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How YOU Can Use HAM Radio In Emergencies

How YOU Can Use HAM Radio In Emergencies

How YOU Can Use HAM Radio In Emergencies

If you have been keeping up with the Tin Hat Ranch’s Ham radio articles you will already know what to expect from your license test, where and how to take it, and you’ll have a good basis for how the radio spectrum functions.  That is all well and good, but you might be asking “what good will HAM radio be in the event of SHTF”?  In this article we will show you three types of systems you may wish to employ for your survival communications.  All of these methods do assume one thing, that you have available electrical power but that is another discussion.  As always, this information will not only be strategically useful but will help you with your test as well.

The first mode of communications is the least expensive and easiest to understand.  The technical term is simplex communication but in laymen’s terms it is radio to radio communications on the same frequency.  This first mode is least expensive because all it takes are two hand held radios like the Baofeng’s.  In terms of SHFT communications these radios can be useful on your property and for operations around your property but with limited range.  Most handhelds are lower power (5 watts or less) and operate on VHF/UHF.  If you read our previous article on radio frequency propagation you would know that these bands are limited to “line of sight” communications. On level ground the curvature of the earth will block the signal and this usually occurs at about three miles.  So theoretically, two radios can have a maximum range of 6 miles.  In reality, other obstructions are going to limit your range to far less, usually a mile or two.  There are some exceptions, communicating from hilltop to hilltop and hilltop to ground, but we won’t always get that luxury.

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All is not lost to simplex communications; there are inexpensive tricks that one can employ to extend the range of your mobile device.  The six mile line of sight calculation assumes two people whose antennas are 6 feet off the ground.  If you can get your antenna higher than that, say 20 feet off the ground you will see your range double bringing the total to 9 miles.  An inexpensive way to do this is with an external antenna like the Slim Jim.  For less than $30 the Slim Jim is not only a better (higher gain) antenna than on your Baofeng, you can hoist it up into a tree with a piece of paracord if need be.  I will be testing one of these out in the future but I can guarantee you will see your simplex performance vastly improve.

When you delve into the hobby you find that things start to get very interesting.  The second mode of communications I would recommend you consider for survival communications is getting a radio that has a feature called “cross band repeat”.  Some radios with this feature from the “big three” are the Yaesu FT-8800R, Icom IC-2820H, and the Kenwood TM-V71A.  The Chinese company Wouxun also offers the KG-UV920P with cross band repeat capability.  In short, these radios can receive on one frequency and retransmit the signal on another.  How does this benefit you as a prepper?  Simply put, you can program two Baofengs to talk and listen to the repeater.  When you key up on your hand held the repeater radio receives the signal and retransmits it with much higher power.  If you permanently installed one of these radios at your base of operations and are able to get an antenna 30 feet in the air you could have a circle of coverage 20+ miles in diameter (even with a Slim Jim).  If you put your antenna higher up, maybe on a hill, this range can grow even greater.  This is the same principle that HAM’s use every day, there are repeaters scattered across the entire country.  The difference being you own and control all of the equipment, you control the frequencies (within FCC regulations..of course).

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Imagine having to leave your home under SHFT/WROL conditions, maybe to head into town or trade with a person on the other side of the county.  While there are concerns about OPSEC when transmitting on any radio, it sure would be nice to know you could communicate in an emergency.

The last mode we will talk about in regards to SHTF communications is HF or High Frequency communications.  Again, if you read our article on radio frequency propagation you would know that the HAM world uses HF for very long distance communications.  In a nutshell, while VHF/UHF are line of sight communications HF is not.  HF signals can “skip” off the ionosphere and travel to the other side of the globe.  It is this type of communication that will be most helpful spreading news in times of war, regional disasters, monitoring the spread of epidemics, and just about any scenario where regular communications has ceased to function.  HF communications is also the most expensive and has the steepest learning curve.

These radios are generally not mobile.  If you recall, an antenna works best when it’s length is slightly shorter than the wavelength it is receiving.  While your VHF radio operates on a 2 meter wavelength and your UHF radio operates on 70cm, HF radios operate at 10 to 160 meters.  Radios like the Icom IC-718 are the starting point for HF transceivers and things go up from there.

While I can see most of you including a cross band repeater radio in your preps I know that few of you will venture into HF comms, but that is ok.  All it takes is one operator per prepper community.  One of my aims with the survival communications series is to put together a nationwide “Tin Hat Net”.  Tin Hat Net would be a series of operators spread across the country who can communicate in times of emergency.  Click here to head back over to the Facebook page and let me know your thoughts on forming a comms network for the prepper community.

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  1. Survival BackPack.US | How You Can Use HAM Radio In Emergencies

    […] (Tin Hat Ranch Your Source for Survival) If you have been keeping up with the Tin Hat Ranch’s Ham radio articles you will already know what to expect from your license test, where and how to take it, and you’ll have a good basis for how the radio spectrum functions.  That is all well and good, but you might be asking “what good will HAM radio be in the event of SHTF”?  In this article we will show you three types of systems you may wish to employ for your survival communications.  All of these methods do assume one thing, that you have available electrical power but that is another discussion.  As always, this information will not only be strategically useful but will help you with your test as well. […]

  2. How YOU Can Use HAM Radio In Emergencies « wchildblog

    […] from Tin Hat Ranch: […]

  3. 10 Things You Will Miss Most in SHTF - TinHatRanch

    […] 9. Communications-  After what would have been a day at the office or on the jobsite, you might make a call to your children, parents, friends or relatives.  Not so in SHTF.  We’ve previously mentioned the Internet, but communications is just one form of data that traverses it.  Cell phones, land lines, satellites, all things that may become useless, depending on the event.  For the past century it has been possible for events transpiring across the globe to be known instantly.  Of all our modern technologies, instant communications has changed us the most.  News of your children, parents, or relatives that live in the next town might will only be available as fast as you can physically reach them.  If they are in another State, you may never hear from them again.  There is good news though, this is one area in which we currently rely on a massive infrastructure in which we don’t have to.  With a 12 volt battery, a piece of wire, and a radio, you can talk to the world, with nothing in between.  I’m talking about being a HAM, or amateur radio operator.  I’ve preached this over an over, some have listened.  If you wish to learn more, click here. […]

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