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.

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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”.

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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.

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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

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

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