Having good radio equipment that will allow you to both receive and send information is important for many reasons. What will you do when there is no Internet? What will you do when there is no cellphone service? How will you know what’s going on in other parts of the country, let alone the world? Radio signals don’t need an intermediary, they just bounce all over the earth and are received by radios.
It’s not even necessary that you transmit (speak) on the radio, but the information you can garner from just listening to others from far away is worth the time it takes to understand how to use a radio.
There are many ways to go in purchasing a communications radio, depending on your budget. You can buy a brand new, state-of-the-art Kenwood or I-com for example, both of which are great radios. But the expense can be quite high, typically in the many hundreds of dollars.
A less expensive, but just as viable way to go, is a free band radio. This is a 10-meter ham radio that has had additional freeband frequencies installed. This will expand coverage to include the 12, 11 (the CB frequency band) and sometimes 9 meter bands. In a converted CB radio, this is called a radio with extra channels.
A 10-meter radio is very common and inexpensive, as well as their low-rent cousins, CB radios. Many can be found on ebay for under $200 and may already have the additional frequencies installed. Also, any good SSB (single side band) CB radio can have what they call Extra Channels Added by any good tech. CB shops at truck stops oftentimes have used free band radios for sale at good prices, but check Ebay for prices on used radios before making a purchase.
Once you have your radio, you can begin playing around with it and apply your knowledge of frequencies. This is important for planning how you’ll communicate with others. What frequences will you use and when? Your family and other group members will need to know this.
There are many different kinds of viable antennas to use with your radio, some very cheap, some very expensive.
Some of you may choose to make a wire antenna. One of the simplest wire antennas is the Inverted V, very good for long distance communications (what the radio community calls skip). The inverted V can be made for the cost of some wire and a pole. This will create the antenna itself. From this point you will have to connect your radio with the antenna with coax, or TV cable. This expense will depend on the length you need, but it’s quite inexpensive.
Others may prefer to purchase something ready made, in a box. For those of you who do, we can strongly suggest the V Quad. This is a directional aluminum antenna that sends a strong signal in only one direction. Like the directional TV antennas of past times, this antenna needs a rotor (this is a motor to turn the antenna from the radio shack or you can use the armstrong method). It is the best non-homebrew antenna that I have ever used.
Either way, when the conditions are right, you’ll be talking to the world.
When radio operators say, conditions are right they mean that the skip conditions are good, allowing the radio signals to be received over longer distances than normal. Skip is when the signal travels along a mostly horizontal plane before it eventually hits the ionosphere. Like a flat rock across a lake, the signal will skip along rather than pierce the ionosphere and go out into space. This skip can cause your signal to be received with nearly as much strength as it had when it left your antenna. The contact I had with Tokyo gave me an S10 signal strength, and that is as high as it gets. Sunspots are generally the cause for good skip conditions.
Any frequency on the radio can be used in various modes, the most common being AM, Single Side Band (SSB), Upper Side Band (USB) and CW. CW means constant wave mode, which is the mode used for Morse Code and RTTY. It is possible to send several and receive multiple pages of text files via RTTY. The software needed can be found here. Radios with a CW mode like the RCI 2950 (et al.) and the Uniden HR2510 have the CW mode installed. There are other models that also have CW mode. However, no CB radios have CW mode. You can send pictures and text files to others, similar to a fax. This will be an excellent way for the people to maintain contact with others during times of crisis or total collapse.
The legal frequency range of a Citizens Band radio is 26905 megahertz through 27405 megahertz (mostly in 10 kilocycle steps per channel), covering the 40 channels of CB radio. Freebanding is when an unlicensed radio operator uses the non-allocated frequencies in the 11 meter band (CB radio and beyond). When society has collapsed, who cares who has a license?
Most freebanders use the Single Side Band (SSB) mode of these channels as opposed to the AM mode. The chatter you may have heard on channel 19 (the truckers channel) is in the AM mode. AM mode of operation is limited in range, however using the SSB mode affords greater range and more output power. A legal CB radio has 4 watts output on the AM band and 12 watts on the SSB band.
This means that when conditions are right (sunspots, etc.) SSB signals can travel greater distances than those in the AM mode. One early morning, while driving west on I-90 in Idaho, I made a contact with Tokyo, Japan using SSB and a HR 2510 Uniden radio. That was a contact of over 7000 miles with less than 20 watts of power.
If the world goes into a collapse, there will still be thousands of people using the freebands. This can be used to create a radio round-robin or relay to share information and help others.
The international call frequencies are:
27555 USB — The US and the world, except for Europe
26285 USB — Europe
First, a little bit about how to use a call frequency. A call frequency is a frequency on which we make contact with someone who would like to have a conversation with us. The parties then go to another frequency of their choice to continue the conversation. It is unlike the chatter you may have heard on the AM side CB Channel 19 and all that noise. This conversation is called a QSO.
Here’s how to initiate and conduct a QSO:
First we must wait for a moment of silence to break in and make our call. The protocol for asking for a QSO is like this:
C-Q, C-Q, NEW MEXICO CALLING AND LISTING ON 27560 is a typical call or CQ (seek-you). This tells listeners on the call frequency where to find you to have a conversation. Then we move our frequency dial to that frequency. Once there we make another call like this:
CQ CQ New Mexico calling for any and all stations. Or if your are looking to make a contact in a specific place:
CQ CQ New Mexico Calling for all stations in _____ (the place of your choosing) and standing by for contact.
Following amateur radio protocol may seem awkward at first, but generally, hams are patient with newcomers. If it helps, just listen for a while to see how the pros do it and jump in when you’re ready.
Information compiled by Dan of Surviving Survivalism and updated by Lisa Bedford.
Forming a group of like-minded individuals who are committed to helping one another in the event of a disaster is a great plan. Many hands make light work and all that. However, it is important to remember there are some key roles that need to be filled within the group. It is certainly possible that one person can take on multiple roles. However, if that’s the case, bear in mind that the loss of that person will result in several roles also being lost.
This person is critical when it comes to solving the inevitable issues that crop up, whether the problems are interpersonal or they are physical. He or she tends to think outside the box and offers solutions that work more often than not. The Problem Solver often prefers taking action rather than debating an issue ad nauseum, which sometimes is exactly what is needed.
Often, though not always, this role is fulfilled by the Problem Solver. The Jack of All Trades is the person who knows a little bit about a lot of things. He or she is handy with things like carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and mechanics in general. When the group needs to figure out how to build something, the Jack of All Trades is the person to have on hand.
Akin to the Problem Solver, this person is able to see the big picture and predict far ranging effects of a given course of action. Where he or she differs from the Problem Solver is that they tend to ruminate over issues rather than wanting to act quickly. Often, this person is frighteningly intelligent but relatively quiet.
He or she is the logistics person. They are able to figure out the best ways to keep people working and have tasks accomplished efficiently. The Manager tends to work best when goals are outlined to them and they are told to ensure those goals are met. Good Managers typically have superior people skills and motivate those with whom they are working.
At the head of any successful team is an effective leader. He or she tends to inspire people and the best ones avoid using fear or force to get people on board. They will take into account the advice and guidance of others, then make concrete, committed decisions. Great leaders tend to be born rather than made. Either a person has this capability or they don’t.
This role might not be absolutely crucial to a group’s success but they sure make life a little more fun. The Joker provides often needed stress relief. While he or she will likely get on someone’s nerves from time to time, their side remarks and commentary can lighten the mood and allow the Thinkers and Problem Solvers to brainstorm solutions.
This role requires the person to be courageous and quick thinking. He or she will be tasked with exploring the area, either to locate resources or determine threats, perhaps both. Ideally, the Scout is physically agile and intelligent, able to get in and get out quickly, efficiently, and quietly.
If you have a group already, give some thought as to which group members fill each of these roles. Whether you have an existing group or are looking to start one, use these roles as a checklist of sorts as you seek out new members.
By now, or at least, hopefully by now, you have figured out the lone wolf approach doesn’t work well in survival situations. Despite numerous fiction novels featuring the protagonist as a lone wolf survivor, having a team, group or MAG (Mutual Assistance Group) dramatically increases your chances for survival.
The key to a good group is having a people you can trust. Unfortunately, finding trustworthy people can be a difficult task.
There are no simple rules to finding and picking group members, and you’re cautioned to be very careful. The average human is made up of a complex mixture of emotion and logic. While this makes us smart and compassionate, it also makes us dangerous. Compounding the issue even more, someone you deemed as stable in normal circumstances can turn into either a basket case or a threat to the members of the group under pressure.
Finding group members is a lot like finding a spouse: you won’t know how compatible they are after only a few meetings. Likewise, the success of a group is partly determined by everyone’s willingness to work hard at it. There will be differences of opinions, arguments, heated discussions, and many emotional conflicts. This is all normal, but it all needs to be properly addressed, especially since this group is supposed to be like a second family.
The best advice here is to listen to your gut instinct. If you haven’t developed your gut instinct yet, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage but you might as well start developing it now.
Dogs can be helpful with this, as they can pick up on your subtle clues, even if you’re not aware of them. By watching the dog, you can get a better idea of signals your subconscious is picking up on, though you need to be familiar with the dog and his or her tells.
Keep in mind you’re looking for someone willing to put the group’s needs in front of their own, but you also don’t want a martyr. How many cool toys someone owns should have no bearing on whether they are let into your group. It’s far better to have a stable, hard-working person who has nothing than it would to have someone who constantly argues every point and can’t agree to anything.
A common set of values and morals is a god place to start, including their perspective on preparedness. If you are of the mind to help all that need it, you won’t get along well with someone whose preparedness plan is to kill preppers and take their stuff. There’s a lot to gain by having members having a different skill set from yours, but having a common core of beliefs is fundamental to a good group.
The two attributes you should look for in a perspective member are loyalty and trustworthiness. People having these traits are low security risks before, during and after they becoming members of your group. Group members will learn sensitive information about everyone in the group, and the time to discover someone cannot be trusted is before everyone has divulged their secrets.
Realizing the true nature of someone isn’t easy. Most people put on some form of mask when they are around others. You need to engage potential members in activities that will drive their true nature to the surface. It can take years to get to know someone, but there are activities and discussions you can engage in to help this along.
Stressful situations can also bring out someone’s true nature. Of course, at no time should they feel like they are under scrutiny, as this tends to make people behave differently.
While it would seem nearly any preparedness-orientated person would be a good fit for your group, the truth is the majority will turn out to be incompatible with your goals, plans, opinions, and ideas. Starting with that common set of values gives you a platform with which to begin. Knowing this common base also gives you the opportunity to see if they uphold those beliefs they say are important to them.
When someone leaves the group is not the time to find out they have a criminal history, are revenge driven, or have violent tendencies. A spiteful person who has learned your sensitive information can make your life miserable, particularly if they are sociopathic. Imagine trying to operate as a group knowing there is someone out there who knows all of the group’s information and has a large amount of animosity towards everyone in the group.
Once your group decides to have communal property for a bug out location, it’s likely this property will be unoccupied most of the time. If a disgruntled ex-member knows its location, it will be difficult to use that property for storage or caches. Even when there is an amicable separating of ways, unless you change everything about the group, ex-members will know this information.
Whether you are just starting to look for members on your own, or already have other members, always use OpSec, or Operational Security, when meeting with potential members. Don’t brag about what you or the group has, where it’s located, or any personal information. Even when it’s been decided to let someone join the group, you should maintain a level of OpSec and only reveal a little info at a time.
Groups like Meetup.com make it easy to find like-minded people and interact with them on a comfortable level. No need to divulge personal information and you can see how people interact with different topics and people. Once you’ve identified someone with potential, you can start to do things together and begin the learning process.
A popular topic on survival forums, blogs, and websites is the concept of the DIY survival community. Here’s the concept.
Every self-reliant group should have a doctor, a dentist, one or two former military personnel, an experienced gardener or farmer, maybe a teacher, and an assortment of others with strong practical skills, such as hunting. To form your own survival community, you should begin seeking out like-minded people who fit these specific slots and begin making plans for establishing an actual survival retreat as a group.
There are some downsides to this plan. First, with opsec always on the fore-front of the minds of most preppers and survival-types, how will you know exactly who is like-minded and also interested in joining with you? Instinct? And, do you really want to cast your family’s future into the hands of virtual strangers? A few conversations in a Meet-Up group can hardly establish the deep trust necessary for banding together in order to survive. Think about it. If this is your plan, you are placing your family’s security in the hands of people you may not know very well.
Who’s to say everyone will be in agreement when it comes to making hard decisions? And what will happen when the doctor’s son and his family show up at the retreat after TSHT? Will the group be given a vote as to whether or not to accept these new arrivals or will the doctor, because of his or her importance to the community, be given a free pass when if a steady stream of their loved ones starts arriving? Just how long do you think the cohesiveness of the group will last if the majority votes to send away your parents?
In a way, the idea of establishing survival communities along these lines is reminiscent of the efforts in the mid-19th century to create utopian societies, such as the Icarians. Eventually, the groups disbanded, sometimes after just a couple of years. Usually, this was due to disagreements about how money was handled, who was in charge, how decisions were made, etc. Wherever there are people, there will be conflict.
In theory, I really like the idea of the make-your-own survival community. On paper, it looks great. The reality, though, could be very, very different. Even establishing rules, procedures, and a chain of command early on won’t guarantee a survival paradise with everyone emerging on the other side of the S hitting the F, as a cohesive group with everyone safe and healthy.
One of my friends who is quite active in prepper circles told me of an experience in which she and her husband were seriously considering joining a prepper group that was forming. The leader had sought them out because of her training as a nurse. At first, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. The other group members were all highly motivated, the location was within a short drive of their rural homestead, but then something happened to change their minds.
She told me, “What he talked most about was how members of the group would be punished if they went against his rules.” This little prepper group was on its way to becoming a dictatorship, and my friend was glad she found out in time!
Dr. Bruce Clayton, a well-known survival expert and author of eight books, has a different take on the DIY survival community. He claims these communities already exist. They already have a doctor, a dentist, farmers, food preservation experts, security experts, and teachers. This community is called a village. Dr. Clayton recommends doing some research and finding one of these villages in your preferred area, and then just…moving there.
Yes, you’ll be the outsider, but the essential pieces required for a self-reliant community are already in place. It will be up to you to establish yourself as an integral part of the community, but it will also save a lot of time. If your family members show up after the SHTF, you have every right to bring them into your home without consulting The Leader or The Committee. In the meantime, you can begin growing your gardens, planting your fruit trees, and start prepping to your heart’s content.