Disaster communications

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Eric_2
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Disaster communications

One thing that I have yet to work out is modes of communication during a real disaster, when phones, cell phone and the Internet may be down.

I have heard that HAM/shortwave radio is the way to go, but I'm not sure if this is really an adequate or reliable replacement.. Of course there are also the little pocket wallis-talkies for very short distance use.

If anyone on this site has any info or experience on this subject, could you please post the info or any links? Such information should be good for a hat tip or two!

Thanks in advance.

Edited by admin on 11/08/2014 - 05:06
uptofreedom
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+1 and

+1 and bookmarked...

important aspect of prep, distracted by BB's talk coming up so bookmarked to revisit...

Jasper Puddlemaker
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Eric_2 wrote:One thing that I

Eric_2 wrote:
One thing that I have yet to work out is modes of communication during a real disaster, when phones, cell phone and the Internet may be down. I have heard that HAM/shortwave radio is the way to go, but I'm not sure if this is really an adequate or reliable replacement..

There is reason hospitals have HAM radio systems set up and ready to go in their disaster control centers.  HAM is likely to be up when all else is down.  It doesn't take a lot to get going; a handheld, portable antenna, a speaker/mic, and accessory charger and/or battery backup power is one way to do it (about $300 if purchased new).  A mobile unit that can be used in the auto or at home is another way.  Licensing doesn't cost too much; classes are readily available.  We have a couple of setups at home, but are not involved in it from a hobby standpoint.  I'm sure some active HAMs will find this thread, and will provide plenty of info if you have questions.

uptofreedom
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http://www.eham.net/reviews/d

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/8172

That handheld was recommended on another board I visit.  I do think HAM's the way to go, just haven't put any research into it yet...

Ben Martin
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Re: Disaster Comms

HAM is definitely a good option.

In order to legally operate a HAM radio you need to be licensed by the FCC. Some people say they don't care about the FCC because their radio is only for when TSHTF, that's  a personal decision you have to make. The good thing about being licensed is you can legally practice before something bad happens which is a good idea in my opinion. You can also join organizations like RACES or CERT to help your community in a disaster if you are licensed.

The license from the FCC is free, you just need to pay for a book or class to study and then its like $5 to take the test in most places. This is one of the better study guides I have found, you can try it for free: http://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/

It shouldn't take you more than 10-15 hours to study for your Technicians license which is the basic HAM license. There is also the General and Extra licenses which allow you to operate on more frequencies. In order to take those you need to pass the Technician's first, then General, then Extra.

Handheld portable HAM radios are a good option if you are only going to have one because they are mobile. The downside is they have less power and shorter range but that can be helped a if you use a j-pole antenna: http://blog.mecworks.com/articles/2005/02/27/gmrs-j-pole/

While your cell phone may not work to make calls during a disaster because of heavy network traffic often times you can still text. 

I'm by no means an expert but hopefully this answers some questions for people.

uptofreedom
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Thanks for the rundown,

Thanks for the rundown, you've answered a lot of questions in one swell foop...  :)

terri5125
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IMPORTANT the CB (radio) PATRIOT Project

May be worth looking into...these guys are forming groups of people all over the country using cb radios for communication if SHTF. It will be used for emergency communication and apparently is not affected by the FCC control since it is essentially old tech. I know with ham radios you have to get the license to operate and such but this may have some merit...people are beginning to align all over this country. God help us all if we cannot turn back the evil forces seeking to destroy this country!

www.cbpatriot.com

SilverFocker
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CB's

CB radios are cheap..........back when I was a kid they were the 70's and early 80's cell phone.........you can really reach out with them, they are portable an cheap.

Prize Fighter
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Thanks for starting this

Thanks for starting this thread and all the replies so far.  This is something I've thought about but have yet to do anything about it.  I don't see the TPTB letting things dissolve to the point all modern communications are shut down but I do like being prepared.  I do have a hand-held receiver which can listen to most frequencies from TV to aircraft, but i have no transmitter.  I hope the receiver is good enough.  Is a transmitter necessary?  I'm not really sure who I would talk to anyway.

What is the difference between CB and Ham?  Distance?  Ham sounds like there is a lot more involved but could be cool.  I would think a radio would take you down the road of wanting a large battery and a method to recharge it.  That leads to a generator or solar.  It would be silly to need the radio and have it but fail to plan to power it.

Then again, I can't recharge my simple AA batteries without power so I probably need a backup power supply anyway.

I've digressed.  Thanks for the info all yes

Eric_2
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Thanks

Thanks Ben and all for the info.  I looks like I'll be studying for a ham license in the near future, and I'll see where that takes me!

@prizefighter, from what I can tell so far the difference is frequencies, and power.   there are some frequencies, UHF and VHF, which are typically what handheld radios use (such as police, fire dept etc).  I think the HAMS also have some frequencies allocated in this range.  But the VHF and UHF are only line of sight.  The HF (high frequency) are the ones that let you communicate across the country and the world.  CB is also a short range (either VHF or UHF frequency.  The CB patriot web site does look like an interesting option however.

I've been looking through the web sites and catalogs for HAM radio and it is pretty impressive/overwhelming as there are so many different models of radios, antennas, amplifies, accessories and also software programs to interface the computer with the radio etc.  It is a bit intimidating but I think I am just going to go for it, get the license and then jump in with both feet.

I did see an article a while back when the egyptian government took down the internet in their country, and the article inmplied that ham radio operators were able to send email somehow over the radio and get tied into the internet.  This is what got me thinking about this subject.  It looks like this is all possible, but I doubt it will be an easy or fast process.  But I think it is worth starting on, so this will give me something else to do besides watch silver!

Adventures
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Some options other than HAM radios

http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/  Emergency Scanner over the web.

Great site for Emergency info streamed over the Internet. Also has radios for sale 2nd hand. Don't forget VHF (Boaters/Coast guard) as a back up. Most VHF are preset for Emergency weather updates and the handheld are pretty cheap. No lic. required.

Also think about networked/LANs/Wifi for your neighborhood.  With todays wireless routers you can setup a simple network that can cover a block and have pretty secure communications even if the net goes down. 

Prize Fighter
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Eric_2, thanks for the info. 

Eric_2, thanks for the info.  I read some more and it's just like you said.  I'll probably not get into HAM because I don't even use my phone much and my XBOX hasn't been turned on in over a year.  I have a feeling an elaborate radio setup will end up in the closet but would be nice to have a handheld transceiver.  That's probably what I'll end up getting.

Thanks again to all!

Captain Benny
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As much as people like to bash em

I own four FRS/GMRS radios that operate on rechargeable NiCad batteries that came with them.  I bough two for the bug out bags and two to give to those I'm partnered with for defense if a SHTF scenario happens.  Additionally, in the event of a long power loss or need-to-flee situation, I have a few packs of high quality NiMH batteries to share between the radios and LED flashlights.  One of the bug out bags also has a solar charger for AA rechargeables in case of long term isolation requirements.

Realistically the radios that claim 20-30 mile range only do 2-3 miles in a city so don't count on the specs that much.  The radios are unencrypted and their privacy codes are truly a joke in terms of privacy... but they still allow relatively good communication without cellular phone reliance.  I believe cellular technologies to be far less private and more heavily monitored by big brother due to the incestual relationship the bells have with BB.

In a defensive scenario, its absolutely critical to have good communications with neighbors and defensive strategies for protecting your property or family.  I believe that we will all see a need for defense as the economy continues to crumble and hyperinflation starts to kick in.  I believe the American populous to be just as violent or possibly more so than other nations that have experienced hyperinflation in the last century.  The occasional riots you see in Europe will look like valentines day when compared with America's unrest when it finally hits the collective threshold.

If you need police or emergency civil services, you're making a mistake dialing 911 and possibly waiting on hold or for them to eventually dispatch someone to your location instead of possibly helping the gunshot victim your calling in an Ambulence for... or actually putting out a house fire.  Taking action immediately before dialing 911 is often the best action to take.  You'll be surprised how fast you can put out a medium size fire with just a pot full of water or a spray from a garden hose.

If you trust civil services to come to your rescue, I find it far wiser to radio the emergency need with someone else to call it in and have them do the talking while you do the medical triage or fighting the fire and trying to get it under control 5 minutes before "help" arrives.

If its your neighbor who has a radio and you don't trust civil services or you just need immediate help they can also rush to your assistance far faster by you just radioing them the emergency than any civil servant.

Two-way, no matter what frequency they transmit on are always a good idea to have handy!

Captain Benny
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neighborhood WAN

Adventures wrote:

Also think about networked/LANs/Wifi for your neighborhood.  With todays wireless routers you can setup a simple network that can cover a block and have pretty secure communications even if the net goes down. 

Absolutely right.  The problem is that the average Joe doesn't have the skillset or know how to actually do anything beyond enabling their off-the-shelf access point to be open to the public or simply password protected.  They have no clue how to enable Internet access by hopping two or three hops over other wireless links to get onto the Internet or how to bridge multiple wireless networks together to form a decent size neighborhood WAN.

My primary residence is a great location where a directional antenna on the roof can reach about a mile (in city) toward a good friend who would be willing to install a similar setup on his roof.  From there we can bridge two very geographically diverse neighborhoods into a larger WAN and have omnidirectional antennas for the close-by neighbors on different frequencies.  We both have the networking expertise and operating system experience to setup and configure the WAN.  Both of us are above average/expert C/C++ developers, I have a great history of kernel hackery and tweaks ... so we'll be fine.

I just don't see the average Joe being able to extend our neighborhood network beyond the original configuration unless we built and configured the nodes for their residences.

The really cool thing about a WAN if you can get one setup over a mile or two radius with multiple neighbors is that you can highly encrypt the links and also allow most modern phones (Hell no, not Apple junk shit phones!) to use VOIP to dial neighbors securely if you must have a hand-held device.

Additionally, with high power radios on the right frequencies (ie 900Mhz) you can easily shoot signals over big obstacles!  So much fun to be had!

There is a big mountain near me that I can shoot some line of sight to and I know the line of sight from this mountain would easily be able to have directional antennas that would probably cover 5 square miles.  If I could convince those homeowners to install a tweaked out router and antennas on their residence, that would definitely make a large WAN possible for thousands of people.  The perfect setup for SHTF communications, file sharing, video sharing, etc.

Adventures
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I did this in the Army as a job....

It won't be pretty, but it can work and be secure. I've worked with radio packets and slow ass data rates. If the feds and business want to keep up the internet? We got them, I'm very law abiding and I gave the feds the benefit of the doubt. But when you start doing no knock warrants and killing folks, or seizing entire server racks. You have made an enemy.  Any idiot can kick in my door and shout police and I'll shoot back and I don't really care about your immunity. The thing is you cops will pay the price you will get shot up not Eric Holder. Hell how easy is it to wait for a suspect to get in a car or walk out a door. But if you have no problem being a door kicker for this administration. I hope you get all that you deserve.

Captain Benny
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followup on communications

Since many people will rely on some sort of battery operated communications, I highly suggest doing your research on batteries themselves.  Don't buy silly cheap AA batteries or NiCad rechargeables.  If you're relying on a flashlight or radio, make sure you get the GOOD batteries.  Remember that the PRICE doesn't necessarily reflect the quality.  BRAND does not either.  Many people have never heard of Eneloop brand, but they're pretty good.  Most people think Rayovac is junk and indeed most of their retail stuff is, but their NiMH batteries are a worthwhile investment to power that portable communications gear as they pump out 2100-2500mAh!

Know More
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Emeregency situation communications

HAM-radio could be an alternative for long distance communications, but a person must be FCC licensed (various levels, general, technician, etc.) to use this and it can be a fairly expensive venture. Do a search for more info. Unlicensed users are "hunted down" by the "feds" and shut down real fast and easy, so best not to attempt it (the "feds" will probably consider an unlicensed user to be some sort of "domestic danger" nowadays...).

Much of HAM-radio range comms are in the HF range (High Frequency electromagnetic spectrum). HF is long range both for voice and data (morse code, others); with appropriate equipment; attennas, amps, transmitters, recievers, etc., and understanding of conditions (atmospherics, cloud cover, sun-spot activity or lack of) HF comms can be transmitted/recieved from one side to the other side of the planet. 

A problem with HF is the low quality of the voice transmission, it ain't stero or digital, so takes some getting used to (often static filled, modulated by various interference (lightening, other radio transmissions, etc.)), but this is not bad considering you can talk to people local, national, or on the other side of the planet.

VHF/UHF range - is short range, high quality audio (mostly for voice, by aircraft, shipping, trains, police, fire, FM radio, TV, etc.) and requires FCC licensing to use for transmitting (it's possible to voice communicate with the International Space Station at certain times as it travels about 60 miles up, but there are few obstacles that can hinder the radio signal unlike on earth where terrain, trees, earth curvature, man-made objects, electrical interferance, etc degrade the signal to nil). 

There are a number of transmitter/recievers with HF/VHF (and some UHF) available to non-government, non-military, etc., starting around $200 and up to sky's-the-limit.

An alternative is a short-wave radio reciever, capable of receiving only - not transmitting, but a good short-wave will allow a person to receive broadcasts from around the globe in several radio-freq ranges/bands (usually HF and VHF).

Also CB (citizens' band) radio is a fair alternative, but distance for transmission is very limited. Good for neighborhood communications. Requires no license (but rules), inexpensive.

For any/all equipment - consider buying used via eBay, Craigs list, internet sellers, ...

EMP

(I am not a fear monger/baiter, promoting the "mad-max" scenarios, however, who knows how bad things might go, and natural caused EMP is very possible).

Something to consider - EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse - from major sun-spot activity, which will effect earth also, god forbid, low-space altitude nuclear detonation) so some solutions are available and should be considered. 

Unless people take steps to shield from EMP, anything (which these days is almost everything, computers, internet, cars, ATMs, cash-registers, gas-pumps, you name it) with solid-state type electronic insides is going to be fried - instantly and permanently.

Here are a few real simple solution for EMP shielding

thecoloredsky
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Captain Benny

Captain Benny wrote:

Adventures wrote:

Also think about networked/LANs/Wifi for your neighborhood.  With todays wireless routers you can setup a simple network that can cover a block and have pretty secure communications even if the net goes down. 

Absolutely right.  The problem is that the average Joe doesn't have the skillset or know how to actually do anything beyond enabling their off-the-shelf access point to be open to the public or simply password protected.  They have no clue how to enable Internet access by hopping two or three hops over other wireless links to get onto the Internet or how to bridge multiple wireless networks together to form a decent size neighborhood WAN.

My primary residence is a great location where a directional antenna on the roof can reach about a mile (in city) toward a good friend who would be willing to install a similar setup on his roof.  From there we can bridge two very geographically diverse neighborhoods into a larger WAN and have omnidirectional antennas for the close-by neighbors on different frequencies.  We both have the networking expertise and operating system experience to setup and configure the WAN.  Both of us are above average/expert C/C++ developers, I have a great history of kernel hackery and tweaks ... so we'll be fine.

I just don't see the average Joe being able to extend our neighborhood network beyond the original configuration unless we built and configured the nodes for their residences.

The really cool thing about a WAN if you can get one setup over a mile or two radius with multiple neighbors is that you can highly encrypt the links and also allow most modern phones (Hell no, not Apple junk shit phones!) to use VOIP to dial neighbors securely if you must have a hand-held device.

Additionally, with high power radios on the right frequencies (ie 900Mhz) you can easily shoot signals over big obstacles!  So much fun to be had!

There is a big mountain near me that I can shoot some line of sight to and I know the line of sight from this mountain would easily be able to have directional antennas that would probably cover 5 square miles.  If I could convince those homeowners to install a tweaked out router and antennas on their residence, that would definitely make a large WAN possible for thousands of people.  The perfect setup for SHTF communications, file sharing, video sharing, etc.

Sounds like you have a great business plan right there :)

Know More
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Smart Phone + Satellite Connect = global comms

This may not be viable in case of SHTF, however, some new tech which provides alternative world wide communications via Smart Phone and satellite technology:

http://www.glockworld.com/item.aspx?pid=525651&w=vSAg7PybqJY%3d&y=19386692&z=986

Know More
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Flare Guns - visual communications

Non-verbal emergency/disaster communications: flare guns (land and water).

Doubles as a defensive weapon. Hey, ya never know.

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