7 Days of September – Day #3: Communications

If you haven’t read the post on September 1, 2019 that explains this post…well, go read that post first (91/2019) and then this post will make more sense.

Have you noticed how highly I rate “communications” as a priority when dealing with emergencies, disasters, or grid-down? I rate communications higher than the threat of dehydration and exposure, even starvation. Actually, as you’ve seen I only rate the threat of violence and injury/sickness higher. If you’ve read much of my writing on this matter then you know the priority rating is due to its fatality factor (probability and severity).

Let me explain…

Example #1 – If you don’t know that an emergency, disaster, or Hurricane Sandygrid-down event is going to occur, or is occurring, how can you be ready for it or react to it? Exactly, you can’t. The event would be on top of you before you had knowledge that it was even going to hit you. Hence, you are overcome…behind the curve…out of the loop.

Example #2 – The event has occurred but you don’t know what to do. A great example would be Hurricane Katrina, many people didn’t know where to evacuate to, or where to stay away from. As a result many people became stranded in road jams, stranded on house tops, or trapped in the living hell that was the Super Dome.

Example #3 – You are into a grid-down event and you have no way for your neighborhood guards/security to communicate. A mob of looters approaches and the guards/security can’t get the word out to people what is Violent Mob approachinghappening, and calln’t for reinforcements. Two hours later your neighborhood is a smoking ruin.

Example #4 – You have a wide-spread power outage that affected cell-phone towers. You and your children are not in the same location, same is true for your spouse. You are trying to figure out if everyone is safe and trying to coordinate with your spouse who picks-up which kid and where…but your cell phone isn’t working.

All of this might have been avoided had you properly prepared with the ability to communicate during emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events. This is absolutely one of my favorite subjects. Why? Because it is so flipping important and so inexpensive to mitigate.

When it comes to communications there are two basic types; 1) internal, 2) external. Internal is the ability for the group/family to communicate with each other. External is the ability to communicate with people outside of your immediate family/group.

There are a whole lot of ways to accomplish both internal and external communications. For this article I am only going to touch on two; 1) SW receivers and mobile radios for external, 2) handheld radios for internal. Yes, there are plenty more avenues of communication available to folks. Please feel free to go whatever direction you feel is right for your situation. I will confine my thoughts to this specific series of articles in regards to taking action during the 7 Days of September.

So let us prioritize a little bit. Which is more important…internal or external communications? Well, there could be a really good case either way…I call it a tie, a draw, equal weight. For me then I go another level deeper…can I use them other than just emergency preparedness? Of course. But, I think that outside of emergency preparedness I am more likely to get value out of handheld radios with my family. And, I will probably be able to get some external information through devices such as AM/FM radios, TV, Smartphone, Internet, etc. That means I head to the “internal” aspect of communications first.

Internal Communications –

There are FRS/GMRS radios that are readily available and pretty decent for internal communications. They are GMRS Radios for emergency preparedness, disasters and "grid-down"relatively inexpensive, some are good quality, have a wide selection of channels, some have scramble technology, and have the ability to connect with other families/groups. But, there is also a downside…everyone who owns a GMRS/FRS radio can listen in to your conversations if they are close enough to your location. And another downside is limited power is available to the radio so that means limited range of communications.Baofeng UV-5R with SpeakerMic

Then there are handheld HAM radios. I love these! They come in an unbelievable variety, and I could talk you to new heights of boredom…but I won’t. I will go with two simple choices1) Yaesu FT-60 if you have lots of money, 2) Baofeng UV-5RMHP if you are on a more limited budget.

Yaesu FT-60:

The Yaesu FT-60R dual-band 2 meter/440 MHz HT boasts 5 watts output on both bands. It also features wideband receive from 108-520 and 700-999.990 MHz (less cellular).

Features – Over 1000 Memories, 5 Watts RF Output, Backlit Keypad, Alphanumeric Display, NOAA Weather Alert, PL Encode/Decode, DCS Encode/Decode, Emergency Auto ID System, ARTS System

Baofeng UV-5RMHP:

I think it is simply the best Baofeng UV-5RA Love Itprice/performance handheld radio on the market today. Yes, there are better quality radios such as the Yaesu FT-60r but the Yaesu also costs about 6 times as much at the Baofeng. True, if I could only have one handheld radio and the money wasn’t a real factor I would choose the Yaesu. But for many of us mere mortals money is a factor. And, I would rather each family member and all of my close friends have a radio rather than just one or two having a radio. Hence, the Baofeng UV-5RMHP handhelds are an amazing combination of price and performance.

Features – Frequency Range: 136-174 / 400-520MHz, Dual-Band Display, Dual-Standby, 7 / 4 / 1 watts of Output Power, 128 Memory Channels, Built-in VOX Function, FM Radio (65MHz-108MHz), Low Battery Alert, and more.

External Communications –

Just because I listed internal communications as a higher priority please don’t think that this category, external communications, is substantially less important. That is simply not the case, you must be able to communicate with the outside world, if nothing else…to listen. Which brings me to subdividing external communications into two categories; 1) one-way, 2) two-way.

One-Way:

This ability gives you the operational capability to hear what is going on in the larger world outside of normal communications methods. The key is to give yourself as many options as possible. For me I think a good solid SW receiver unit fills that need.

Two-Way:

In this category of external communications the inference is you can not just hear but also talk to people that are remote to your location. The key to this operational capability is defining “remote” and all that it entails. It could mean being able to talk to another family or group that is ten miles away or 5000 miles away.

Why is that remote definition so important? Money. Pure and simple it is about the dollars and cents to fulfill this need.

You can use a $150 mobile Ham radio operating on 70cm or 2m bands to reach ten miles, maybe even thirty. If Ham repeaters are operational you might even be able to reach to another state. But, should you be needing the ability of two-way communications over long distances (100 – 5000miles) you are talking some potentially expensive HAM HF gear. And I mean in the thousands of dollars price range. And you better fall in love with large antennas as well.

Yaesu FT-8900r:

The FT-8900R is a ruggedly-built, high quality Quad Band FM transceiver providing 50 Watts of power output Yaesu FT-8900r Quad-Band Ham Radioon the 29/50/144 MHz Amateur bands, and 35 Watts on the 430 MHz band. You can operate on 10M, 6M, 2M, 70CM bands. It includes leading-edge features like cross-band repeat, dual receive, VHF-UHF Full Duplex capability, and over 800 memory channels.

Some operational notes on external communications:

  1. If you want to be serious about longer distance HAM radio communications but still want mobility look at the Yaesu FT-897D.
  2. The Yaesu FT-8900r also gives you the capability to set-up a cross-band repeater.
  3. Don’t forget that you have to have a reliable and “clean” power supply for your radio equipment. That applies to you using AC or DC power, a generator, or batteries.
  4. Many people look at the price tag for a Yaesu FT-60r handheld radio and would rather get 5 Baofeng UV-5MHP radios instead. That way each member of their family or group can have their own radio…vastly improving internal communications.
  5. HAM radios are almost worthless without a way to program them. And the only to really be able to program them is with a computer and the software program. I use only RT Systems programming software.
  6. To operate a HAM radio on HAM frequencies other than during a life or death emergency, you are required by law to have a HAM radio license.
Summary –
  • If you have no radios communications at all, buy a handheld radio.
  • If you have a handheld radio but no accessories…buy one or more accessories to improve the performance of your handheld.
  • If you don’t have programming software for your radio, buy it.
  • If you have only a single handheld for your family or group, buy another…or two.
  • If you already have enough handhelds and you have the accessories to maximize their use then buy a mobile HAM.
  • If you already own a mobile HAM radio then make sure you have the right accessories and software for it, and don’t forget a reliable power supply as well.
  • If you are ambitious and want to be able to communicate over long distances, get a Yaesu FT-897D.

If you can’t communicate the presence and threat of danger…danger will find you and those you love…normally with very unpleasant outcomes.

 

 

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