Survival Radio Net #1

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

If you recall back a few weeks, our little community started and completed a Survival Radio Class. This class included preparation for those seeking their ham radio license, which ended up being about nine Technicians and three Generals. Pretty good turn out. Also, for the record, all of the students that took the test, passed. In most circles that is considered to be 100%.

But, back to the main gist. Besides the folks pursuing their ham radio ticket, the class was geared for those that wanted to learn to communicate by other means. Those means being scanner for listening, and folks listening is CRITICAL, also CB, GMRS/FRS,

MURS, shortwave and smoke signals. Just wanted to see if you’re paying attention. We had a handful of people in the class that this was their goal. Well, you say, this is all redundant information, and it is, but when I was a child and I went to cross the street, my daddy told me to look both ways every time I crossed that street. Just because somebody hears something once, doesn’t mean it’s going to penetrate or settle. Some folks, myself included, need to hear things more than once.

I know lots of you had CBs when you were kids. It was real popular. It was a form of freedom, able to get out. Pitch in four wheel mobility and life is good, till you have to start paying your own bills. 

GMRS came along later, new technology, FM not AM, higher frequency. For those not familiar with the term GMRS, these are the little handheld radios you can buy at any sporting goods store, and they work real well. Hunters use them, kids playing hide and seek, it’s a handy tool, and some businesses use them. Fern and I have used them for years.

MURS is also a free group of frequencies that is for citizens use. It is rarely, rarely used, a great way to communicate, FM, higher frequency than CB, lower than GMRS. It’s in about the same frequency range as most small and medium size towns’ police and fire departments. 

Let’s not forget the scanner. Most, if not all, scanners can receive the VHF/UHF ham bands, GMRS and MURS. Some scanners, but not all, can receive the CB frequencies. Remember, listening or being able to hear is CRITICAL

But again, you say, this is all redundant information. Go back and read the explanation of redundant above. Some of us need to hear something more than once before it soaks in. Does that need repeating again?

Let’s not forget shortwave. Everything we talked about above is pretty much short distance, line of sight, sometimes one mile, sometimes 40 miles depending on the terrain. Shortwave is the ability to listen to long distance signals. It lost popularity with the introduction of the internet, but there is still traffic out there to be heard. That means that there are things out there to be heard around the globe. Many shortwave radios will also receive the lower ham radio frequencies, because that is where shortwave is located. So if you have a scanner and a decent shortwave radio and the appropriate antenna, you can hear local and long distance. Remember, being able to hear and receive is CRITICAL.

So, one more time, where is this going? It’s going right here. Last Tuesday night we attempted our first ever Survival Radio Net. Now you’re going to have to follow me here because we did a lot of things in a short period of time. Most of the participants of this net were from the radio class with a few additions. I sent out an email to the folks that were in the class letting them know about what we were going to try to do. This email had time, date, place and purpose.

  • Time was 20:00 (8:00pm)
  • Date was Tuesday night.
  • Beginning place was our local ham radio repeater.

You say there’s a problem here. The CB, GMRS and MURS crowd can’t communicate with the repeater. Well, that is only half right. If they have a scanner, or a handheld that will receive the repeater, then they can listen to and follow instructions. 

A side note here. I got permission from our local emergency management director to use this repeater at that time for this purpose. He was more than happy to accommodate. 

The email included some instructions about what we were going to try to do, which are as follows.

  1. We would start at 8:00pm.
  2. I was the net control operator.
  3. We started off with basic introductions, took care of the legal things, and then started taking ham radio check ins.
  4. After the check ins, those of us that had CB capabilities, did the same activity, except on a local basis. Not everybody could hear everybody, but some could hear and others would relay.
  5. During this time, which took about 10 minutes, we asked those that could hear, who they could receive, and then we continued this process. Who hears who, their location, their name or call sign or handle. Now, get this, we had folks that could hear CB reception from 40 miles away. Okay, one guy lives on the side of a tall hill, and another man could hear him 40 miles away.   You see, this contact is what this net is all about. Hearing, listening, receiving. It is CRITICAL. 
  6. Next, we went back to the repeater, which was our base and we had a discussion, those that could talk on the repeater, about some of the contacts we had just made.
  7.  Then we proceeded with GMRS and MURS with the same activities.

Due to the characteristics of the different frequencies, CB, GMRS and MURS, different people at different locations could receive different transmissions. Like I said above, follow me here. Example. Two guys, 20 miles apart might be able to hear each other on MURS, but not CB. One of them may be able to transmit on CB to somebody else that can’t hear MURS.

A side note here. The big ham radio group in this country that has been around for a long, long time, is called the ARRL. Amateur Radio RELAY League. That second ‘R’ is what radio used to be, Relay. That’s what it’s going to be again in the future. RELAY.

This was a first time experiment and most of the participants would agree that it sharply exceeded their expectations. We’re going to do it again very soon, and we’re going to try to do it the first and third Tuesdays of each month. I was surprised at the number of people that eagerly participated in our net. But then it dawned on me that they also see an urgent need for communications. 

The reason I am telling YOU this, is that this same activity can be duplicated in your area. We need a time to communicate. Let’s pick 8:00 at night. Well, we need a frequency to communicate on. How about CB channel 22, which is 27.225 MHz? That’s a good start. How about GMRS channel 22, which is 462.725 MHz? How about MURS #2, which is 151.880 MHz? This is something that you can do. Anything that I can do, you can do better. Talk to your local emergency management director, these guys like public attention, remember that. Always say please and thank you. You could even talk to your local ARRL branch. Some of them will be helpful, some won’t. This is doable. Now do it.

Another side note. We developed a simple form, 20 lines, about 5 columns. First column was call sign or handle, next name, then location, then mode of communication (e.g. CB, GMRS, etc), lastly we left a column for comments, which could include people contacted or relays made.

Ladies and Gentlemen, most of you know we have perilous times right around the corner. But even if we don’t, how about a natural disaster, or a man made disaster? We need to be able to communicate. I’m going to leave these thoughts with you. Knowing what is happening in your area is of CRITICAL importance. You never know what a man made or natural disaster could look like, and you might want to know what is coming down the road. Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t get on the bus. 

We’ll talk more later, Frank

27 thoughts on “Survival Radio Net #1

  1. Hi, Rosco. We recently assisted with a local run. Our communications might be adequate, but they can certainly improve. It was fun and it was a good learning experience. Our local CERT group is dead in the water. I went through weeks and weeks of training to get CERT certified for nothing. Rosco, thank you for your input, thank you for your comment, good luck on your General.Frank

  2. You need to get past this jerk, like water off a duck, just let it go. Maybe he was just having a bad day, or this is his everyday temperament, let it go. Either try again, or find another club. On occasion I have been that jerk before. When I was a school principal, I was often that jerk. Some people liked me and some people didn't. Like I tell people, if the shoe doesn't fit, try a different one. There are still people to this day that do not like my style, which would probably be the majority of people. But like I tell readers, don't worry about what somebody else thinks. I genuinely hope your next encounter is sharply more positive, but if it's not, don't quit. Never quit. Take care.Frank

  3. Thank you for your input and your encouragement. Sometimes the greeter at the door is not always the best choice. Most ham groups that I have found are generally a good solid group of men, but there is the occasional exception. I have a question. In your reply you mentioned a tuner in relation to your CB radio. Do you use this tuner on your Galaxy radio? And how does it perform? The reason I asked, before I got into ham radio, I had a modified 10 meter radio (RCI-2970-N), with an LDG tuner. I could never get the combination to work right. Currently for CB use I have a Galaxy 979 with a frequency counter. It's a beautiful radio and works quite well, too. It is attached to an A99 antenna. You're right about GMRS. These little walkie talkies that people's kids play with can be a great means of communication.Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.73's, Frank

  4. Hi Johny, well here comes the argument, Ford, Chevrolet or Dodge. Now throw in Toyota. This argument will go on forever, and it's the same in ham radio. ICOM, Kenwood, Yaesu, and now Alinco. This argument will go on forever.The Kenwood you made reference to is a first class radio. It boils down to what you plan on doing. Now these are just various scenarios. If you want to sit in your radio shack and do CW work, then there are radios that are better at this. If you want to contest via phone (voice), then there are radios made for this. If you want to play GI Joe and have a mobile man pack, then a 50 lb. radio is not your choice. If you have lots of jingle in your pocket, there are very expensive radios with features that most will never, never use. There are bargain, basement radios without features that you wish you had. Get the picture here? There are good, middle of the road radios that will do about anything you want to do and are good at it. The Kenwood you spoke of is one of them. The ICOM 7410 is another one. I'm not familiar with Yaesu, but they make some quality radios also. Most of my colleagues choose ICOM. There is a strong group that only use Kenwood. For your small, lightweight, mobile radios Yaesu is the choice.For HF I use an IC-718. I don't contest or do CW. It meets my needs and it can be easily opened to broadcast on all the bands including 11 meter. It is a good shortwave radio also. The price is around $600, and it meets my needs.For VHF/UHF, I use a commercial radio, the Anytone AT-5888. It works fine on the ham bands and meets my other VHF/UHF needs.I can only truly recommend what I use. I used to use and Alinco DR635T. It works fine and is very easy to open up. I also use the RT programming systems for ease of operation. The Baofeng radios work good, but I prefer the Wouxun, it just appears to be a little better radio. For VHF/UHF mobile or handheld, I only use commercial radios.Get a good 30 amp power supply, a bag full of power pole connectors, an accessible power pole type power strip, good double shielded coax, quality connectors, and a good scanner.I use the Comet CA2x4SR antenna for my VHF/UHF needs, both mobile and base, with a Tram 1460 ground plane for the base. For an HF antenna try an OCF dipole, for 80-10 meter. Learn how to use \”Stuff\” and how to wrap a connector junction to keep moisture out.Learn NVIS, it's critical. Study the grey line and learn how to ground.And, last thought. Don't let anybody ever tell you that you have to do it a different way. Do it your way. Only associate with like minded people. My buddy down the road has an entirely different set up and his works great.On the test, the ARRL manuals are a great way, but after you get your license is when you start to learn. I recommend the Romanchik manuals for both Technician and General, for free practice tests and HamTestOnline if you choose to pay the fee. If you have the money, use HamTestOnline, you'll learn more. Take all the practice tests you can, don't worry about failure. Just take them, and take them, and take them. The more you take the better you do. Again, don't be afraid of failure. Take the Technician and General on the same day. Give it time for the ideas to come together. Go take your tests, pass them then use your ARRL books for reference. I have almost all of the ARRL books, great books for reference. I am a retired profession educator. The ARRL study manuals will put you to sleep. Pass the test, then study the ARRL manuals, they will mean more to you then. And don't let anybody else tell you how to do things, including me. Take both tests at the same time, and let me know how you do.That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Take care.Frank

  5. Take advantage of the church group. Some churches encourage that at least one member is a ham radio operator. Some of these churches even used to have ham radio equipment. I'm a veteran, and thank you for acknowledging my service. I genuinely mean that. But be cautious, just be cautious. Keep pursuing the ham radio license.Frank

  6. Hi Carl. Check out Bell's CB, good source of information and competitive prices. CB communication would not be my first choice, but at this time it is probably the most popular choice. If you want to communicate, there needs to be someone on the other end. Are there better forms of communication? Sure, but in some areas, no one has ever heard of them.Different topic. The county next to ours is a good size county, low population and it does not have an EC. Most counties do, but not all. In some areas the EC is a volunteer. Food for thought. Good luck.Frank

  7. First Off You do not need a Ham licence or Radio to join the Club My local Ham Club thru ARRL is welcoming, they Follow the rules but that helps.I helped with the WALDO Lake 100K run. First at the #1 check station then back at base station, As the recorder for two separate check stations. As each group of runners passed thru were recorded an then read back to Check Stations, the data then logged on a master chart. We used tactical calls Base CK #3 said they have Data, then CK #3 Base ready to receive. After all data is confirmed then, Base clear K7WB which is the base Call Sign then CK #3 reported clear. Then Ck #6 could report, Secession's like that prepare You to handle Disaster Communication with Confidence. Ham radio is about listening mostly, I moved to Ham Radio from CERT, better procedures an Stronger Signals With Mobile Radios instead of Handhelds only. Hams also have Local knowledge of Repeaters.78 yr old Tech who needs to get back to Studying for General.Peace Rosco

  8. Thank you for your encouragement. I think this group was intimidated by the president/cop. I agree that an older person would probably be more help to us. The cop that kept questioning us about our motives was running the show. (By the way, I told him that I helped with clean-up after Katrina, and saw the devastation first-hand. We also had a tornado in my town a few years ago. Both situations had limited communication. I told him that was why I wanted my license. He didn't believe me. That's ok. I wasn't fully honest, and I don't have to be.) I'm struggling with telling little white lies in order to protect my family and myself. Please pray for us to find someone to help us with our communication preps.

  9. Several points to make here, so I apologize in advance for the length of this comment!First, to the Anonymous who was made to feel unwelcome at a local ham meeting, PLEASE either go back and strike up a conversation with an older ham who appears more friendly than the group's leader, or simply find another group. Hams are typically wonderfully helpful to newcomers, and your recent experience is the exception, not the rule. I have been helped numerous times myself, and have tried to return the favor to others as often as possible.Second, I strongly recommend that everyone getting their ham license actually slog their way through the ARRL license manual for that level. Yes, I know, some of the material is dense for those not from a technical field, but it helps to lay the foundation for better self-taught learning later when you start getting hands-on experience. If you need to memorize or \”train to the test\” afterwards, fine, do so. But please help yourself out long term by at least trying to learn the material first.And finally, regarding CB and GMRS radios, I agree with Frank that they have an important role to play in emergency comm. I have a pair of Yaesu FT-857D radios that have the MARS/CAP \”wide-band\” mod, so in an emergency I can communicate over those bands (note that in addition to my Amateur Extra license, I also hold a GMRS license and I am scrupulous to ensure compliance with power limits). For example, I have found that the 50W GMRS-only UHF frequencies, going out over my Diamond X300A antenna on my roof, can reach out nearly 10 miles in a semi-urban environment to friends with the little Motorola GMRS \”blister-pack\” radios from Bass Pro. This opens up relay possibilities for neighbors, friends, and family that have not yet pursued a ham license. And CB (11m) frequencies can often provide ground-wave propagation over distances up to 30-50 miles, with a good antenna and reasonable conditions. I have a separate Galaxy DX-959 SSB CB radio for just that purpose, and my LDG YT-100 antenna tuner gives a good impedance match with my 10m antenna.I hope this helps. And thank you Frank for encouraging others to think about emergency communications and get themselves trained (and licensed) to help themselves and others.

  10. Like Anonymous I have had a poor time finding a HAM club that is welcoming so I took the bull by the horns and am doing my own studying using ARRL text books and exam examples. It is going slow but I am keeping at it.Would like your thoughts on once I receive my ticket what equipment (Name Brand/model #'s) should I buy? I currently have a PoFung (Formerly Beofung SP) but obviously I will need something else. I have looked at the Kenwood TS 590SG. I have also used ICOM SSB ship to shore radios while delivering boats. Your and others thoughts would be a BIG help. ThanksJohnyMac

  11. Any time you get people together, politics come along for he ride. Don't let the behavior of one club sour you on ham radio! Unless you truly live in the outback, finding another club is the best route, Check the web for ham radio license exams in your area. Yo may end up finding a club yo didn't even know about. Don't give up. You'll soon need this valuable tool!

  12. Frank and others, Thanks for your input, I appreciate it. When I asked my local deputy about the EC he gave me a blank stare. I even asked my local fire chief and got the same blank stare. The county I live in pretty large and not a whole lot of people. I'll drive down to the county seat visit the appropriate offices to see if I can get better info. You inspired me. As far as the CB is concerned, you all have made the decision for me, I am going to order one today. That is more efficient than finding a store that actually sells them around here.Best regards to allCarl

  13. Thanks. I am trained in various areas of disaster relief through my church association. Last year, we trained with the communications group, not knowing having a license was a necessity. The man who does the training has made himself available to us, but lives a short drive from us. I will call him and see if there is another group he would suggest we join. (Actually I gained more helpful information from an elderly man I approached in the parking lot of Target last summer. He was wearing a cap that indicated he served in the Navy, and I always thank veterans for their service. His license plates indicated he had his HAM license, and the the antennae on his truck were also a dead giveaway. He gave me his phone number, and said he would be willing to help us. I need to find his number and contact him.) Thanks for your help.

  14. Hi Nick. Well put, and I concur. CB is a valuable tool and I am also one of those that sees the resurgence of CB. It can be a base station, mobile and with limited use, a handheld. It's just a good, all purpose radio. You are correct CB/11 meter is just a piece of the ham bands. I personally enjoy the free banders. Thank you for sharing.Frank

  15. You are exactly right, interoperability is of the utmost importance for the long term. At this time, there is no active AmRRON in our area. Once we get our feet on the ground and are up and running, I will introduce the AmRRON time tables to our local group. In the future, we will also introduce HF/NVIS to our group. Thank you for the advice. Well taken.Frank

  16. Hi Carl. Your local sheriff's office should have the emergency coordinator information. ARRL can assist you with finding a local club and can tell you the name of the hams in your zip code.The CB will probably be a critical tool when things shut down. Many people already have them, they know how to set them up and they know how to use them. There are probably more CBs around than any other type of radio. GMRS is probably a real close second.As you are aware, ham radio can be a little cliquish, but then, so can local CB operators. It takes time in a new location. If you have a little extra jingle, I would consider an export/10 meter for CB purposes. At the least, I would get a CB with adjustable power and SSB that in the future would accommodate an amp. A good antenna, good coax and a good CB/SSB and you have the ability to communicate locally, and in some cases DX. Don't forget the free banders. Yes, I think CB will be critical. Look into a couple of small solar panels, a charge controller and you're in business. Thanks for sharing.73's, Frank

  17. Good advice, thank you. Please come back anytime. Sometimes the shoe just doesn't fit. Try another shoe. Remember, it's a big stadium, there's room for everybody. Thanks again.Frank

  18. Hello. Sorry about your negative experience. Let's address these issues.Yes, you can memorize the test and pass it, then learn by doing. This is a common technique used by many. You can also go back to the same ham radio club, and you might get a slightly different reception next time. Hopefully. As to the ham club president, just like in any situation, only give them the information that you want them to know. Consider this person, whoever they are, to be a tool. Use them for your purposes and your needs. I don't trust everybody I come in touch with, actually, at first, I don't trust anybody. If someone has access to something I need, then I try to develop a mutually beneficial type of relationship.Read Frank's Radio Communications, use the current Romanchik manuals for Technician and General. The Technician is free, the General is a modest fee. Practice free online tests with or pay the fee and use QRZ is good, HamTestOnline is better. Take as many practice tests as you humanly can. This is the key to passing the test. After you pass the test, then the learning will begin. Study with your husband, friend or other asociate. Take both the Technician and General at the same time, and use the local ARRL folks to your advantage. There will be some in that group that can be a tremendous asset to you. The cheap Baofeng radios are a great way to start. Learn NVIS. Again, read Frank's Radio Communications. The ham tutorials are outdated, but highly relevant. I personally don't use ham radio as a hobby. I use ham radio and other associated radios as a survival tool. Learn the difference between a commercial radio and a ham radio. Try to shake the negative feelings of the local ARRL club. There is somebody in that group that would be glad to help you. Don't share information unless you want to or need to. Now is the time.Frank

  19. Find another club or a local mentor. Not all hams in the club will agree with the president's methods.Study the tech license on line. You can easily pass the test after some brief study sessions.Get a cheap Baefong (sp?) handheld and learn to communicate direct and via a local repeater. Other hams will hear you and most will be glad to help.

  20. Anon try to find the next closest Ham radio club. Start fresh with them that you are interested in getting a ham license as you can see that it is the best way to hear the newssee how that works. Perhaps try the Red Cross or thru the local volunteer Fire Dept.Ask at Church an see if you can find a licensed Ham who will help you study.Peace

  21. Carl in the UP, I'll answer if Frank is busy, there is a general consensus amongst many preppers that CB will make a big comeback if SHTF. People will realize that they have a CB in the back of the garage, or under a workbench or on a shelf, and wonder who else might be on the air.And there are many other users currently, besides truckers looking for paid sex and narco traficantes. Many jeep enthusiasts and off roaders still use CB. There are 'free banders' and others as well. CB is really just a slice of frequencies in the middle of the ham bands, it's only regulations that limit range and power.So I see it as a great common and local piece of the comms pie. Lots of other folks do to.nick

  22. I'd suggest you check in to AmRRON. They already host nationwide nets on ham radio as well as FRS and CB on channel 3. I'd join in their effort instead of forging your own. Interoperability is the name of the game.

  23. Frank, nice post. I am a licensed Ham and have served as an ARRL county emergency coordinator at my previous home. At my new location I am having trouble finding my fellow Hams and who might be my county EC. Any suggestions? Also I am curious as to whether or not you see CB as a real piece of the pie. I have a hand held and for sometime have been considering getting a new mobile unit for my truck. It really does seem like its so far out of fashion, as to be useless, What do you think?Carl in the UP

  24. Frank, For my birthday a couple of month ago, I wanted to get my HAM radio license (along with my husband). The only experience either of us has is my childhood best friend's dad was a HAM operator. I would sit for a few minutes and listen to him talking to people. This was back in the 70's, and cell phones weren't around yet. I was amazed that he could talk to people without a phone. So, what I'm saying is…we know nothing about HAM radios. (Just for fun, we were part of the CB crowd in the 80's.) We went to a meeting at our local HAM club, and were basically stared at. No one offered any advice as to how to learn the material or pass the test. The president of the club is a local police officer, whom some people do not trust. He doesn't have a reputation as an honest man. He repeatedly asked why we wanted our licenses, and kept digging for information. (I felt like he wanted us to reveal any preps we had.) What should we do? What is the best way to pass the test? (I learn best by doing, which I can't do without a license.) Should I just memorize the information to pass the test, and actually learn when I start using my radio? Help.

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