Emergency Ham Radio Portable Go-Kit

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– David

Survival Diva here with exciting news! In light of recent conversations on post-disaster communications, today we have a guest author who is an expert on Ham Radio–Lee Besing. This is a perfect solution for those who want to use HAM radio (or other radios) during a post-collapse scenario, but haven’t figured out how to make them portable. I’m sure you will appreciate the incredible detail Lee has included in his step-by-step instructions on how you can build your own emergency ham radio kit that’s portable and takes alternative power into consideration for times when the power grid may be down.

Emergency Ham Radio Portable Go-Kit, by Lee Besing

Once upon a time, in a department store not so far away, were some lonely Stanley Mobile Work Centers who dreamed of becoming more than just a rolling toolbox when they grew up. Fortunately for one of them, one day a ham radio operator strolled down the aisle and said “this little guy would make a fantastic portable emergency ham radio go-kit!”   That ham radio operator bought the Mobile Work Center and took it home to be modified. 

This is its story…

Seriously however, this rolling toolbox (Stanley Model #01880) was chosen because of cost and several physical factors.  The low cost was a bonus, about $20 at multiple locations including Home Depot and Wal-Mart. I’ve also seen this unit offered on eBay for more than twice that price, plus shipping.  

Physical factors include being a one-piece molded heavy duty vinyl, not two separate pieces latched together like some of the other toolboxes were.  This means the bottom is not as likely to fall off when you pick it up.

The attached wheels were heavy duty and the axle was a one piece solid steel rod that ran from wheel to wheel. In other words, the wheels were not simply attached to each side, and thus it would hold up better over the life of the project.  

Access to the bottom half was via a sliding front door, very convenient to be able to drop in some batteries and other items as we’ll later describe and show photos of, and close when access wasn’t desired. The heavy vinyl construction was easy to drill with my cordless drill, or cut using a heavy box cutter, when installing items in the side that required holes.

The top half can serve as a toolbox including a parts lid or have room to install a radio and other items. I chose to use it as a toolbox with parts lid for storage, and place my radio(s) outside the unit on a folding table for actual operations. Because the handle to lift the unit, or roll the unit was integral to the lid, and thus only connected via the rear hinge and two front clips, I used a metal carbineer clip to act as a safety clip just in case the clips decided to fail and pop the lid when least convenient.

Okay, now on to the project. 

Portable radio operation requires power from someplace; like a battery, generator or a really long extension cord. You could use one or more 12 volt marine batteries, car batteries, sealed lead acid batteries, or gas power electric generator (don’t forget to bring extra fuel). There are lots of choices, each with their own advantage or disadvantage. 

I knew a local ham operator who had a source of slightly used 28 amp hour 12 volt sealed lead acid batteries that he offering for $25 each. I bought two of them to put into the bottom of my kit hooked in parallel to provide 56 amp hours of 12vdc service. You can find these types of batteries new from Amazon or other sources because they are used in most UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) to supply the power for them.

That same ham (Bob K5AUW) had designed ahome-brew charging circuit that would allow simultaneously charging the batteries while providing power to the radios or other devices, as long as there was an external source of 12vdc power. When the internal 12vdc power supply is turned on, it charges both the batteries and runs the radio, when off, the radios run from the batteries automatically. That’s a topic for a different article, but if you contact me direct (see end of article) I will email you the circuit diagram.

I added a sheet of plastic corrugated board (like you make political yard signs out of) to lay on top of the batteries, thus protecting them from shorting out accidently if something metallic got dropped into the box. I insulated the terminals with electrical tape just in case, but the plastic liner looked good and allowed me to use the extra area for storage of extension cords, etc.

I exclusively used Anderson Power Pole connectors for the majority of my connections, other than the direct connections to the batteries and switches. The cables from the battery all had Anderson Power Pole connectors, then connected to the charging circuit and then to the external 12vdc connector block (described below) and to the internal 12vdc power supply.

To provide my 12vdc power, I bought a Pyramid 30 amp 12vdc power supply from Amazon.com for $69.99 (with free shipping).  I had shopped around multiple sources, and chose this unit for three reasons, the small size (flat rectangular that would fit behind the batteries), light weight and reasonable price (plus free shipping). I installed it using double faced mounting tape and stuck it to the inside back of the bottom compartment, behind the batteries and above the axle area. It fit perfectly just as I had hoped it would.

I added a 2-outlet 12vdc power plug to let me use cigarette lighter style power plugs (like the one connected to my DC-AC power converter).

I mounted a 300 watt DC-AC power converter upside down inside the roof of the bottom compartment by drilling 4 mounting screw holes and screwing them in from the top compartment.  I used this unit because I already owned it, but if I was going to buy one, I’d get one of the larger capacity units (1000+ watt) on sale from Harbor Freight or other store.   Recently another local ham bought a 375 watt unit at a Hamfest for $20, so keep your eyes open for bargains.  I use the converter to provide temp AC power in the field to charge my portable radios or run my laptop computer, etc.  It can’t handle much of a load, depending upon the size converter installed, so be cautious what you plug into it.

(David’s note:  If possible, try to figure out how to power your radios directly from DC sources rather than taking DC power, converting it to AC, and having the power adapter converter adapt it back to DC to run the item.  Unless you’re running high end, ultra efficient power adapters in their ideal output range, you could easily be looking at a 20% power loss by switching from DC to AC and back to DC.  That 20% power loss equates to 25% more run time if you skip the whole conversion process and just keep things DC.)

Don’t use a surge strip plugged into your converter, because it will cause problems. I promise. Something about the sine wave conversion of power by the converter messes up that surge function. Using a non-surge power strip is okay, but don’t use a surge strip with the converter output.

(David’s note:  This is a problem when using a modified sine inverter/converter.  To get around the problem, you need to spend more and use a pure sine wave inverter/converter.)

You can use, and should use, a surge strip between your external AC source and the power supply, to protect it and to allow powering other AC devices without needing to use the internal converter. You can’t run the 12vdc power supply from the converter to charge the batteries and run the radios and run the converter at the same time. Perpetual energy doesn’t work, I tried it.  You could also set up and connect solar charger panels to trickle charge the batteries during daytime operations, but I didn’t have that option.

Because it was inconvenient to always be reaching under to plug or unplug AC cords from the converter, I decided to install external power jacks on the outside of the box, and use a short extension cord to connect from the converter to that box. I went to Home Depot and bought the plastic outlet box, weatherproof lid, and other parts to install. Now I could simply plug into the outside of the toolbox to get power. I added an inline overload fuse (from an old UPS) and an on/off illuminated rocker switch (from Radio Shack #275-013) to turn on the converter when needed.

I also installed a Red-Dee-2 Power Connector (PS8) from www.DCPWR.com to provide the ability to plug up to four (4) exterior Anderson Power Pole equipped cords to obtain 12 vdc power from the outside, for about $28 plus shipping.  I added some plastic clips to create a sort of strain relief mechanism for the cords, but that adhesive tape isn’t holding up.

Because I wanted to keep an eye on the voltage of my batteries when not using AC power to keep them charged, I found a battery monitor from Harbor Freight that only cost $4.95.   I put Anderson Power Poles on it and used Velcro to attach it to the outside above the power outlets.  Push the button and the LED’s light up to indicate the state of charge or if it needs recharged.  Yes, there are several other more expensive gadgets from West Mountain Radio or other sources that show you live readings with LED displays, but this was cheap and how often do you need to check it, anyway? When not in use, it gets put back inside the box for storage.

I added an external fan like you would find on a PC computer case because I was concerned about heat inside the lower compartment with 2 batteries, charging circuit, 12 volt DC power supply and DC-AC power converter. Yes, I could leave the door open, but I was concerned about rain. So I installed the fan and then added some flexible plastic that I cut to shape from something I had bought recently, and attached it so that the air could still blow outward, but rain was unlikely to blow in. I don’t plan to operate this unprotected in the rain, but I wanted it to be reasonably rain resistant.  

I added an illuminated on/off rocker switch (Radio Shack #275-013) to turn the fan on/off from the outside, and then discovered that it could turn on accidently very easily.  So I cut a small 1” piece off a PVC pipe to glue around the switch, so that you had to reach inside the pipe to turn it on or off on purpose.

Okay, at this stage, I had all the external power outlets on one side of the toolbox, and the fan on the other side.  Everything was mounted semi-permanently inside the box to avoid shifting around during transport by using double face tape or Velcro. Hard Styrofoam was placed between the batteries to keep them from shifting when the unit was being wheeled around.

It was time for the finishing touches. I added an exterior hook to hang a microphone on the front of the box, just in case, and I decided to decorate

the exterior with reflective tape for safety purposes, to increase visibility during night operations and to spiff up the looks a bit. I added some decals to identify it as a REACT piece of equipment since I’m a REACT member, and added one of the logos from a mag sign that I use on my van when I’m doing the “turtle” function (bringing up the rear after the last rider / runner) at bike-a-thon or run-a-thon events. I also used my label maker to properly label all the cables inside, and all the connectors outside, so that folks would know what was what, and I’d remember it myself 6 months from now.

I’m using a portable home-brew 2 meter antenna on a tripod mount and a home-brew HF (high frequency) antenna with this kit, both antennas were built based on ideas found at www.w2ik.com. I currently store a 50 watt 2 mtr ham radio in the toolbox at all times, with extra coax for the antenna for faster deployment. I also carry a portable mag mount 2 meter antenna for quick operations. Antennas will be the topic of a different article a bit later on.

(David’s note:  As I mentioned earlier this week, two tools that our family has for situations like this are the SPOT satellite transponder/GPS/one way satellite communicator. and the Delorme inReach 2 (TWO!) way satellite communicator that you can connect to your smartphone by bluetooth and send/receive text messages via satellite.  They will only work if the grid is up where the person you’re talking to is located.  What this means is that these satellite communicators are not an alternative to Ham radio in a complete nationwide disaster situation, but they are a solid alternative for local and regional disasters that don’t require a license that you may want to consider.)

You can visit Lee Besing’s informative blog at sanantoniohams.org/blog or you can email him at lee@besing.com.

Is Ham Radio part of your back-up plan for communications during a crisis that may take down landline and cell phone coverage? What about two-way radios? Please post your comments below!

Chapter 22 of Implant is now available. You can Click Here to continue reading.

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva

Comments

  1. bob barker says:

    For tons of info on EMCOMM boxes, and a lot of examples, see
    www.ar15.com/forums/t_10_22/648273_The_EMCOMM_Box.html

  2. Thats a pretty cool DIY rig – thanks to Lee for making this so accessible to non-Elmer types like myself.

    I’m experimenting with same sort of thing in a Thule roof-top box- just hang it from the rafters and lower onto the car rack when its time to go, and park at the trail head, to power the moblie ham radio base under the dash, to relay to the hand-held on my vest while hiking with boy scouts or hunting.

    Ham to ham relay works standalone, but it does take time to learn the ham radio workings, get the test to be legal to be on air, and learn and practice the relay operations, using whatever repeaters are working in your area.

    But I LIKE that two way Satellite texter David- very cool and much easier that learning ham rules and relay ops.

    BTW, if the grid is down for EMP- the GPS, satellites, cell towers and your ham radio and any sensitive electronic gear not already stored in a metal box somewhere is going to be toast anyway.

    So I keep my handheld ham R/T in an ammo box painted purple, and I’d probably park the rolling cart in an old metal standup locker or hollowed out file cabinet from a surplus store.

    And full-disclosure, I REALLY DONT KNOW how effective/EMP proof that really is-
    short of going an official Faraday Testing Station* someplace, its sort of hard to know, how effective some of the various survival site claims about EMP proof containers are, online. your late model car is ok, stuff stored in metal trash cans is ok, home-made copper screen lined foot lockers ok, etc. I DO believe tin-foil hats work to deflect cosmic rays, and keep the aliens from taking over my brain, however…:}

    Unless someone knows a place where ACTUAL testing results for various home-made or similar containers are posted online? maybe we can pool a few bucks and try something out at the below?

    *http://www.baesystems.com/landing/BAES_051449

    • Having had extensive experience working with and IN faraday cages, I hate to inorm you that the myth of the metal enclosure, is jut that, a myth. An emp will still induce a parasitic current through that metal box unless it is ultra expensive MU metal… UNLESS it is directly grounded to a good solid earth ground. Without going into all the laws of magnetism and electromagnetism and inductors, a down and dirty explanation is the pulse will create a magnetic field in all conductors in its own magnetic field, when the magnetic field of the pulse dies , the parasitic fields all collapse, creating a massive voltage spike. this is what destroys solid state devices. Well, if your metal enclosure is not grounded, the voltage is not bled off and the magnetic field is passed through the container to the inside, just like a transformer passing a magnetic field from the primary to the secondary coil, with your electronics being the “secondary”. Most electronics are shielded in metal, so simply putting them in another metal box wont help. the enclosure MUST be grounded so that the induced magnetic field can not be create a voltage which is capable of recreating another pulse that will then induce a spike on the leads of your solid state components. I Have personally experimented with this and proven this to happen. it isn’t simply conjecture. It is theoretically provable with mathematical modeling as well, however the math is extremely complex. What you do need to remember, is the duration of the pulse it self is exceedingly short, that of a nano second or even shorter, a picosecond, one thousandth of a nano second, yet is is of such a high magnitude that it can affect a substantial area. For example the earliest nuclear detonation by the US military, the “Project Trinity”, 35 miles south east of Socorro New Mexico, at the then new White Sands proving grounds was only a 20 Kiloton yield device. far smaller than what is considered a tactical yield today, YET its magnetic disruption was felt all the way out to and beyond they Hawaiian Islands, this was the first indication that an EMP even existed.

  3. Rick Rosado says:

    im looking for a good long range hand held 2 way radio . I have no idea of where to find one or what to look for . my group is planning to hit and keep moving.

    • there is really no such thing, range is determined by frequency and power lower frequency gives longer range but requires larger antennas. higher power requires greater power supply requirements which in turn increase size. these situations are determined by the laws of physics and nothing more or less,

  4. I think the cart is a great idea – a decent size battery is heavy, and having some wheels under it makes sense. But help me out here – why not just buy a UPS? A 1000 watt UPS from Office Depot is about $100 brand new. 1500 watt about $210. Half that for a refurbished, or even less used on ebay. They have an on/off switch, multiple outlets, a digital readout, built in surge protector, fan, battery condition/temperature warning alarm. And possibly most important, the battery will last longer being maintained by a more sophisticated charging circuit, compared to a straight 12v power supply.

    • Hey David, that’s the route I’ve taken, but there’s a valid argument to be made for building something yourself AND for the scalability of this system.

    • a UPS isn’t designed to supply a constant output. first off it is meant to bolster sagging voltage and second allow you to save your work and power down. Those that are designed to do more than that are substantially larger, typically starting at the size of a small chest freezer and getting larger, due to the battery requirements the have, and the batteries they use are not noted for long lives, if they are forced into regular use.

      • Hey Scott, I agree with you, BUT it depends on what your load is, what your definition of “constant” is, and whether or not you size your UPS “correctly” or oversize it considerably. We live in a sketchy power area and I get hours of extra laptop/mifi time with a UPS system. We also use a UPS system between our generator and our fireplace blower so that we don’t have to run the generator all of the time.

  5. PLEASE! send me drawings for : That same ham (Bob K5AUW) had designed ahome-brew charging circuit that would allow simultaneously charging the batteries while providing power to the radios or other devices, as long as there was an external source of 12vdc power. When the internal 12vdc power supply is turned on, it charges both the batteries and runs the radio, when off, the radios run from the batteries automatically. That’s a topic for a different article, but if you contact me direct (see end of article) I will email you the circuit diagram.

    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE. GREAT ARTICLE

  6. I am a woman who knows nothing about a ham radio. Also I think I could get this rolling cabinet fixed up but if would really like some guidance.. I have been wanting a radio but to be honest I really don’t know I really need in one. Where or who could guide me in this? I wold be greatful for the help.

    • Linda, check out the American Radio Relay League at www.arrl.org/
      Almost guaranteed to find people or groups associated with that nearby where you live. They are in general a helpful bunch of people for beginners, and can give you advice on why radios are useful and how to get started.

    • A good place to find a lot of help with radio communications would be to identify where the next Ham-Fest or Hamvention in your area will be. You could google such info, look on local “event” sites, or look on places like “Meetup.com.”

      These events have hundreds or sometimes tens of thousands of Ham radio enthusiasts who you will find to be very willing to help you, by and large.
      If you are near Dayton, Ohio, May 16-18 will be the 2014 dates for the largest such Hamvention in the world. (Dayton is the epicenter of Ham Radio, dating back to the old, old radio days). Their site is hamvention.org/.

      But there are lots of “Ham fests” all over the country,and there are also many local Ham radio clubs, which you could also check out. If you get desperate, it’s likely that someone at your local radio station would be able to point you to some helpful radio nerds. The same would be true if your yellow pages has any local listings for Radio shops…maybe even a Radio Shack, if it’s a franchise one.

      Good luck! It’s fun and really quite easy to get your license.

    • Linda, Check out www.qrz.com for the test questions ( the actual test and answers) to study and look up to see if there are any ham clubs in your area.
      Now for everyone: using QRZ’s practice tests just go and take it, it will tell you the correct answer when get it wrong so don’t worry about not knowing… just keep taking the same test until you ALWAYS get at least 85% correct then add the second test to it so you are doing the tests 1, 1+2, 1+2+3, 1+2+3+4, and so on, only adding an additional test when you get 85% or better on the highest level test for that license class ( technician to start) this method literally writes the correct answers into your memory. and is 100% valid. you will then learn MORE about ham radio after you can get on the air and talk with the hams. It is a fantastic hobby, and vital skill set to have. and like any skill you DO need to practice it before you NEED it. I am an extra class operator and have been a ham for decades. I’ve used it in real disasters and in simulations. My brother is a ham, so is my wife and both my daughters, it is a family thing for us and we use our equipment camping fishing and hunting just to name a few. We have made too many friends to count through it, and these are people of mind and spirit to lend a helping hand… So don’t think just of the prepping aspect… you Will benefit and enjoy being Amateur radio operators. And simple hand held Vhf transceivers can be had for less than 50 dollars from on ebay…

  7. This is great info, with this rig a person could power small LED lights on lenghts of light weight power cord and/or run a CB too.
    I would want to go with a higher amp hr sealed battery that would still fit into the area and have some type of PV panels or matts to help sustain/maintain the charge level of the battery, when away from other charging sources.
    I would agree with previous post, that doing this project yourself would be a lesson of great value.
    Two thumbs up to the Author and David.

  8. Knowing how all of the stuff mentioned actually operates would preclude needing most of it, especially if one is vehicular in the first place.
    One would be amazed if one went to a retail store and priced what they charge for something like this, turnkey.

    • Hey Bill, your comment intrigued me…would you mind amazing us by posting a link to a turnkey version of this?

    • yup- there was a guy selling something like this a couple years ago- very nice rig also- but it was around $2K at the time, if I remember right.

      PS- dang you David- now I gotta buy another piece of kewl gear- that two way sat texter, and an Android phone to make it work…(jk)

      • They’ve been great pieces of kit…I’m incredibly comfortable on my own in the middle of nowhere, but my wife doesn’t share my experience/confidence in my skills 🙂 They let me go off and do my own thing without her having to worry. That, in and of itself, is worth a lot to us. When you add in the fact that, if you have line of sight to the satellites, you can communicate with the outside world–regardless of what’s going on with comms locally, they’re awesome.

  9. Susan Smith says:

    Hi.. Can you buy this portable Ham radio already assembled? If so , how much does it cost and how can I order one?
    Susan Smith

    • Chuck Stogner KK4PQE says:

      Small 2 meter portables start at roughly $50.00, but are only 4 or 5 watts and have rather limited range unless you are close to a repeater or on a high elevation area. You will need to get a license to transmit, but not to listen and a license is a good idea for you need to understand the equipment prior to an emergency. Check out the local ham radio club. You will find that these folks will be very helpful.

  10. USMCVeteran says:

    I am a comm officer in a Constitutional militia and this portable ham setup is nice for field deployment.

  11. What if I just buy one from the guy who conceptualizes this wonderful gadget. How mu ch would it cost me plus shipping and handling plus of course his mark-up. Just thinking about it.

    • GREAT question, Vic 🙂 This brings up a good point to everyone reading…skill level, tool availability, and other time commitments mean that a LOT of preppers are looking for done-for-you prepping solutions, regardless of whether or not they’d like to tackle a dozen DIY projects every weekend.

  12. N0UKM here and I am a Technician class ham radio operator. Have been that way since Sept 1992. I am now studying for my General class and probably will leave it at that. I am the ARES (amateur radio emergency service) emergency coordinator plus the RACES (radio amateur civil emergency service) Radio officer for my county. I do ham radio only for the emergency communications aspect.

    Getting you ham radio license is easy. There are only three levels or classes Tech, General and Extra. For Tech and General, just get the current book and the one for Tech runs out in June 2014 when a new one will be issued for another 4 years. When you get your book, make sure the study questions are part of it, and then highlight only the correct answer.

    Yes, the question and answer are the same as you will see on the real exam. There are about 350 questions ranging from true/false, fill in the blank, multiple choice. Out of those 350 questions, 35 of them will be on the written exam that you will see.

    It is very easy to pass the test. There are plenty of hams out there that will help you if need be every step of the way. There is a lot of stuff I have forgotten over the years, but the ECOMM group is great helping me relearn what I have forgotten.

    We will probably start a ham radio course up in January 2014 since about 15 Maine Army National Guardsmen want the class, plus hospital employees are asking for a course.

    Here is a good place to start and get your first Tech level book that is just $20. www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=69&sort=4

    Good luck with your radio quest. There is a lot to learn and there is a lot that you can do, like bounce your radio signal off of the moon in what is called EME or earth-moon-earth, using ham radio satellites, talk to the International Space Station, etc. Every American astronaut has to be a ham radio operator. And for those that remember Walter Cronkite, he was a ham radio operator also. His ham call was KB2GSD.

    73, N0UKM

    • General info on POWER consumption

      David,
      Great idea! Portable communication gear is a luxury when considering BUG OUT on foot but would be wonderful if bugging IN or moving in a car.
      This is NOT suited to cross country treks or even hikes on a good trail.

      I was thinking the same thing about the AC/DC converter! Bulk and weight and power losses!!!
      Never mind the small UPS batteries; get a serious AGM type battery instead.

      The main consideration is power drain. Antennas are the second consideration but they are way beyond this topic.
      HAM rigs put out anywhere from 25 to 1,000 watts.
      This means that a 1,000W output will use 1,200W or 1,500W in putting 1KW out the antenna depending on efficiencies of the circuitry.
      So choose a radio that you can afford to feed.

      OHM’S LAW is simple. Power is figured by multiplying amps times voltage. P = (A) (V) V is fixed at 12 to 13. So P/V = A or the current drain.
      What is the AMP HOUR rating of your battery pack? Unless you have deep pockets for the latest technology, AGM is the best deal for the money.
      A 100 pound battery will have about 140 amp hour capacity and cost about $300 new if you shop around. I have such a battery so this is good info!
      I do not recommend such a big battery for this application. The battery and radio, etc. would likely break the wheels off the cart in this example.
      So consider how much weight you can drag around in that tool cart.
      Find a suitable battery. Golf cart and deep cycle marine batteries are good for this purpose.

      P/V =A 26W/13V = 2 amps for example.
      This means that a rig putting out 25W to the antenna will likely draw 2.5 amps from the battery when transmitting and much less when listening.
      If your battery pack has a 50 amp hour rating, you could hold the transmit key down for 20 hours before totally draining your battery. NOT good!
      No one transmits like that! Send out a distress call or a “Hi, I am here.” message in less than a minute and then listen for a reply.
      Unless extreme situations dictate otherwise, never use more than 50% of your battery capacity.
      Totally draining KILLS car batteries the first time you do it. They may never take a full charge again.
      It shortens the useful life of the other types of batteries too.

      Under IDEAL conditions, and on the correct lower frequencies, a HAM rig can reach the whole planet with a few watts…especially in Morse code mode.
      But not many know code anymore! So voice on single side band (SSB) is the way to go for MAX transmitting range.
      Here is where the antenna type and quality comes in. Find someone who knows the subject and pick his brain.

      Lastly, consider a solar panel to recharge your battery pack. Small panels about the size of the cart can be found for $2 or $3 per watt.
      Assuming a 25W panel and using Ohm’s Law again, this would put about 2 amp hours back into the battery pack for every hour of full sun.
      Even a 4 hour recharge means you could probably listen all night which is when HAM reception is usually best anyway.

  13. Thank You for a great article.
    I am a HAM (KE4TLT) and our family prep uses the FRS radio spectrum for short range comms between family members and neighbors (live in a sea side resort area). Medium range comms are with the GMRS spectrum (requires a license – WQIN944-) within the town at about a 1-2 mile range. County level comms are accomplished via 2 meter and 70 centimeter HAM radio using the W4RNG repeater in Jacksonville, Florida and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) ARES emergency radio service. We do not plan to depend on the Cell Phone system for any comms in an emergency as we have seen it fail repeatedly.
    Yours in Liberty,
    Stargazer
    Oath Keeper

  14. Radio transmissions can be tracked/located. Not sure, if TSHTF,
    I want that liability. Passive listening might be OK, but even
    that could be problematic. Anything using electrical power can
    be located with the right equipment. And Faraday caging is a
    must to protect electronic circuitry. But also remember a Faraday
    cage works both ways. If your equipment is inside one, you can
    neither transmit nor receive any signals.

  15. Don Klapproth says:

    Absolutely great info for non tech. Non ham radio type people’ just one suggestion perhaps a short video of completed unit wold assist in even better understanding of technical items to show completely what they look like and how you installed them! Thanks again, I am considering looking to use my old boat radios which were also set to run on 12 volt! With good antenna. ( what could I substitute ) for Max performance on land.?
    mdsailmaster22@yahoo.com

    • Mark Siepak KJ4VSM says:

      By boat radios, I think you mean marine radio, which is different frequencies than Ham radio, FRS, or GMRS, I am pretty sure. You could talk between radios, but not the outside world, unless you live at the coast or on a Great Lake. Marine radios have slightly different wiring, as I understand it, because boats are wood or fiberglas and there needs to be a ground run. Same for antenna, would need counterpoise at bottom to ground it.

  16. Peter Ransom says:

    Could save your life read about EMP either because of nature or man produced by nuclear explosion . Make sure the box on wheels is of a Faraday cage construction mode not grounded and wrapped carefully

    • Chuck Stogner KK4PQE says:

      When you say box on wheels is of a Faraday cage construction mode and not grounded. The Stanley box is plastic if I am not mistaken and would not a Faraday cage have to be metal and grounded? How would you alter this box to be in a Faraday cage mode?

      • Chuck, I don’t think he was saying that it IS a Faraday cage…just that people should make sure that it’s a Faraday cage. You’re right that the Stanley box IS plastic.

        The easiest way to alter the box would be to nest a metal ammo box that you use for storage inside the Stanley box.

  17. Call sign is wa2qcj, Extra class license. Ham radio is a main stay for communications in any situation. A point that is largely unknown is how to get radio waves to do what you want them to do, within reasonable expectations. For HF, the so called High Frequency region that HAM’s use, an antenna close to the ground, 10 feet is a good height, the wave leaving the antena is going to go almost, straight up. This makes for a close skip operation. Typically 100 to 300 miles. This is far better than getting the antenna higher, where the distance from ground is a quarter of the wavelength, or more. Then you are talking about 1000 or more mile skips, which, long range, this is good, short range, such as within your state, it’s bad.
    Becoming a HAM is easy, now, there is just a written test to take for each of the licenses.

  18. Rick Rosado says:

    im just looking for a good hand held 2 way radio . that will fit in a back pack

    • What are your preferences on range, price, and license requirements? I understand why you phrased the question like that, but it’s the radio equivalent to saying, “I’m just looking for a good work vehicle.” The requirements are different if you’re in rural Montana or on Miami Beach. It’s different if your car is how you get to work vs. how you DO work, like with a truck.

    • One thing to keep in mind is when the lights go out the repeaters go down so with small handhelp radios you may be blind, I believe ham to ham is where we will get info from afar or give info from afar

  19. Thanks for this article, I have slowly been working on our bug out bag and other disaster items. I’ve been thinking about a vehicle CB and possible a portable CB as a low cost option. I do not have experience with HAM, hence no license, so I haven’t look at that route. I think the SPOT devices are a good idea as well and I’ll look at adding that with either CB or Ham.

    • One thought regarding licensing if chaos sticks its head out who will enforce license or no license get a ten meter ham and do a lot of listening

  20. Good article. You can probably buy a backup battery system for a little more than making your own, but what you will learn doing this project will be worth more than just the end result. I have had Ham radio on my list for a long time. I have a couple of friends who are serious operators. I understand that it is not required to learn Morse Code to a license now. I want to get my family together and have us all take a class for license from one of the aforementioned friends and get us all setup. We are kind of scattered and 2 of us live in areas that get hurricanes on occasion. Keep the info coming.

    • Chuck Stogner KK4PQE says:

      Check with your local amateur club, for they regularly teach classes and have testing sessions to enable folks to learn this info. The better source of overall info on Ham Radio and the clubs is the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) at www.arrl.org/licensing-education-training . The basic license is the Technician class and you can self study for this if a class isn’t available.
      There are many free study guides on the web. One link to those is:
      www.nc4fb.org/wordpress/

  21. The CLICK HERE in the last line doesn’t work on my Mac. Also www.w2ik.com/ does not connect to anything.

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