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    Emergency Radio Communications

    BUMPER was kind enough to allow this to be a sticky as soon as he gets around to it.

    There have been a several requests to import a topic I wrote on from another forum that became a sticky.
    I've been lazy, sorry for the long delay.
    I'll check the links for functionality at another time.
    Some photos and diagrams may not have imported properly; my apologies.

    With winter coming in soon for many of us, this might be a nice thought provoking post in general.

    There are multiple topics in this single post.
    __________________________________________________ ________________________________

    Emergency radio communications:

    At the encouragement of several people, I will attempt this basic write up on the benefits and usefulness of radio communications during times of emergency as well as how to set up your own personal communication system. Perhaps it will serve as a starting point for some in considering the (HOW) & (WHY) of emergency communications for the average citizen.

    I’ll try to avoid any deep technical radio theory as it is not necessary in developing a wireless
    emergency communication plan given the vast amount of “ready to talk” equipment currently available to the general public.

    I may have to do this in more than one long installment.

    Unless one plans on going it alone, communication between friends/loved ones is paramount during times of emergency or "in the event of".

    Currently most of us depend on the phone lines, be it direct wired or wireless via cellular phone. These systems are not only prone to disruption; they may be attacked from within, externally or by natural disaster. The disruption or lack of communications has been proven many times to be catastrophic if not life threatening.

    My personal opinion is that a solid communications plan is necessary; so much so I consider it a defensive weapon.

    Preparation is essential, from a basic pre-determined rallying point to maintaining intel (i.e), what is going on around me. (Listening)

    Radio, wireless radio, has proven itself to be of great value when other hard wired computer controlled systems fail.

    The basic information presented here will assume cell towers are either non-functional for one reason or another or have been legally commandeered by military or law enforcement personnel for the purpose of maintaining law and order. That is at least the plan in theory and fully backed by the FCC regulations.

    In a time of civil unrest, (where this information article idea stemmed from) or martial law, natural disaster etc…Cell towers will be severely limited to the general population if available at all, depending on the severity of the event. Hurricane Katrina serves well as an example.

    My only credentials I present are the following:

    Amateur radio operator since 1990.
    Radio Installation Technician for Motorola (12 years.) (Emergency Services) until I chose a career change as a photo journalist.

    We can all come up with scenarios where the ability to communicate with others in a time of emergency is paramount. Here is just one as example:

    Imagine all cellular phone service is down…
    Your wife/children/siblings/relatives are across town or across the state or across the country…
    Violence is beginning to spread rapidly, roving gangs etc…
    Perhaps martial law is declared…
    Perhaps the water systems have been compromised…
    Electricity is down…

    …AND YOU need to communicate with those people who are important to you for one reason or another.

    The scenario is not that far fetched.

    Amateur Radio Operators for many years have provided emergency communications to areas without power or communications infrastructure. The U.S government has called upon and authorized amateur radio operators to provide emergency communications when “other” systems have broken down.

    Why?

    ..because “HAMS” as we are oft known as, have been practicing and rehearsing such scenarios for years and with great success….Ya; we know how to do it effectively!

    Legal disclaimer: Transmitting on amateur radio frequencies is prohibited by U.S law unless one is licensed.

    Reality: If we ever get to a point where one must use such equipment, I seriously doubt the FCC will be looking to impose fines. The passing of Health & Welfare traffic is and always has been an exception to the FCC rules and regulations regarding use of amateur radios.
    (i.e)..if it’s a life and limb situation, anyone can use the radio..amateur radio, police radios, ambulance radios etc…

    “HAM” radio encompasses many forms of electronic communication from the most basic (morse code) to digital gateways that connect to the internet to satellites orbiting the earth.

    For this discussion, I will limit communications to hand held portable radios and home base stations for the sole purpose of (Talking to another individual/individuals).

    Amateur radio is not the only way to communicate wirelessly.
    Amateur radio operation requires the user to take a test. (Not really too difficult)

    There are also currently license free or low cost license fee two way hand held radios that work rather well.

    FRS “Family Radio Service” and GMRS “General Mobile Radio Service”

    These small hand held radios operate in the VHF or UHF radio frequency spectrum. Their effective range when talking radio to radio (Simplex) is generally “Line of sight”

    “Line of sight” with these radios under ideal conditions is about 1-3 miles.

    Advantages: No test required, Inexpensive, above average to good performance, easy to operate.

    Disadvantages: Low power (Limited range), usually poor plastic construction. One of the biggest disadvantages as an emergency radio is that too many people will be using these “walkie talkies” Nothing worse than trying to communicate with someone on a radio when all you hear are many other people yakking away.

    Don’t believe advertised claims of 20 mile range with these radios…Total nonsense!

    Other Options: Business band radios. These are usually constructed far better compared to the off the shelf FRS and GMRS hand held radios. They too operate in the VHF and UHF radio frequency spectrum. A one time paid license fee is expected to use these radios. Unlike amateur radio, there is no test to pass. They are a great option for those who dislike testing requirements. Range (distance) is similar to the FRS and GMRS radios, though the quality of audio is far superior.

    A note concerning VHF/UHF or “Very High Frequency” and “Ultra High Frequency” radios (approx 130-170 Mhz and 420-460 Mhz respectively.)
    Although both frequencies are essentially line of sight communication range, UHF has shown better penetration in buildings, forested areas etc…More on this later.

    I will end here with one example of a multi part communication plan I am using now.

    My sister and husband live on the other side of town from me; about 15 miles. I have a 2 way VHF radio mated to a beam antenna in my attic. ( A Beam antenna directs my radio wave in one direction only as opposed to omni-directional which squirts the signal 360 degrees) The radio is powered from the AC house current with a deep cycle marine battery standing by in the event we lose power. The battery will operate my radio for days if necessary. My sister and her husband have the same setup in their home. My sister does NOT hold an amateur radio license. Her system is in place only for emergency use.

    I hope to dive into more particulars in another installment if there is interest. If anyone would like to see this intro take a different direction; please let me know.

    Next time: Batteries, Antennas, Power, securing communications, mobile and home applications, assembling an effective communication system as inexpensively as possible, suggested equipment and "why I prefer amateur radio equipment"

    Addendum: Learn Morse Code!

    One does not need to be fast; just learn the letters and numbers.
    Morse code has saved lives.
    Consider if you are unable to speak. Just by simply keying a radio off and on you can send a message.
    At a minimum, learn the international SOS in morse, (...---...)

    Emergency radio communications part II

    LISTENING & BATTERIES


    Listening/monitoring radio communications is a great way to gather information.

    Gleaning useful information is part detective work, part filtering out the useless information, knowing what to listen to and where the information is located.

    Just a few of the “intercepts” I have heard over the years via radio.

    1) The island of Granada invasion (1983) A student attending medical school was a ham radio operator. He transmitted a real time blow by blow for anyone with a short wave receiver to hear. I could hear gun shots when his microphone was open and transmitting.

    2) Military chase aircraft describing the space shuttle Challenger tragedy. Yep, it was open mic and in the clear. During these frantic moments, the pilots did not switch over to a secure channel.

    3) Coast guard personnel seizing and arresting drug runners in the Caribbean.

    The point here is when things begin to get out of hand, a lot of information “squirts” out.

    The past few years have seen a rebuild of emergency services radio communications. Many of these systems use encryption whereas the average listener is unable to hear the conversation. This is more true in larger cities.

    So; I want to know what is happening. Who do I listen to? Commercial TV and radio may still be broadcasting, but even if they are, the information is hardly what I call timely. I remember a scene from the movie Top Gun. The carrier catapult system was down during a fighter engagement. Enemy aircraft were approaching the ship. The Capt asked how long until they would be repaired? He was told 10 minutes. The Capt responded “Bologne!..This thing will be over in 2 minutes!”

    Old information in an emergency is nearly useless IMO.
    While radio scanners may not have the ability to listen to detailed tactical swat take downs; they are far from useless during civil unrest or natural disasters.

    People love to talk. When the SHTF, they talk even more as was the case with a few air force pilots during the space shuttle tragedy.

    Sources of useful radio communications during an emergency.

    Street Depts…ambulance personnel including helicopter life flights…amateur radio…Trunked business band radios…civilian aircraft…DNR…Red Cross…Fire Dispatch..school buses. These services are rarely encrypted with unedited “call it the way they see it” information…and..They cover a lot of territory city and state wide. Amateur radio repeators. Amateur Radio Repeater database - Updated daily

    Here is a rather exhaustive list of radio frequencies for my home state. While I certainly do not listen to all of them, I have programmed 50-60 frequencies into my scanner that I consider to have useful content “in the event of.”


    and one I highly recommend….
    RadioReference.com - Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference

    Many websites maintain data bases of radio frequencies. I highly recommend visiting them, programming a scanner for various sources, not just law enforcement, but also the sources I mention above as they are generally NOT encrypted. A street dept worker for instance may see a natural gas leak now ablaze only a mile from you. Useful info; yes?
    BATTERIES


    Battery technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past several years. It is a complex subject I need not discuss here. I’ve seen eyes glaze over like a cheer leader at a astro physics convention when discussing battery tech.

    Suffice it to say, battery selection is dependent on its final use. A small transistor radio does not require high powered batteries. A HAM transmitter w/o the benefit of AC house current does require more power.

    Here is what I use for my emergency radio communications:

    Hand held transceivers: Lithium Ion or Lithium Polymer (LiPo) These rather new generation batteries provide high current, long life while in use and excellent shelf life. They are available in many different voltages and current ratings. Most hand held radios provide these batteries when purchased..Get (2) more if possible and keep them charged.

    Deep cycle marine battery: My 2 meter and 70cm home (base station) ham transceivers use these. They provide a lot of power for radios if needed, last a very long time and have excellent shelf life. I charged one a year ago and it is still ready to use even if I want to transmit at 100 watts output power to my antenna. The only drawback is that they are not really portable if you want to take one to the field in a bug out scenario..they weigh a ton! LOL These deep cycle marine batteries will also power other devices that operate at 12 volts, including a power inverter when you may want or need AC power rather than DC.

    Gel Cell: I have a few of these rated at 7Ah (amp hour)..if necessary, I will carry one into the woods. Mine weighs in at 3 lbs and will power my hand held radio for days if necessary.

    Don’t forget the car battery. It too is a source of 12 volts and high current capacity.
    The deep cycle marine battery is widely available at places like Walmart. I suggest a waterproof case for them.

    Next up: Putting a station together and choosing your equipment wisely.

    EMERGENCY RADIO COMMUNICATIONS Part lll

    "Ok, OK, I get it..Listening with scanners, purchasing good batteries, having a plan to communicate with others during an emergency..how do I assemble a system?"

    The question, "How do I assemble a system" is a bit like asking, what firearm should I buy? It is answerable though not simply.

    Each of us need to ask ourselves:

    1) Why do I need to communicate with a person/group?
    1a) Who do I need to communicate with?
    2) Do I want to operate from a fixed location, mobile (my car), hand held..all three?
    3) What is my budget? Assemble a system on the cheap or use the Apollo moon mission philosophy; throw enough money at a problem and the problem disappears, or something between these two extremes?

    The simplistic diagram here is but (ONE) of my muti-tier approaches for one specific application; let's break it down.

    The heart of any system is the radio (Transceiver) itself.
    If one does not desire to scavenge for equipment (craigslist) (Ebay) etc... or use pre-owned equipment, commercially made amateur equipment is easy to come by.

    Three manufacturers currently lead the pack in quality amateur radio equipment...Kenwood, Yaesu and ICOM. There are "other" lesser known manufacturers of radio equipment who are indeed less expensive; yet they do offer a good bang for the buck.

    The setup described here is not limited to "Ham" radio. Marine radio, business band would be set up in similar fashion as long as one has the appropriate licenses granted by the FCC.

    The decision to spend more $$$ on high quality equipment will rest with the user, you and me. Personally speaking, I place a very high priority on emergency communications for me and those I desire to stay in contact with.

    As an example of what I consider one of several high quality hand held radios...

    http://www.yaesu.com


    This little radio could possibly save MY life one day with its auto beacon function alone.
    I own (3) of these! It's waterproof! One never knows, I may need to hit the woods with this thing..water/high humidity has a way of ruining electronics. It's built like a Glock! Kidding ya'll..Just seeing if you're listening.

    Seriously though, the circuit boards and components are superior to less expensive radios. It operates on multiple bands with extended coverage for receive.
    Not doing a commercial and I do not work for Yaesu; just making the point we get what we pay for.

    The simple diagram presented is my setup I use to communicate with my sister and her husband "in the event of". (15 miles across town) in the event of a break down in cell service/ email, and/or the roads are impassable or unsafe to travel.



    1) Yaesu FT 2900 2 meter FM transceiver
    2) 5 Element Yagi Antenna (Some refer to this type of antenna as a beam antenna)
    3) 12 Volt Deep Cycle marine battery
    4) RG213 Coaxial cable w/connectors on both ends

    TOTAL COST FOR BOTH STATIONS: $600-$700 *New Equip*

    Is it a tad overkill at $350 per station? Perhaps to some it is..to me; my
    Family’s safety is worth far more than $350.

    Let's break down this setup and why I chose it:

    1) Ease of operation.
    My sister and her husband are NOT hams. I do not expect them to learn how to tune a VFO, set VSWR, change power levels, turn a beam etc...
    I want them to press the "ON" button, pick up the microphone and find me at the other end.
    I've locked the radio so they are unable to accidentally press a button or change volume.

    2) Solid, interference free communications voice link.

    3) I insure reliable signal strength by using the Yagi 5 element directional antenna.
    The antenna is physically small, located in the attic (covert) and does not need to be rotated as my antenna points to their home and vice versa.

    Special notes: These Yagi/Beam type antennas show amazing signal reliability for fixed station use. I highly recommend them. The Yagi/Beam offers the benefit of being rotatable if desired to "zero" in and focus on the point of origin of a radio signal.

    They also "reject" noise or other strong signals nearby. Signals to the sides and behind the antenna are greatly attenuated (Think security; why broadcast to the world if we need not?).

    ..and finally, a small amount of power applied to these antennas results in a greater signal gain when compared to a omni directional antenna. (ERP) or "effective radiated power" for you techno junkies like me.

    A good analogy would be like having a long pipe, at one end is you and the other your friend. Your voice is (focused) and amplified down the pipe. Anyone outside the pipe would have to strain to hear the conversation. The further the eaves dropper is from the pipe, the less they hear.

    Coaxial Cable: This cable carries the (RF), "Radio Frequency" energy (expressed in watts) along with your voice energy from the radio to the antenna. This cable is essentially (2) conductors, one to carry the power to the antenna and the other acts as a shield to keep out stray electrical noise. Google "coaxial cable" for photos.

    Steer clear of the inexpensive CB type coaxial cable...often designated as RG58/u.

    RG58/u is ok for CB radio that operates at 27 Mhz. 2 Meter FM radios operate between 144Mhz-148Mhz. Low quality coax will soak up the power at these higher frequencies.

    RG 213/u is a great choice if your cable run is less than 75 feet.

    *Do not bury coax underground unless it is specifically labeled for such application.*
    Non bury-able coax will allow ground moisture to seep in rapidly, rendering the coax almost useless.

    Battery: It is a simple task to power the radio from the deep cycle marine battery.
    Nearly all 2 Meter FM amateur radios come with a DC power cord that is fused.
    This particular FM transceiver is capable of running up to 75 watts output power and will pull several amps from the battery.

    At 15 miles with a 5 element Yagi antenna, I have 100% solid (S9+10) ..that’s ham talk for perfect reception with zero noise or hiss; using only 25 watts of power.

    Once all the equipment is assembled, the station can be up and operating in a few short hours..It is one of the simplest yet reliable forms of emergency communications.

    This particular setup as mentioned is but one aspect of my muti tiered approach to emergency communications.

    Questions and comments are always welcomed.

    Emergency communications iv


    Patti, thanks for bringing up an important subject in communications...

    SEARCH & RESCUE and the role radio communications plays.

    I've been fortunate enough to be involved in S&R operations from a amateur radio operators point of view with the privilege of using a number of state of the art devices normally reserved for military personnel.
    Interestingly; often the simplest of plans lead to a successful rescue.

    Any discussion of S&R in the emergency communications realm must proceed from two assumptions;

    1) You want to be found.

    or...

    2) You need to find a missing party.

    Number (1) is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.
    This short series of articles began by considering emergency communications during civil unrest.

    There may be times when I do NOT want to be located/discovered. I'm sure many of us have considered this possibility. Evasion may be the goal, in which case we stay off the radio, yet the need to communicate for coordination of a directed effort is still required.

    This is best illustrated by looking at a basic premise of military communications.

    Fighting forces require timely if not instant information, yet at the same time the communications must be secure AND often times untraceable.

    SINCGARS: "Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System"

    If one searches for information on these military radios, little is found; they are highly classified.
    As a one time Motorola tech, I was lucky enough to be involved with these radios since much of the R&D and manufacturing was in my hometown of Fort Wayne Indiana, by the company (ITT.) This is a true frequency hopping, encrypted radio system. It is nearly impossible to intercept or jam these radios.

    I broach this subject early as it goes to the heart of securing communications in a time of need.
    While you and I can not simply plunk down our money and purchase one of these beauties, we will learn that encryption is the LAST line of defense in securing our communications.
    (More later on securing our comms)

    Note: Amateur radio rules & regs prohibit encryption/scrambling or otherwise concealing communications.

    S&R reveals many forms, from the simplest of visually locating a subject to a sophisticated plan using many resources.

    Let's take just one example; natural or a artificially created disaster.

    This could be a F5 tornado that has just leveled our community to the 9-1-1 tragedy.

    The latter is a special case where obviously no amount of self preparation would have saved one's own life due to physical location at the moment of impact;yet some self preparation would have saved lives that were lost.

    Assume I WANT to be found.

    1) Signaling Audio Short range= Vocal," yelling screaming" etc....whistles, banging on something, discharging a firearm etc...
    Perhaps others can think of more methods.

    2) VISUAL: Hand Held Strobe Light, smoke creation, fire,flares, waving high visibility material...

    3) ELECTRONIC: Two way radio, ELB/PLB (Emer Locator Beacon) (Personal Locator beacon)

    Employing all three in one's "I want to be found" plan is wise and puts the odds in your favor for a rescue.

    Number (1) needs no explanation. If we are down/immobilized, it is natural to cry out for help (if) possible. I would certainly wait for opportune moments to do so. Listening for the sound of S&R people before wasting our breath.

    A visual strobe is extremely valuable, especially in the dark hours.
    I do a fair amount of hiking to remote places as part of my job as a photographer.
    These marine type strobe lights can be seen for miles. I always carry one.

    Here is but one of several sources... http://www.acrartex.com/products#1128

    ELB's and PLB's... ACR Electronics ResQLink+ GPS Personal Locator Beacon - REI.com


    I carry one of these as well.
    They use GPS triangulation via satellites orbiting the earth. Operating at approx 406 Mhz as uplink to the satellite and also 121.5 Mhz..The latter frequency is for local homing of the signal and is also the emergency frequency for aviation. (i.e) Aircraft and ground ATC monitor this frequency at all times) Accuracy with these ELB's/PLB's is to within 300 feet! Amazing Technology. Technically speaking, these too are considered radio communications.

    Quick!..Do you know where your brother is?..Your parents?..Friends?...your children?...anyone you need to keep track of and communicate with in a emergency. Saying my mom and dad are in FLA is not enough. Can YOU communicate with them?..Can they communicate with you?

    Remember; the cellular towers are (beep-beep-beep) out of service.


    Two way radio to the rescue.

    On a budget? No problem.
    There has been of late a large influx of inexpensive amateur radios.

    Baofeng is one such company.

    https://baofengradio.us/

    While it may not be the highest quality radio, it certainly will fill the bill in many circumstances, and the price is unbeatable.

    "But I don't have a ham license?"
    In an emergency, you do not need a license as provided for by the FCC's regulations.

    Perhaps we could place one in the back pack for our kids when they are at school?
    Lock the key board of the radio so the child can not accidentally change anything..Just teach them to turn it on and talk to you.

    If the child is somewhat teachable, train them in a few other features of this small but highly useful hand held radio.

    For instance, Accessing Amateur Radio Repeaters!

    Huh?

    Repeaters are two way radio systems owned and maintained by "hams".
    Most have backup generators and emergency battery power.

    Here's how they work.

    The relatively small signal from the aforementioned radio, will transmit to the repeater on a known published frequency. The (repeater) receives your transmission and greatly amplifies it providing far greater range..in some cases up to 50 miles or more.
    Amateur radio repeater owners attempt to place their receiving antennas as high as possible for maximum reception and transmission.

    Repeaters are often (Linked) to one another, providing state wide coverage!

    Nearly all cities have amateur radio repeaters within reach of hand held radios.
    The (2) most common modes are 2 Meter FM and 70cm FM. (VHF & UHF)
    FM by the way is extremely quiet compared to CB which is AM and quite noisy.

    In my city, I can access the repeater with my hand held radio from 10-15 miles away and communicate with someone 200 miles away or across town.

    NOTE: In a emergency, these repeaters will be busy! Information into and out of the repeaters will be directed by a "Ham" in a (Directed net)..i.e... orderly fashion.
    He/she is called the "Net Control" and are trained in handling emergency traffic.

    Hopefully one can see why I am a strong advocate of amateur radio during emergencies, for the licensed and even the unlicensed.

    1) Equipment is easy to come by.
    2) Relatively inexpensive
    3) Proven reliability
    4) No license needed in a emergency when health and welfare are in jeopardy.

    On the down side, if one does not possess a amateur radio license, one may not legally transmit with these radios making testing of
    your emergency system difficult w/o the aid of a licensed "ham"..

    Business band radios are still another option.

    One may wish to contact someone..anyone who will hear them.

    It might be the trash collection service, bus drivers, plumbers, city workers on non trunked radio systems. The idea here is to get thru to someone who can render assistance or at least make contact with someone who can.

    These new inexpensive radios also have the ability to transmit "outside" the normal amateur frequencies. (Prohibited in all cases other than a real emergency) One can, (IF) in dire need, communicate directly with law enforcement or medical dispatchers.

    As mentioned in a previous installment, look for frequencies that are used often in your area. Do not use "Trunked" frequencies as amateur radios can not transmit on these systems.
    Find frequencies that transmit AND receive on the same frequency. (Simplex)

    Make a list of these frequencies, insure they are indeed active in your area. Program them into a radio transceiver.

    So there I am. A F5 tornado just tore my neighborhood apart and I am trapped under some rubble and injured.
    I press my microphone button on my little hand held radio and seek help.
    The person on the other end asks where you are. You give them your address and wait for the rescue.

    Perhaps you don't know where you are?
    No problem. "Hams" are very good at direction finding. We will ask you at intervals to hold down your mic button and transmit for a few seconds. With specialized antennas, we WILL find you.

    The job of S&R is made easier if we prepare.

    It starts with letting someone know where you are and where you will be.

    http://www.defensivecarry.com/forum/...ions-radio.jpg



    This is a newer generation of SDR (Software Defined Radio)
    It has the ability to "look" at large chunks of the radio spectrum.
    If someone were transmitting (calling for help) the radio operator does NOT have to be lucky enough to be listening on the right exact frequency at the right moment. Radio transmissions appear as (spikes) along the horizontal line.

    S&R personal and military radio operators will use this technology when looking for people who are or may be transmitting and seeking aid.

    Emergency radio communications v
    So where do I get this equipment and what is good and not good equipment?

    Here are (2) of what I consider excellent sources for 2 way radio equip.
    It is far from a definitive list.

    1) http://www.twowayradio.com/

    2) Ham & Amateur Radios - Equipment, Parts and Supply | AES

    The first link is to a company that supplies some very high quality commercial radio gear. (Many are "Ham" capable)
    Link (2) is one of the largest "Ham" radio stores with several locations. (They have almost everything Ham.)
    Commercial vs Amateur?
    High quality Vs avg quality?

    Boiled down:

    Commercial & High Quality:

    Commercial two way radios fall under a different set of rules, regs and technical specs as specified by the FCC. (Federal Communications Commission)

    Why?..Several reasons. Nearly all business band two way radios can be used for commercial applications. (i.e)...in the business of turning a profit, ordering a pizza via a radio to phone patch..essentially money is involved...) Amateur radio on the other hand is Amateur, so "Hams" can not order a pizza with their radios or conduct business. If I had a landscaping biz, I can not use "Ham" radio to talk to my employees.

    a) Employees who use commercial quality radios are often NOT trained in their operation. Police, fire, factory, Fed X etc..these people do not need to know (HOW) a radio works, are not expected to program the radios, or even be aware of the regulations governing their use.
    They are "appliance operators." Someone in the depts or a contracted vendor has the responsibility to set up, install and maintain the radios.
    (This was my job at one time) All the user need do is press their microphone button and start communicating.
    Obviously these radios can not or should not interfere with other radios. A complex task indeed.

    2) Build Quality & Electrical design: Not all commercial two way radios are necessarily the best build quality. Employees at big box stores use "commercial" radios that are often not the best mechanical & electrical quality. (cost driven and short range comms only)

    Link (1) above will show that many commercial quality radios ARE high quality in both mechanical build & electrical design. (Expensive too)


    Intermod: "Inter-modulation Distortion: Big word!

    "Hams" are required to have a basic knowledge of radio theory.
    IMD "Inter-modulation Distortion" occurs when poorly designed radios are subjected to many "other" radio signals that YOU are not interested in hearing.

    When these "other" frequencies are received by a low quality radio, all sorts of noise is produced essentially blocking out what you want to hear. (Squelch) is a method of keeping ones radio quiet until someone calls you. (IMD) will open the squelch and make all sorts of weird sounds that are quite annoying.
    Note: Many radios (even the inexpensive ones) employ (CTCSS or DCS)..These codes when programmed into the radios keep your radio quiet until it receives the proper CTCSS or DCS code. It cuts down drastically though does NOT eliminate the problem of IMD.

    Rightseroding hates IMD!

    Why is this concept important?


    Inexpensive two way radios had to cut cost somewhere; right?
    It is cut in the electrical design. (Cheap electrical components, lower tolerances, poor filtering circuits.)

    If one lives in the country away from a large city, inexpensive radios are OK.

    In a large metropolitan area, there are literally thousands of radio frequencies swimming thru the air waves that can and probably will overload the circuitry of inexpensive radios. This interference can easily render our communications useless in a time when we need it most!

    Determine your needs. Purchase the best radio/radios you can afford.

    Like our pistols, to some of us one FTF out of 100 is unacceptable in our EDC..on the range perhaps we can tolerate it, but not when our life depends on it.

    A word on the Baofeng Radios:

    These hand held radios have received a lot of attention; primarily due to their very low cost.

    While I will not intentionally spew negativity on any particular radio; ALL purchases must be made with eyes wide open; be it firearms or radios, we usually get what we pay for.

    These Baofeng radios are not water proof, mechanically they are inferior to the more expensive Kenwoods, ICOMS and Yaesu's.
    A quick read of Baofeng's electrical specs will reveal they are not as good as the "Big Three" amateur radio manufacturers.

    For what one pays however, they are a bargain and will (Probably), (Hopefully) satisfy a need.

    For 20-30 bucks, I highly recommend buying one, check it out. One can always re-evaluate their needs and buy a more expensive two way radio at a later date.
    "A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void"...Thomas Hobbes

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    Very good read - thanks for posting. I got my General right after Wilma knocked out cell towers for over a week, and sporadic for weeks after. Got Extra a few years later 'cuz all the fun was on the lower segs of the band. Have talked all over the world and can get a message almost any place in the US and an answer back in less than 24 hours with the electric power out. Still a lousy no-code, but some day............

    73

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    I have always had an interest in Ham radio but have never moved towards getting my license. I spend a bit of time listening to my Kenwood R-1000 Receiver and always amazed at what I find. I'm sure there is probably a Ham club around somewhere but don't know of any in our immediate area.

    I do have four of the Baofeng UV5RA handheld transceivers, along with four FMRS radios, on the shelf. Never done much with them but keep them charged up in case of an emergency.
    Bumper
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    This is an area I really need to get involved in and up to speed with.

    Thank you for the post. Good resource.

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    excellent post! I'm getting ready to move my whole set-up into a spare room. Won't be too bad because I still haven't put up any out door antenna yet. My biggest drawback is lack of battery power for the desk units. I'll be changing out some of the tube units as their frequency bands have been abandoned and are no longer useful for their original purpose. The nets that used to be there are either gone or on higher freqs now.

    My experience is as a "boat anchor" technician in the Navy for 15 years, as you can tell from the examples in the pic.
    .
    Last edited by Brady; October 20th, 2016 at 06:01 AM. Reason: swapped for smaller pic

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    Hooray! I'm glad it's here. I was one of the folks that asked to have it here. I have read it twice in the past and will no doubt read it again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brady View Post
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    excellent post! I'm getting ready to move my whole set-up into a spare room. Won't be too bad because I still haven't put up any out door antenna yet. My biggest drawback is lack of battery power for the desk units. I'll be changing out some of the tube units as their frequency bands have been abandoned and are no longer useful for their original purpose. The nets that used to be there are either gone or on higher freqs now.

    My experience is as a "boat anchor" technician in the Navy for 15 years, as you can tell from the examples in the pic.
    Nice radio shack there sir.
    I have a couple "boat anchors" left over; still enjoy turning them on from time to time.

    Been rebuilding my shack slowly. The newer equipment is quite pricey compared to 20 yrs ago.
    "A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void"...Thomas Hobbes

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    http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/

    This was one of the links I missed as a URL.

    Radio Reference is probably the best source for up to date frequency information.
    There is also a great forum to discuss just about anything (Radio)

    Some of the services on Radio Reference require a paid subscription.
    "A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void"...Thomas Hobbes

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    Happy to see this back!
    "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery." - Thomas Jefferson

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    I would highly recommend getting a ham license. There are a lot of major benefits that it offers in terms of emergency communications. While it is possible to "fix" some radios in for emergency purposes and is technically legal to use them under such circumstances, having experience and knowing what you're doing will be a huge benefit. Let's say for example that you have a relative and they know to key the PTT switch and talk. It's an area wide emergency and the repeater is bus. What are the chances that they will double with another station and not even be aware of it? Without a license, most hams will refuse to help you (emergency not withstanding, I mean under normal circumstances), but once you are licensed they will do so readily.

    Getting a license is really easy. Obtain a current copy of the ARRL manual, about $25, and study it. The test will cost you about $12-$15 and you only need to take it once in your lifetime. CW, or morse code is no longer required, though it is helpful and easy to learn. I happen to like the course by the late K6RAU: http://pdarrl.org/K6RAU/. I do reccomend getting a general license to get the HF bands for long distances, or DX, as it's called. It's marginally harder than the tech license and you can take all three tests for one fee if you like.

    A lot of self defense / prepped minded people to not like the idea of being licensed and in a database. I say so what. The relationship hams have with the FCC is VERY different than that of gun owners and the BATF. Without some degree of self regulation the amateur bands would be a complete mess making it important to know what you're doing. I guarantee you were all on a list anyway. Besides if the SHTF, it's going to be a moot point very quickly and the communication benefits will far outweigh the downsides.

    For licensed individuals, I would recommend joining ARES, which is a cheap, as in free, way to gain a lot of training in emergency communications and a low overhead way of getting yourself plugged into your communities emergency communication nets. Another organizations that may be of interest is AMMRON: https://amrron.com

    As for myself, I have been licensed about 5 weeks now. My first radio is a Kenwood TH-F6 and with a $25 magnetic antenna (Tram 1185) I can hit a local wide area repeater from about 40 miles away on 5 watts. With a higher power mobile unit I could go much farther. I am trying to get my wife to get her license as cell phones have proven to be reliable when the power goes out. With the radios we could still communicate.

    With that, I'll say 73
    KM4WON

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brady View Post
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    excellent post! I'm getting ready to move my whole set-up into a spare room. Won't be too bad because I still haven't put up any out door antenna yet. My biggest drawback is lack of battery power for the desk units. I'll be changing out some of the tube units as their frequency bands have been abandoned and are no longer useful for their original purpose. The nets that used to be there are either gone or on higher freqs now.

    My experience is as a "boat anchor" technician in the Navy for 15 years, as you can tell from the examples in the pic.
    .
    Great looking shack. Really like the boat anchors - nothing like the glow of tubes and the smell of electrons in the air!

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    Well, this thread and an email I received from ARRL with a study guide offer has motivated me to join ARRL, buy their study guide, locate the local (well sort of local) testing club and go for my license. I've been interested in it for quite a long time and will, hopefully, finally get 'er done. Anything relevant for a noob would be appreciated. I am leaning towards a boat anchor, personally because, well, I like the larger old radios. Since I already have a Kenwood receiver I will try to stick with Kenwood. Some of my initial research has shown the Kenwood Model 520, 530, 820 and 830 to be good, solid radios but not really going to start snapping up equipment until I actually get my license. What I have no clue about are antennas capable enough when placed in an oak forest where our house is....
    Bumper
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bumper View Post
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    Well, this thread and an email I received from ARRL with a study guide offer has motivated me to join ARRL, buy their study guide, locate the local (well sort of local) testing club and go for my license. I've been interested in it for quite a long time and will, hopefully, finally get 'er done. Anything relevant for a noob would be appreciated. I am leaning towards a boat anchor, personally because, well, I like the larger old radios. Since I already have a Kenwood receiver I will try to stick with Kenwood. Some of my initial research has shown the Kenwood Model 520, 530, 820 and 830 to be good, solid radios but not really going to start snapping up equipment until I actually get my license. What I have no clue about are antennas capable enough when placed in an oak forest where our house is....
    I hope you'll also study for and get your General class so you can join us on HF! As for antennas I'm a huge fan of the "Ultimax double bazooka " (they have a dual band 40/80 I use and am very impressed with FWIW) Congratulations on joining the hobby as well sir!
    Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."Benjamin Franklin, 1759

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceoky View Post
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    I hope you'll also study for and get your General class so you can join us on HF! As for antennas I'm a huge fan of the "Ultimax double bazooka " (they have a dual band 40/80 I use and am very impressed with FWIW) Congratulations on joining the hobby as well sir!
    Thanks, getting my General is my ultimate goal. Once Technician is done I will immediately start on General. I'll check out the antenna. I have been going back through some of my old QST Magazines from 2011, the last time I got the bug.....
    Bumper
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bumper View Post
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    Thanks, getting my General is my ultimate goal. Once Technician is done I will immediately start on General. I'll check out the antenna. I have been going back through some of my old QST Magazines from 2011, the last time I got the bug.....
    Seriously, study for both Tech and General. Many of the Tech questions are also on the General, so you might as well do both at the same test session. Read the manual to understand the theory, then sign up for one of the on-line testing programs. You can work on the current test pool of questions and self test, then check the manuals to reread the sections of the manuals that cover the questions you missed. When you are passing the Tech test regularly, start to work the practice tests for the General.

    There is an outstanding Ham Radio section on Arfcom with great folks to help rookies. Big section on getting started in Ham. That is where I learned the most about Ham.

    Even if you decide to only study for the Tech, go ahead and write the General test in the same test session. It does not cost you any more money to write both tests, and many pass both in one sitting.

    And the real fun is on the HF bands. 100 watts and a wire and you can talk around the world.

    73

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