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.

Sparks31 Releases Commo Book

Sparks31, a frequent internet writer on emergency communications, has released a new book titled Commo.  It is available in print and as an eBook on Lulu.com.

Hardcopy – http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/commo/2…

Digital (Free Download) – http://www.lulu.com/shop/sparks31/commo/ebook/prod…

Sparks31 has previously written Communications for 3%ers and Survivalists and also Down-Grid Communications.

Follows an excerpt from the introduction:

Imagine, for a moment, that right now the grid goes down, either accidentally or by design. Would you be able to:
• Communicate with family members to determine their safety/well being, and have them initiate contingency plans?
• Alert and mobilize the members of your group?
• Collect intelligence information to find out local conditions?
• Collect intelligence information to find out the geographical extent of a disaster or similar event/situation?

Now lets go to the actual present, our status­quo dystopian reality. Are you able to:
• Communicate with family and group members in a manner that minimizes your footprint?
• Collect intelligence information to find out local, regional, national, and worldwide conditions/events via alternative means?
• Minimize or eliminate your surveillance footprint when necessary for privacy reasons?

Communications skills in a down­grid situation, meaning both now and in an uncertain future, is an essential survival skill for anyone interested in maintaining control over their own destiny. You don’t need to be an electronics expert, although your group or tribe will
certainly need one. You do need to have a certain level of
knowledge, dependent on your aptitude and general skill­
set.

Sign Up to Participate in 2018 AmRRON T-REX with LVA

AmRRON’s 2018 TEOTWAWKI Readiness Exercise (T-REx) will be held on the weekend on July 20th – 22nd. This is a nationwide grid-down disaster training exercise.. This will be an emergency communications training exercise with emphasis on Amateur Radio for use during emergency/disaster situations. If we get enough volunteers, we will staff a command center to practice our own relief efforts for a regional emergency. Only emergency power will be used for the duration of the weekend, unless the scenario dictates otherwise. The command center will run 24 hours per day if we have enough volunteers. If we enough people do not volunteer for that staffing level, then we will not staff the command center at all.

To indicate your interest in participating with the command center, click on the LVA Report Form link in the menu of this website and submit a SALUTE report indicating your interest.  Your report should have the following information:

S -> The number of people whom you are volunteering to help with the command center.

A -> Indicate T-REx Command Center volunteer

L -> Command Center

U -> Your name and the name of any other family members volunteering with you

T -> Indicate what day or days you are volunteering to help

E -> Indicate any equipment that you are volunteering to bring. This could include food, radios, water, cots, grills or stoves, sleeping bags, etc.

Brushbeater: Integrating Inter-Team Communications Into Your Kit

NC Scout from Brushbeater blog has some good notes up on Guidelines for Integrating Inter-Team Communications Into Your Kit.

The cornerstone of why you need communications in the field is unit coordination. Teams must have a way to relay what they see and update the situation to other partner teams in the field and to a command location. This is what’s known as Inter-Team Communications and should be thought of as your lifeline for the Small Unit. One of the topics briefly covered in the RTO Course is how to integrate squad-level commo gear into your kit. After training with several groups I’ve noticed that this normally is an afterthought, so it’s something that I address through demonstration of my own gear during the second day. While I don’t require anyone to bring anything to class other than a notebook, pen, comfy shoes and a good attitude, on the FTX there is a little bit of team movement and scratching the surface on Small Unit Tactics (SUT) that I cover elsewhere. There’s a lot of reasons I do this, but its mostly to prove to the student they’re effective with almost nothing.  Everything else is an enhancement to the skill they’re building. Basics never change, and proper adherence of the basics will get you through most situations. The point is not that its an SUT class- its that you’re using your training and gear in the intended environment and showing me that you can apply what you just learned. An RTO (Or RATELO for you Marines) is a critical element of the small unit and as a recent Scout class learned, can be the hardest job on the Team. Together we lay the foundation and provide a context, so that everything else becomes easy and you can add to it to suit your group’s needs. Among the takeaways through a hands on approach is how to integrate Inter-Team communications efficiently into your own personal Second Line or ‘Deuce’ gear (also known as ‘kit’). One of the biggest issues for those looking to conduct patrolling is how to effectively integrate basic communications equipment into their patrolling kits- there’s a right way and a less-right way, centered around making life just a tad easier while moving tactically…

Click here to read the entire article at Brushbeater.

A Useful Online Tool for Line Of Sight (LOS) Communications

NC Scout over at the Brushbeater blog has a few words up about using online elevation tools to view your RF line of sight between two points.

brushbeater

One of the responsibilities of the RTO in a planning cycle is knowing what tools will cover the distances needed during the patrol. You very well may LOVE license free FRS handhelds, only to get two klicks into the bush to realize they don’t work like you thought they would. These problems are some of the issues we cover in class- and flexibility rules the day. One of the planning tools that makes life easy now is an RF Line of Sight (LOS) tool. Using this will give you an idea of your radius on your terrain, and you can see roughly what you’ll need as far as antenna height and direction. It’s a particularly useful tool for those incorporating sloping vees or yagis into a signals package.

directional wire

And if you wanna take your small unit capability to the next level, get a jump start on your signals skills…

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Communications Academy, April 14-15, 2018

The Communications Academy will be held at South Seattle College on the weekend of April 14th and 15th. Keynote speakers for 2018 include the Director of Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD) and ham radio author and editor Ward Silver (N0AX). There are six sessions designed for ham radio beginners:

  1. ) Session #5 Radio basics: How to Choose Your First Radio – Carl Leon, N7KUW
  2. ) Session #11 Radio basics: I have my Radio – Now How do I Turn It On? – Joel Ware, KD7QKK and Bill Thomassen, N6NBN
  3. ) Session #15 Radio basics: Radio Safety for Beginners – Jon Newstrom, KL7GT
  4. ) Session #22 Radio basics: But I am Afraid to Talk into the Microphone – Alan Jones, KD7KUS
  5. ) Session #27 Radio basics: This is Fun – What’s Next? – Don Marshall, KE7ARH
  6. ) Session #31 Radio basics: Where Do I Go from Here? – Carl Leon, N7KUW

There are also sessions on the incident command system, ham radio IP networks, Winlink, Hurricanes Harvey and Maria response, and much more.

Communications Academy is a non-profit coalition of volunteer communications teams to provide a high quality, professional-grade training opportunity for the various emergency communications teams around the Pacific Northwest. By providing a once-a-year large-scale venue for training, volunteer communicators are exposed to topics in emergency management, communications techniques and protocols, real-life emergency responses, and other pertinent subjects, which might not otherwise be available to them.

In past years the academy has been able to attract several nationally known speakers for the keynote sessions.

The Communications Academy is open to anyone with an interest in emergency communications, volunteer or professional. The presentations are designed to promote the development of knowledgeable, skilled emergency communicators who will support their local communities during a disaster or emergency response.

Click here to view the Saturday schedule
Click here to view the Sunday schedule

NC Scout Announces Radiotelephone Operator Course

**UPDATE** The class location is in North Caroling.

NS Scout at the Brushbeater blog has announced his new RTO Course. The first date is March 3-4th, 2018.  The location is not announced, but I would expect it to be somewhere in the South Atlantic states. If you’re in that region, or can easily get there, this should be some good training.

What the RTO Course is:

This course is designed to instruct students on the basics of effective communications in a tactical environment. Students will learn everything from how to create a proper Signals Operating Index and traffic handling to basic antenna theory and construction for local use as well as a primer on how HF works. All of this culminates in an FTX on the second day.

What this course is NOT:

This is not a ‘ham radio’ class. Strong emphasis is placed on ‘making your equipment work in a tactical environment’ versus bombarding the student with technical or hobby-oriented data. We will be working on a level most ‘hams’ never do. So while a license is certainly helpful, it is not required, but by the end of class you’ll come away with a real understanding of why it is an advantage.

While not designed to be physically intense, there will be field work on both days.

RTO Course: $200 per Student

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.

 

Update 2: Brushbeater has posted a student’s review of the RTO course. Click here.

ARRL: Radio Amateur on St. Lucia Relays Hurricane Reports

From ARRL.org, Radio Amateur on St. Lucia Relays Reports of Hurricane Devastation on Dominica, a reminder of the usefulness of alternative communications methods during a disaster:

As “potentially catastrophic Hurricane Maria” is headed for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Frans van Santbrink, J69DS, on St. Lucia checked into the VoIP Hurricane Net to relay damage reports he gathered via repeater conversations with hams on Dominica, which was hit by Category 5 Hurricane Maria.

He recounted a damage report from Kerry Fevrier, J69YH, in Roseau, Dominica. “Trees down, river has flooded half the village, cars are all over, most houses have lost their roofs or are destroyed, the area between his house and the church is just flattened…in his words, ‘devastation is total,’” van Santbrink told the net.

He also heard from J73CI, who has lost his roof; J73WA on the northern end of the island, who lost his tower and was uncertain how he was going to weather the back end of the storm, and J73MH, who also lost his roof and was “just hunkering down and hoping for the best.”

Click here to read the entire article

ARRL: Emergency Net Active in Wake of Central Mexico Earthquake 9/20/17

From arrl.org, Amateur Radio Emergency Net Active in Wake of Earthquake in Central Mexico.

The FMRE National Emergency Net has activated on 7.060 MHz following a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in the central Mexico state of Puebla at 1814 UTC on Tuesday. The net also uses 3.690 MHz and 14.120 MHz as well as IRLP reflector 9200, channel 08.

The epicenter was some 75 miles southeast of Mexico City, which felt the temblor. Preliminary reports indicate a lot of collapsed buildings and missing people.

The FMRE net has been handling traffic to make up for the loss of some cellular networks, FMRE President Al Tomez, XE2O, told ARRL. The earthquake came 32 years to the day after a 1985 magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck the Mexico City, killing some 9,500 people in and around the capital city.

Just one week ago, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off Mexico’s southern coast, killing more than 60 people and causing considerable damage.

ARRL: Emergency Net Activated for Mexico Earthquake. 9/8/2017

From the American Radio Relay League, Emergency Net Activated in Wake of Earthquake in Mexico:

The National Emergency Net of the FMRE — Mexico’s national Amateur Radio association, has activated on 7.060 MHz (the Net also may operate on 3.690 MHz) to handle any emergency traffic after a late evening earthquake occurred off Mexico’s coast. Radio amateurs not involved in the earthquake disaster should avoid those frequencies.

The potent magnitude 8.2 earthquake off Mexico’s Pacific Coast — the strongest in 100 years — has resulted in multiple fatalities so far, including 23 in Oaxaca, seven in Chiapas, and 2 in Tabasco. Rescue and recovery efforts are under way to free victims trapped in the rubble.

The tremor was felt around Central America. At 0500 UTC, Jose Arturo Molina, YS1MS, reported feeling a strong temblor within a few minutes of the earthquake in Chiapas, which is near Mexico’s border with Guatemala. In Honduras, Antonio Handal, HR2DX, located on the North Coast, also reported feeling the quake.

The Central American Network operates at 7.090 kHz, and Guatemala at 7.075 MHz. No reports have been heard yet from Guatemalan radio amateurs. In Southeastern Mexico, FMRE has a link to the WL2K Network with capacity to cover Mexico and Central America. — Thanks to IARU Region 2 Coordinator Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, for some information

ARRL: Amateur Radio Preparations Ramp Up for Hurricane Irma

 

From the American Radio Relay League, Amateur Radio Preparations Ramp Up as Irma Strengthens to Category 5:

Hurricane Irma, making its way through the Caribbean with the possibility of affecting South Florida by week’s end, has, in the words of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), become “an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane.” The NHC urged that hurricane preparations be rushed to completion in areas now under hurricane warnings…

The HWN will activate at 1800 UTC (2 PM EDT) on its primary frequency of 14.325 MHz and will remain in continuous operation until further notice, Graves said. Daytime operation will begin at 1100 UTC each day continuing for as long as propagation allows. Operation on 7.268 MHz will start at 2200 UTC and continue overnight. “If propagation dictates, we will operate both frequencies at the same time,” Graves said. The HWN marks its 52nd anniversary this week.

He noted that HWN operation on 7.268 MHz will pause at 1130 UTC, and, if required, resume at approximately 1230 UTC, to allow the Waterway Net to conducts its daily net…

IARU Region 2 Emergency Coordinator Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, has compiled a list of emergency frequencies, subject to change, for use in the Caribbean in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.

  • Puerto Rico: 3.803, 3.808, 7.188 MHz. Radio amateurs in Puerto Rico also will cooperate with the HWN on 7.268 and 14.325 MHz.
  • Cuba: Daylight hours, 7.110 MHz (primary) and 7.120 MHz (secondary); Provincial Net — 7.045, 7.080 MHz, and on other lower frequencies as necessary. Nighttime, 3.740 MHz (primary) and 3.720 MHz (secondary) and on other lower frequencies as necessary.
  • Dominican Republic: 3.873 MHz (primary), 3.815 MHz (secondary), 7.182 MHz (primary), 7.255 MHz (secondary); 14.330 MHz (primary), 21.360 MHz (primary), 28.330 MHz (primary).
  • Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN): 3.815 MHz and 7.162 MHz (when necessary). NOTE: Net will activate continuously starting this evening until the hurricane has passed through…

The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) reminded licensees this week that FCC rules address operation during emergencies. “These rules allow licensees to provide emergency communications during a period of emergency in a manner or configuration not specified in the station authorization or in the rules governing such stations,” the FCC said.

Read the whole article by clicking here

Amateur Radio Prepares for Hurricane Harvey

From the ARRL, Array of Amateur Radio Resources Readying for Hurricane Harvey Response:

Amateur Radio resources are marshaling to assist in the response to Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to make landfall along the Texas coast on Friday (August 25) as a Category 3 storm. It would be the first storm to hit the US coast in more than a decade. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) already has swung into action, as the storm, which bears the threat not only of high winds but extensive and life-threatening storm surge flooding. Nearly 3 feet of rain could fall, if, as predicted, Harvey stalls along the Texas shoreline. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said he and his staff are keeping close watch on Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Watch Net

The Hurricane Watch Net activated on August 24 at 1500 UTC on 14.325 MHz, subsequently shifting to 7.268 MHz at 2300 UTC. The net planned to operate overnight and will resume daytime operation on 14.325 MHz at 1200 UTC. “Should band conditions dictate, we will operate both frequencies simultaneously,” Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said.

Click here to read the entire story

Click here for ARRL Texas incident plans for Hurricane Harvey, including HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies. There are many frequencies in the plan.

Related:

Harvey Regains Strength, Hurricane Watch Net Plans to Activate

National Hurricane Center – Harvey

Weather.com – Hurricane Harvey