Off Grid Ham: Everything But the Ham (Non-Amateur Radios)

Chris Warren at Off Grid Ham has another good article up, this one describing the various radio services apart from ham radio which are available for use and their advantages and disadvantages – Everything But the Ham.

It’s about ham-less options.

I’m going to assume that everyone who reads this blog is either a currently licensed ham, or at least vaguely interested in becoming one. With that kind of a demographic, why should I even entertain the idea of covering non-ham radio communications? Well, it’s all about having options. Furthermore, there are some pretty good reasons why even licensed hams might want to consider other services. unlicensed radio communications

The king of communications. unlicensed radio communications

For non-commercial personal communications without reliance on a network or a grid, amateur radio isn’t just at the top of the pyramid, it’s about 95% of the entire pyramid. Without ham radio, your choices are very limited, but they’re not zero. What about that other five percent? Maybe you’re not a ham and don’t want to become one. Maybe you are a ham and want to expand your capabilities. What is out there? What is possible?

The good news is that there are several choices for non-ham communications. All of them are inexpensive and relatively easy to deploy. None of these options will allow you to communicate over long distances.

Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS).

MURS operates on five FM channels in the VHF band around 151 mHz. No license is required. Two watts is the maximum transmit power. The antenna cannot exceed 60 feet above ground or 20 feet above the structure on which it is mounted (whichever is higher). Non-voice communications such as motion sensors and security systems also use MURS. With only five channels, there is a possibility of competition for limited band space.

There’s one more hangup: MURS used to be part of the VHF business band. Commercial business licensees assigned to MURS frequencies were grandfathered in, meaning, they can still use the band even though their equipment may far exceed MURS technical requirements. Grandfathered business users have priority use over unlicensed MURS stations.

MURS-specific radios tend to be more expensive than those in other services. Many radios intended for licensed amateurs will operate on MURS frequencies. This is legal, but be sure to observe transmitter wattage restrictions as most amateur equipment by default exceeds two watts unless manually set to a lower power. unlicensed radio communications

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).

unlicensed radio communications

STOCK PHOTO

GMRS operates on thirty FM channels between 462 and 467 mHz. You will need a license in the USA; it costs $70 and is valid for ten years. GMRS shares 22 channels with the Family Radio Service (FRS). GMRS allows a maximum transmitter output of 50 watts, except for channels 8-14 where the limit is one-half (0.5) watt. Operators may use repeaters with GMRS if the input and output frequencies conform to established splits. Frequencies in between channels 1-7 may be used for simplex communications, but are limited to five watts. On interstitial frequencies between channels 8-14, simplex is also allowed but the transmit power limit is still 0.5 watts. unlicensed radio communications

True GMRS equipment can be costly. Be aware that manufacturers often market FRS radios as “GMRS radios”. This is technically true since the two services share frequencies, but read the fine print and know you are really buying. FRS radios are generally inexpensive and therefore poorly made.

Family Radio Service (FRS). unlicensed radio communications…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Off Grid Ham.

American Partisan: Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark

From NC Scout at American Partisan – Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark some information and links on what radio frequencies to monitor when something really big happens and normal communications go down.

Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark

NCS,

What are the frequencies for FEMA to do informational broadcasts when the internet/cells go down?

Just a what if. – A Reader

That’s a good question. There’s a ton of crap floating around on the net right now, making it nearly impossible for the average person to sift through what’s real and what’s straight BS. But with that said, one of the main ones is the ‘looming‘ shutdown of the internet and cell phone service. I don’t know how much validity that actually has, but it underscores the ability to communicate and spread information through decentralized means- which is why I’ve taught communications skills in far greater depth and breadth than anyone else ever offered civilians, combining combat experience with practical end skills.

So with that said, go check out my first post on the topic, listing frequencies of interest and the second post, listing foreign military HF frequencies. And with that said, do not overlook the very vital role the American Red Cross will play, especially when it comes to HF message traffic.

HF
KNNP491
WQJI233
2326.0
2463.0
2726.0
2801.0
3170.0
3201.0
5135.0
5140.0
6858.0
7480.0
7549.0
7697.0
7932.0
7935.0

VHF Low Band 
KA3699
KGB223
WQEF834
47.4200
47.5000

VHF/UHF 
KB84508
KNJR836
WPEQ240
WPME641
WQHH921
WQMD985
WQXM300
27.4900
35.0400
43.0400
151.5050
151.5125
151.6250
151.7000
151.7600
154.5275
158.4000
158.4075
451.8000 / 456.8000
451.8125 / 456.8125
453.4250 / 458.4250
453.4750 / 458.4750
453.5250 / 458.5250
462.7625
462.7875
464.5000 / 469.5000
464.5500 / 469.5500
464.6000 / 469.6000
464.6250 / 469.6250
464.6500 / 469.6500
464.7000 / 469.7000
464.7250 / 469.7250
464.7500 / 469.7500
466.3125
467.9125

The VHF / UHF frequencies can be monitored with a Baofeng, but for the rest you’ll need HF gear. Check out this post if you need a primer to get that squared away.

American Partisan: Radio Quick Start Guide

NC Scout at American Partisan has written a short Radio Quick Start Guide, covering line of sight and over the horizon radio equipment to get you started if you’re asking “just tell me what to get, already.”

When people think of radio communications, they want a replacement for a cell phone. You’re not getting a replacement for a cell phone.

Alright, with that out of the way, I’ve been getting a ton of emails asking about jump-starting communications capabilities for an area. Since that’s something I’ve written a lot about over the years and teach two classes for building that capability, I’m going to cover the bare-bones basics to getting a local network squared up and running.

QYT KT-8900. Small, light, versatile and effective.

For local work, you’re going to want this:

It’s a 25 watt tiny little mobile radio that plugs into a 12v outlet. You can run it in your truck very easily. I have one mounted under my dash and another in my shop for making local contacts. Mine is programmed with all of the local repeaters and it’ll also do all of the license free bands (FRS/GMRS walkie-talkies, MURS and marine band).
To get it rigged up, you’ll need a run of 50 ohm coax that you can get in any truck stop. I just call it CB coax.  Next you’re going to need an antenna. I run an aluminum J Pole as my fixed base station antenna and I have it just drilled into the eve of the roof of the shop. On my truck I run a 2m firestick which is pretty much the same as my CB antenna and its mounted to my toolbox.
The nice thing about this setup is its portable to nearly anywhere and works really well. With a couple of deep cycle batteries you can run this little rig for a LONG time. I have.
On to HF.

Icom 7200 with LDG auto tuner. Rugged and simple.

This one is going to be a lot more expensive for a basic setup. Here’s a post from a couple of weeks ago on rigging your own simple antenna. The easiest HF radio to use out of the box is the Icom 718. It’s got a huge display, a really good receiver for listening to shortwave and HF transmissions and is very simple to use. I run the 7200, which isn’t too much different. But the other cool thing is that rigging it up for digital use is very simple. Here’s two links on the setup:

You’re also going to need a tuner for your HF radio. I use a short run of coax (8 inches) between the back of my radio to the tuner then run the antenna coax into the tuner. What this does it use two matching relays to create an electrical match for the antenna length to the frequency you’re using. Think of it as an insurance policy for your radio, since there’s too many variables with an HF antenna to make a perfect 1:1 SWR match every time. The tuner takes up the slack and protects your rig. It protects in other ways as well. I had mine take a lightning strike three years ago. Sent it into LDG and they sent me a new tuner, no questions asked. You’re also going to need a 120v power supply since all amateur radio gear runs off 12v. The one I use is an MFJ 28 amp switching power supply. Its got a 12v power plug to run that QYT mobile radio as well as your Icom.

This is an expensive list- but its one I’ve recommended to a lot of other people starting out and my own home station is not too much different. Everything I’ve got is kept pretty simple. But that said, having the gear is one thing, having the skill is a whole other animal.
Also see NC Scout’s dedicated web site at https://brushbeater.wordpress.com. He’s got a ton of useful information there and teaches classes, too.
Also see our related article on Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety.

Off Grid Ham: Jumping Off the Grid for Beginners

Chris Warren at Off Grid Ham has written an off grid radio guide for those who are beginners to working their radios without mainline power. There are a bunch of useful links at the end of his article, too.

The demand and desire to take amateur radio off grid is absolutely there. The problem is that information about off grid radio is sprinkled around. It’s hard to find straight answers. Many radio and survival blogs occasionally address the issue, but to my knowledge, Off Grid Ham and OH8STN are the only two outlets that deal with off grid radio radio exclusively.

For readers who are not off the grid, or seek to expand off grid capabilities, I’ve put together this “off grid radio guide” for beginners that will answer the most common questions in one compact package. This is not a comprehensive guide; we’re just going to summarize main points. At the end of this article there will be links to additional information on the topics covered here.

Have a purpose!

off grid radio guide

Graphic courtesy of tunein.com

I’ve beaten this drum so much it may seem tiresome, but it cannot be overstated that having clearly defined goals is an absolute must. If you do not have a specific purpose in mind, then you’re just going to trip around randomly trying different things with no meaningful result. If you have the time and money to spend on dead-end projects, then by all means don’t bother with a roadmap; you’ll eventually find your way and probably have a great time doing it. Off grid radio guide

But for those of us who do not have the means to live like plans don’t matter, the first chapter in our off grid radio guide is to have a purpose. Your stated goal does not have to be complicated or lengthy. Here are a few examples:

  • Operate for a weekend or so while camping.
  • Helping kids/scouts/youth group with an educational project.
  • Involvement with contests and SOTA/POTA activities.
  • Energy independence/operate off grid full time from a home station.
  • Survivalist/prepper communications for when SHTF.
  • Curiosity/self improvement. Off grid radio guide

Your goals may change over time. I originally got into off grid ham radio just to experiment and fool around with solar panels. That lead to a large home station, several portable power setups, and this blog! Regardless of what your motivations are, make sure you can define them.

How much power will you need? Off grid radio guide

Answering this question is a major component of defining your purposes and goals.. After all, it doesn’t make sense to plan a power system without knowing how much power you’ll need.

If your plans include an engine-driven mechanical generator, choose one that will run at 33-50% of its maximum capacity while powering your equipment. This is the window where generators are the most efficient. You don’t want to push a generator close to its limit for extended periods, nor do you want a generator that is way oversized for the load it powers. Either of these two extremes are a bad idea.

Batteries.

Matching power needs to batteries is a very tricky dance because a battery’s performance can change with age, temperature, previous use, and physical condition. A handy rule to follow is that whatever number you come up with for your needed battery capacity, increase it by 50%. This will give you plenty of wiggle room for inherent factors that degrade battery capability.

When determining battery size, carefully consider the expected duty cycle you’ll be demanding of your equipment. Duty cycle is a ratio, expressed as a percentage, of transmit time to receive time. The more you transmit, the higher the duty cycle and the more battery you’ll need. At a minimum, figure a duty cycle of 25% and up to 80% if you run a lot of data.

Solar panel calculation.

No off grid radio guide would be worthwhile without discussing solar panels. The biggest variable is the sun itself. On a cloudy day, you may realize only 10% of your panel’s capacity. A solar panel will never hit its rated maximum power due to the varying levels of sunlight and the inefficiency of the system. Like batteries, include generous headroom in the form of more solar wattage capacity to make up for the losses…

Click here to continue reading at Off Grid Ham.

The Medic Shack: The Powergrid. Is it as screwed up as we think it is?

The Smart Survivalist: Off-Grid Batteries and Power Systems

The Smart Survivalist: How Much Does it Cost to Live Off Grid?

OH8STN: Radio Preparedness vs Emergency Communications

This information comes from Radio Prepper by way of introduction from Julian – OH8STN.

Hello Operators.

Today I’m sharing another video from Gil F4WBY, the Radio Prepper. The topic is disaster Communications. More specifically preparedness communications vs traditional amateur radio emergency communications. Gil does a very good job of going over the mission differences between Communications for preparedness, versus emergency communications for disaster relief. This is something we’ve all talked about on the grid down Communications for preparedness series.

It’s important to remember it’s not a competition. There isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be), a one or the other mentality here. Radio operator should be quite Versed in the guerrilla nature of preparedness Communications, in addition to the more structured and traditional emergency communications, as laid out by organizations like ARES. It’s a good discussion and one I think all of us should be watching.

OG Ham: The Transmitters of Freedom Get a Little Louder

In a follow-up to his previous article The Transmitters of Freedom Should Be Turned Back On, Chris at Off Grid Ham has some good and bad news about short wave broadcasting and a little on who is doing what to whom.

The Transmitters of Freedom Get a Little Louder

shortwave broadcasting

STOCK PHOTO.

First, the bad news…

Shortwave broadcasting is not dead, it’s just being kept alive by the wrong people. Shortwave broadcasting is almost exclusively the domain of sleazy oppressive governments and religious outliers. Communist-run Radio China International took over some of Radio Australia’s old frequencies when Australia discontinued their international shortwave service. And here’s something that should make shortwave fans seethe: The savings from shutting down shortwave saved the Aussie government…wait for it…was less than two million dollars.

That’s right. To save what isn’t even a budget rounding error, the Australian government killed shortwave to tens of millions of people. They probably could have raised that money from private donations.

When a pro-democracy voice leaves the platform, someone will step in to fill the vacuum. That “someone” is usually a bad actor. It’s unlikely shortwave broadcasting will ever completely die. It’s also unlikely shortwave will ever go back to the glory days no matter how obvious its practicality may be. Expect to see oppressive governments increase their presence on the HF bands at the same rate democracies abandon them.

The BBC increases shortwave broadcasting to disputed Kashmir.

The victims of tyrants, socialism, communism, etc., still clamor for the news of truth and freedom. They unfortunately have few options due to the rise of the internet and subsequent decline of shortwave broadcasting. Old school analog AM radio may seem like a quaint anachronism, but unlike the internet it requires very little infrastructure and is difficult to defeat.

The BBC has increased –yes, increased– shortwave broadcasting to the Kashmir territory in Asia. The backstory is somewhat complicated, but the short version is that India, Pakistan, and China each control a portion of the area. All three nations dispute the territorial claims of the others. India shut off the internet, some of the media, and phone service to the area.

To fill the information void, the BBC added one hour and forty five minutes of programming to the region. While this may not sound like much, put yourself in the people of Kashmir’s shoes. If you were living under a media blackout, having nearly two extra hours of uncensored news would be deeply meaningful.

Dissidents use shortwave broadcasting to reach Hong Kong and mainland China.

Sound of Hope started as an effort to bring homeland news to Chinese people living in the United States. It  has grown into a full-blown pro-democracy shortwave broadcasting network beaming to mainland China and Hong Kong. They have even found a way to evade the jamming of their programming by using a network of small transmitters placed in strategic places. Sound of Hope moves its signal to whatever transmitters are least effected by the jamming. It’s an effective system.

As one of the few media outlets that can defeat communist censorship, Sound of Hope has become a significant player in supporting the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.  Sound of Hope is not sponsored or funded by any government. It is run mostly by volunteers, many of whom are placing themselves at great personal risk by helping the network. It should be a national embarrassment that a group of volunteers with little money are doing what large governments deemed “too expensive” and “ineffective”…

Click here to read the entire article at Off Grid Ham.

AmPart: Training – It Takes Work

This is a little reminder from NC Scout at American Partisan that you can’t just buy some stuff and say that you’ll be ready when disaster strikes and you need to use it. You need to train with your gear to find out what it and you can do together, and what may need to be tweaked or improved.

Training Notes: It Takes Work

Training Notes: It Takes Work!

We’ve all heard the people who say “I’ll be ready when the time comes!” or “They better not come to my front door!”

I got news for you, the time has come, and they are on your front door. Maybe not physically, yet, but that’s coming. If the lessons from Virginia are a bellwether for the near future, the communist machine at work will not allow American voices to win a so-called election again. And they don’t have to physically come to your door, because they can just legislate your rights away and you’ll do nothing. You’re a rule follower, and they make the rules.

So if there’s anything to objectively be gained from the legitimacy of government being ripped away in public fashion, its that the time has indeed come. We are living in an area absent the rule of law. The fantasy land nonsense of people running around in glorious combat and living in a Rothbardian voluntarist paradise is just that- an escapist fantasy that in no way mimics real societal breakdowns. But when you’ve got a very clear picture of a dual system of justice coupled with a common view that these people will never see punishment, you are indeed living without a rule of law. The only question then that should remain is what happens now that the velvet glove has exposed the iron fist? Neither legitimacy nor objectivity can be regained once lost. A failure of ruling hegemony thus requires force.

Do not forget that Brennan was a declared member of the communist party before joining the CIA. And of the feeder groups indoctrinating minds into the tenets of Marxism was the SDS, with their mantra of “Bring the War Home!”; code for invading the US with populations (in their logic) marginalized or exploited by US policy. Top among them, Central and South America. Ortega, Castro and Guevara are heroes. Groomed by the University system, Brennan finds himself atop the very bureaucracy created to entrench these communists for an eventual overthrow of the US government. These people are desperate to remain in control and they want you gone.

That’s outside our realistic area of influence, but does not ignore what we indeed can do.

What’s to be done on our end is preparing the mass base and guerrilla auxiliary for the next step; training and equipping the people in your area. The Left has indeed been doing that for some time now. Those networks need building, the information exchanged, and working hard to perfect the techniques now in order to save lives later.

In the last Advanced RTO it was commented to me by a longtime Extra-class ham, Engineer and Appleseed Instructor that the more covert ends of the communications training pipeline- data bursts, directional transmitting and physical encryption– takes a large amount of time just to comprehend let alone the training time to perfect. Far more than what can be done in just one weekend. And the same could be said of pretty much anything else I cover in my classes. I give you the basics, but it’s up to you to practice, perfect, and most critical, share it.

Making things work in the real world are the only way to continue to develop those skills. Two of the students from the last RTO and Advanced RTO Courses are doing exactly that, commenting,

Hey, I got the antenna up and working. DVM and I were able to make contact on 80M at around 1630. He has a different HF setup than I do – different antenna and less power, and I think the F layer was not helping at that time – it was a pretty weak signal. With the antenna I built (I built the same one you used in class) and pushing 100W, I was able to make a contact in GA on 40M very clearly. I also heard plenty of people from NY and CT to FL to OH and Chicago.

That’s regional capability that they’re actively creating, that they otherwise may not have been able to achieve. And most important, they’ve got the proper context to use those skills that they definitely won’t get anywhere else. For the people that we’ve all heard saying “I’ll be ready when the time comes”, if that’s your attitude, no, you won’t. All of this is hard enough when conditions are good. If you haven’t been actively training, been sitting on the couch living in a fantasy about fighting the good fight against the Reds while doing literally nothing but wasting time, you will reap exactly the results you’ve put into it. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Take control of your own destiny. Get trained, get supplied, whether that’s arms, ammo, magazines, food or medical gear, and don’t let it be wasted on you alone.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

AmRRON: Quarterly Radio Exercise, Nov. 9, 2019

 

Emergency service drill participant.  Photo via Blue Mountain Eagle

AmRRON will be holding a 4th quarter 2019 Simulated Emergency Test on November 9th.

Quarterly Communications SETs (Simulated Emergency Tests) help AmRRON radio operators practice with skills, software programs, and procedures, preparing them for more complex training and real-world radio operations.

Get the website URL contained in the November 5th AIB, and on Saturday, get the ‘secret exercise code’ from the Situation Report. Then, fill out a super short survey online!

Who: AmRRON and all other orgs and radio operators wishing to participate

What: Quarterly Training Exercise (4 hours): Delivery of a single message, network wide

When: November 9th, 1800 – 2200 Zulu Time

Scope: Nationwide, beginning on HF using digital modes, and then filtering down to local VHF/CH3.

Objective: This is a one way traffic test. In this quarterly exercise, a single SITREP (Situation Report) will be generated at ‘AmRRON National’, and sent across the network to Net Control Stations (NCSs), nationwide. The NCSs will then disseminate the report across their regional network in each region on 40m and 80m using digital modes.

Local VHF/CH3 nets will then disseminate the report to the local radio operators. Then, all participants fill out a short online survey to verify receipt of the SITREP…

Click here for more details.

AmPart: An SHTF Perspective on Commo

NC Scout at American Partisan sends some communication insights from someone on the ground in the Ecuador civil unrest – A SHTF Perspective on Commo.

In a real deal SHTF situation, such as a nation in turmoil and civil chaos, how would you fare? When the infrastructure goes down and there’s dead in the streets, what will you do?

That’s a reality for one of AP’s readers living in Ecuador, who’s been giving me steady updates on the deteriorating situation there. He first contacted me over a year ago trying to get their communications up to speed at the local Red Cross chapter. Years of neglect and a focus on more convenient systems caused their antennas to deteriorate and a lack of any knowledgeable operators. If that was bad enough, Simply getting equipment into the country is a challenge…

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.

AmPart: Signals Intelligence – Electronic Isolation Of A Target

NC Scout at American Partisan has written an article on signals intelligence and how to exploit it to disrupt an enemy’s communications. Please note that disrupting someone’s radio communications during peacetime is usually illegal. The FCC can fine you thousands of dollars, revoke any radio licenses you have, and confiscate your radio equipment.

Signals Intelligence: Electronic Isolation Of A Target

Not too long ago I ran a short post over at Brushbeater noting a story from the Marine Corps, pairing signals collection guys with Scout Snipers in a somewhat new small unit strategy. Building on the successes SOF units have had for a long time now in recognizing the rapid value of SIGINT in the field, pairing the two elements only makes sense. The idea is to isolate a target where they’re most vulnerable- electronic communications- in order to end the fight quickly with as few casualties on our side as possible. And working from a prepared citizen’s point of view, those same capabilities can and should be reflected in your own training.

It’s not enough to simply have a scanner, however nice it might be, and call yourself good on signals intelligence. Situational awareness, maybe, maybe, but none of it will do you much good without a means to exploit what ever it is you’ve collected.

The purpose of intelligence is exploitation. 

Recording voice traffic with common items makes exploitation easy

What that means in practical terms is that unless I can do anything with what I’m hearing, its completely useless to me. So what if I hear some traffic on a random frequency. Did I take the time to record it? What did they actually say? What is their level of training or discipline? Who’s the person in charge on the mic?

We can listen to all the traffic we want, but if we have no way of exploiting that, then we’re wasting our time.

Some of the equipment you’ll need for a signals collection package at the small unit level includes a decent scanner capable of decoding P25, a communications receiver, an inexpensive analog radio,  a recording device, a Yagi, and a frequency counter. Most of the higher end scanners on the market have up-gradable firmware that is enabling the decoding of P25 modes in use with public service as well as DMR which is very common today in the US as well as being used in Ukraine and Syria among guerrillas. A communications receiver, while similar to a scanner, will tell us the exact frequency the traffic is on, unlike most digital scanners today. We need to know this in order to have the operating frequency- its not enough to know what they’re saying, but we need to know what frequency they’re on so that if we decide to shut down their communications, we can effectively attack.

Our inexpensive analog radio enables us to not just have additional redundancy in our kit, but it’s also a useful exploitation tool. Depending on what type of gear your opponent has, something like a UV-5R can become our weapon in shutting their communications down. Using a Yagi to first get a bearing on their direction and then focus our signal in their direction, overloading their radios. This is beginning what’s known as isolating the target…

Click here to finish reading the article at American Partisan.

2017 FCC Rule Changes for FRS Go into Effect 9/30/19

Back in 2017, the FCC reviewed the personal radio services which include FRS, GMRS, CB, MURS and more and made changes to the rules. Many of those new rules go into effect on Sept. 30, 2019 — or in two weeks from this publication.

Here are the main changes to the rules going into effect:

  • No FRS/GMRS combined radios can be sold after that date
  • No hand held radio capable of operating in both FRS and any other licensed service can be manufactured or imported
  • No voice obscuring radios operating in these services may be manufactured, imported or sold

Here are some additional details

OH8STN: Emergency Power for Communications

Amateur radio enthusiast, blogger and vlogger OH8STN (Julian) has posted the second video in his Grid Down Communications series. In this video he addresses peoples’ concerns with how they will keep their communications online when the grid is down, including batteries, solar generators, solar panels, and other alternative power.

AmPart: RTO’s Guide to Connectors

NC Scout at American Partisan has a nice, short article on radio cable/antenna connectors and what is useful for improvising antennas — RTO’s Guide to Connectors.

One of the common questions I get before, during and after the RTO Course is “how in the heck do you remember all those different connectors?” Well, the answer is nothing more than repetition- I know them because I’m built so many antennas over the years and needed the various connectors you come to know what they’re called.

Its a good idea to have a large number of spare connectors and adapters on hand. If you’re making external antennas for your equipment, they’re an absolute must have item. And unlike pretty much everything else we make our antennas from in the RTO Course, they’re the hardest to source in a working environment, so knowing what they are and having a bunch on hand now makes too much sense.

Cobra Heads make improvised antennas fast and simple.

The Cobra Head 

A story I tell in class is exactly how I discovered the real name for what I always knew as a Cobra Head. The Split Post BNC Adapter, or BNC Banana Jack Adapter, is widely known to Army guys as Cobra Heads- in fact, I never knew they were called anything else and couldn’t find them for a long time after I got out. I found them at a Hamfest in a big tray of connectors and felt like an idiot when I was told what they’re really called. It didn’t matter- I found them.

Why they’re important is that its the easiest connector to use when building improvised wire antennas. We were given them by the bagful in the Army to practice antenna building, and I came to really appreciate it. Simply cut your wire, match the radiating wire to the red end and ground side to the black, loop it around and you’re good to go. If you want to get the most secure with it be sure to use some ring terminals to connect the wire to the connector. Attaching BNC coax can’t be easier and more secure…

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.

Hurricane Watch Net Now (Not) Active for Dorian

Hurricane Watch Net is now active (Update: no longer active) on 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz as tropical storm Dorian, expected to reach hurricane strength before landfall, passes to the north of Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Dominican Republic before heading for the Florida and/or Georgia coast. (Update 8/29/19: Tropical Storm Dorian was upgraded to Category 1 Hurricane around 2pm Eastern time today. It is expected to make landfall in the US as a Category 4. Update 9/3/19: Hurricane Dorian has been downgraded from a category 5 to a category 2 hurricane. Update 9/4/19: Hurricane Dorian has re-intensified to a category 3 hurricane. Update 9/6/19: Dorian is now a category 1 hurricane.)

From HWN:

he Hurricane Watch Net has been in continuous operation since 5:00 PM EDT – 2100 UTC Saturday afternoon and will remain in operation until further notice.

Hurricane Dorian made landfall around 11:00 PM (0300 UTC) Sunday evening along the east end of Grand Bahama Island as a strong Cat 5 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph. After landfall, the storm all but stalled. 12 hours later with little to no movement, the storm still had Cat 5 winds of 155 mph.

After being over Grand Bahama Island as a stalled Hurricane, after 36-hours of barely drifting across the island, Dorian finally began to move away with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.

Member of the Hurricane Watch Net have been reading the latest bulletins and updates as well as making calls to the islands for any reports…checking on their well-being, any weather data, damage reports, etc. However, when a storm is stalled over an area beginning with sustained winds of 180 mph and slowly dropping to 110 mph, that amount of high wind and continuous storm surge, major catastrophic damage is to be expected.

Video recorded by recon helicopters over Abacos Island on Tuesday began to reveal the extent of damage caused by Dorian. What we saw is just absolutely heartbreaking. Overnight, Dorian pulled away from Grand Bahama Island. I’m sure we will get an idea to the extent of damage to the island by way of recon aircraft today as well as feet on the ground with help.

The Hurricane Watch Net will continue to make calls to the Bahamian Islands for survivors and to collect and pass any and all emergency or priority traffic from the area…

From Florida Division of Emergency Management:

Residents should have 7 days of supplies in preparation of hurricane . A stocked supply kit has water, nonperishable food, prescription medications, flashlights and extra batteries…

From the ARRL:

Over the weekend, on Saturday, Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA) Commissioner Carlos Acevedo urged the island’s resident to put into effect the Family Plan the agency has suggested for emergencies. This includes ensuring a first line of defense in terms of water, canned goods, medicines, batteries, and fuel for power generators. Residents heeded the advice, heading out to markets around the island to purchase water and supplies, and later that day, hundreds of people went to supermarkets to buy water and other supplies in larger-than-usual quantities. By Sunday, vendors were limiting bottled water to between two and five packages, depending on locale.

The government of Puerto Rico is assuring the public that it’s better prepared than it was for Hurricanes Irma and Maria 2 years ago. New Commonwealth Governor Wanda Vázquez has been meeting with agency heads to make sure storm preparation plans are in place.

“About 30,000 people still have blue roofs installed in the wake of Irma and Maria,” Puerto Rico PIO Angel Santana, WP3GW, told ARRL. He said this situation presents a primary safety concern for those affected residents.

8/29/19 Update: Parts of Florida are already experiencing bottled water and fuel shortages as people prepare for the coming storm.

Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando resident Nicholas Boyd said during the last storm, the art teacher had put off stocking up on supplies a little too long,

“Last time, I put it off a little too long, and there was none left,” the 35-year-old Boyd said, adding that he wanted to be “a little more proactive” this time around. And he isn’t alone: Home Depot said it had already sent some 160 truckloads of various products to stores in Florida so far.

“We have five distribution centers in the Southeast working to get more materials to stores as quickly as they can,” a spokesperson said, adding that the chain is “prioritizing those in-demand items like generators, batteries, water and plywood.”

Reporting from a Publix in Baldwin Park, the Orlando Sentinel noted that shelves of water were left largely empty, and employee were offering customers bottles of Fiji water instead of the large multi-gallon jugs they were looking for.

“We like to get the 5-gallon jugs because we have a dispenser at home, but they’re out of those,” said 37-year-old Orlando resident Shannon Taylor, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s college of business. “So instead I went into the aisle with the bottled water, and they didn’t have any, but right when I was walking out of there, one of the Publix employees came with a cart of a few extra boxes of Fiji.”

OH8STN: Grid Down Communications for Preparedness

Amateur radio enthusiast, blogger and vlogger OH8STN (Julian) has posted a video on Introduction to Grid Down Communications for Preparedness. As he says, planning for a grid down scenario covers around 99% of the scenarios that a person may face (earthquake, pandemic, civil unrest, etc.) Julian covers a lot of useful information in the video, not just for amateur radio operators but anyone trying to prepare to communicate in such a scenario.

Here is the first video of the series:

Related:

Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety – but there is no “one size fits all” communications solution as pointed out in OH8STN’s video above. Julian’s video discusses some of the assumed background information of this article in more detail. This article discusses the equipment that is working for the LVA.