Welcome to this week’s newsletter, brought to you by the “Fastest Way To Prepare” book & course, that will walk you through how to pick up “junk” cell phones for a few bucks apiece that have the same secure (non cellular) communication technology that people regularly pay $300-$600 for. These are smaller, cheaper, tougher, and more secure than 99% of the handheld radios that you’ll find in stores. They don’t require a license or a repeater, are SIMPLE to use, and have great range. To learn more, go >HERE< now.
Are you set up for emergency communications if a tornado, earthquake, hurricane, winter storm or a “bad actor” took down cell and land-line connections in your area?
As a general manager of a Alaskan-based cellular company, I was tasked with investigating what the impact of a 9.0 or greater earthquake would have on cell phone coverage. My final report had a lot of “ifs” attached to it: “if” the earthquake took out the telco that we interfaced with, cell phone coverage would be lost; “if” there was heavy cell phone use, it could jam the lines; “if” a repeater site toppled in the quake, cell coverage in the vicinity would be lost; “if” the quake took down electrical, we’d be online for as long as the emergency back-up power lasted–a week at most.
It taught me that in any emergency, there are a lot of “ifs” and not enough “absolutes”, which can make for a bad day for anyone who isn’t prepared for alternative communications.
When disasters strike, the consequences of procrastination suddenly become crystal clear. The fallback–listening to an emergency radio–may or may not answer our questions such as whether travel is possible, or if our loved ones living outside our vicinity were impacted by the disaster.
Even more “mundane” questions become a big deal without cell phones. As an example, how do you know whether someone picked up the kids/grandkids or if you need to travel 10 miles out of your way to check.
If you have put alternative communications on the back-burner, it’s time to jump in, feet first. Today’s post will throw out some of what’s possible and you can take it from there.
For those of you who’ve already done the legwork and have communications covered, please jump in and share your advice! There’s a lot to this, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.
Otherwise known as 2-Way Radios, the benefits of Ground Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and Family Radio Service (FRS) units are their affordability and their compact size.
They both use frequencies in the 462 – 468 MHz range and some radios are dual FRS/GMRS.
The FRS was set up by the FCC as an unlicensed band of 14 channels that have a half watt power limitation. FRS radios are restricted radios that have antennas that cannot be removed. Depending upon the terrain, their range is typically one to two miles, even when the box says 20, 30, or 50 miles.
There’s a LOT of confusion regarding FCC licensing on GMRS radios. Here are 3 sets of facts about it:
1. GMRS is a licensed radio service which, unlike ham radio, does not require taking a test. You are required to fill out a form, send in $90.00, and you are then assigned a call sign which is good for 5 years, at which time the license must be renewed. GMRS operators are allowed external antennas, are permitted to go up to 50 watts of power and with the use of a repeater, their range can be 30 miles or greater.
2. In 2010, the FCC proposed to remove the individual licensing requirement for GMRS and instead license GMRS “by rule” (meaning that an individual license would not be required to operate a GMRS radio). This proposal is still pending.
If you operate a radio that has been approved for both FRS and GMRS, and if you limit your operations to the FRS channels with a maximum power of ½ watt effective radiated power and an integral antenna, you are not required to have a license. (Note that some dual-service radios transmit with higher power on FRS channels 1 through 7; these radios can be used without a license only on FRS channels 8 through 14.).
From a Preppers standpoint, FRS or GMRS are handy tools for communications at home, a cabin or a base camp. As an example, I live on acreage on remote property with a large garden that is near, but not next to, the main cabin and guest cabins. When SHTF and if looters make it past the 5 miles of gravel road between the small-hold farmers and my cabin (not likely, but it’s a possibility), these radios will come in handy. Not only are two-legged predators a possible threat, but this area has mountain lion, bear, moose, coyote, wolf and recently, feral dogs. When patrolling property, gardening, or taking late-night trips to the outhouse it will include bringing a 2-way radio.
Citizen Band radio is meant for short-distance communications and will generally allow communications for up to 15 miles, give or take. With the right atmospheric conditions, it’s possible to communicate with people over much longer distances–but broader transmissions cannot be depended upon. CB radio is popular with Preppers because a license is no longer required to operate them and they can be picked up cheaply at second-hand stores and garage sales.
CB radios have 40 channels. The legal limit to broadcast CB is 4 watts of transmission power on AM and 12 watts on sideband modes. It’s illegal to broadcast HAM radio over CB frequencies.
CB radio is an affordable way to communicate with neighbors and those in your community during a crisis. It will allow you to send and receive non-secure information to one another during a crisis. . . provided you can convince those you trust living within the limited CB range to set up for CB. If not, listening to CB transmissions should still offer important information on road conditions and how the emergency has impacted your immediate vicinity.
HAM radio opens up world-wide communications and it’s why it’s popularity continues to grow. Recently, Emergency Management and hospitals have recognized the importance of HAM radio to communicate during disasters that takes down cell and land-line communication, encouraging many first responders to obtain their operators license.
When the FCC dropped the Morse code portion of the HAM radio licensing test in 2007, HAM radio experienced a resurgence of interest. There are now 3 classifications of HAM operator licensing:
The Technician license is an entry level license which requires passing one examination consisting of 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. The Technician license allows the operator access to all Amateur Radio Frequencies above 30 megahertz, covering local and within North America and includes limited privileges on the HF (AKA Short Wave bands).
The General license requires passing a 35 question examination and the Technician written examination and offers operating privileges on all amateur radio bands and all operating modes, including world-wide communications.
The Amateur Extra license requires passing a more difficult 50 question examination plus licensees must pass all previous license class written examinations. An operator who holds an Amateur Extra license enjoys operating privileges of all bands and all modes.
The cost for study materials to obtain a HAM radio license is around $26.00–most HAM operators recommend the Ham Radio License Manual written by ARRL Inc. Make sure to get the current manual, so the study material isn’t out of date. The exam itself is $15.00 and licenses do not have to be renewed for 10 years. The cost of Ham radio equipment starts at around $150.00, but for some HAM buffs have been known to spend thousands.
In a wide-spread disaster HAM radio will pull in transmissions nearby, statewide, cross-country and abroad, allowing the operator to get news that might not be available in any other way, especially during a grid-down scenario.
In September of 2013, Lee Besing guest wrote a popular article titled Emergency Ham Radio Portable Go-Kit that offers instructions on how to set up for HAM radio using battery back-up.
One thing to keep in mind when transmitting over FMRS, GMRS, CB, or HAM radio; it is possible for your transmission to be triangulated and your position identified. This is child’s play for the military and relatively straight forward for a determined civilian.Never share information about prep goods, food storage or share any information that would get the attention of a looter.
For a dirt cheap, “secure” communications option, check out the Fastest Way To Prepare course. One section of one lesson will walk you through how to pick up “junk” cell phones for a few bucks apiece that have the same secure communication technology that people regularly pay $300-$600 for. These are smaller, cheaper, tougher, and more secure than 99% of the handheld radios that you’ll find in stores. They don’t require a license or a repeater, are SIMPLE to use, and have great range. Learn more now by going >HERE<
If there was a disaster, do you have alternative emergency communications that will keep you in touch with the outside world? If so, do you feel one alternative is enough, or do you subscribe to multiple systems? Please sound off by commenting below.
God bless and stay safe,
David Morris and Survival Diva