are usually surprised by the neat things you can do with a few bucks spent in wire and electric fence insulators along with guiding hand. We wring the absolute most out of whatever you have. But that aside, I do have some suggestions for the prepper just starting out and the more seasoned survivalist who’s graduated to the jack of all trades phase. Since many folks are asking about current production gear, let’s talk about it- specifically, what gets the job done for the money, and what’s really good for a little higher end.

20160516_114710With that said I’ll state up front that buying a bunch of stuff and putting it in a bag or box and then never using it does you no good. You have to use your gear, whatever it is. Everything I own is used hard and heavy- not abused, mind you, responsible people care for their equipment– but used. I know the ins and outs of what I own, and you can be darn sure that if I suggest it, I not only use it, but I can show you the results. So for the folks that buy a case of Baofengs on Alibaba and then never take them out of the box, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Whether you’re buying a $20 Baofeng, a $200 Yaesu, or something somewhere in between, use your stuff and if it fails, you’ll know its limits. The next thing I’ll say is I definitely don’t require anyone to ‘be a ham’ or have any prior knowledge before coming to class. But having people to talk to is the most important part of the learning process, and like land navigation, marksmanship, and basically anything else, its very much a perishable skill. There is a learning curve to communications, especially emergency and field expedient uses, so having stuff just sitting around ain’t doing much for anyone.

Click here to read the entire article at Brushbeater blog.

Brushbeater: The Brevity Matrix

NC Scout at the Brushbeater blog has an article up about using brevity codes in your communications and how to do it. These are like amateur radio Q-codes or police 10-codes, but tailored to your own needs. Here’s an excerpt from The Brevity Matrix.

20151013_153203…[O]ne of the common questions I get is regarding the length of the reports when they’re sent. If interception is a concern, and it always is, how do we shorten this up or obscure it to the point of being useless to listen to? There’s a few answers to this question, including going high tech/more complicated/more expensive with equipment, more efficient antenna construction for directivity, and finally, creating a BREVMAT.

A Brevity Matrix, or BREVMAT, is a randomly generated series of codes that are commonly understood by your group and shorten the transmission. In the amateur radio world we use Q codes, and 10 codes are the most widely known in both the CB and public service realms. Like I state in class, what you and your group do is up to you- if the basics are observed and everyone is on the same page, then it’s not wrong.

remote setup.jpgTactical BREVMATs are created and included in your Signals Operating Index (SOI), they are recycled each time the SOI changes (which is usually a set period of time, and for missions, mission-specific). This information can then be encoded into a One Time Pad (OTP) message and sent to higher analysis and control element (ACE) if coordinated over a region.

The following is a sample BREVMAT sent in by a very well seasoned reader (it’s much appreciated my friend, stay frosty) and a template for you to follow:

Continue reading at Brushbeater by clicking here.