Author Topic: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?  (Read 24293 times)

Offline Diablo

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SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« on: November 25, 2010, 04:42:05 AM »
In a SHTF situation, is ham the best communication option?

If yes...why
If no...what would be better

Offline Chief_919

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2010, 01:23:13 PM »
That all depends on who you want to communicate with, and how far away they are.

But, for the most part, yes.

Hams have access to a range of frequencies across the spectrum. We can choose an HF frequency for long range, or VHF/UHF for local communications, and go more specific from there. Any other radio service you could use is limited to one set or predetermined frequencies. Only the military has access to a broader range of frequencies to use.

Ham radios are user programmable, you can enter your own frequency directly and are not tied to predetrmined approved channels. This gives you more flexibility as well as privacy. I have all the FRS/GMRS/MURS freqs in my scanner, and if anyone uses them near me I will know.

But the biggest reason is that hams have the knowledge base they do. Hams know how and why their radios work, how to make them work, and how to improvise and adapt when they need to. So when times are bad, hams are far more likely to get back on the air and be communicating.

Offline Hartmann

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2010, 09:53:50 PM »
I don't have my license yet but I agree, ham is best, given standard "prep" parameters.  Typically you can get the best range from a well thought out ham setup.  I started looking into ham since I was working 20+ miles from home and wanted a way to communicate with Home Base should anything bad come up & the cell lines went down.  Folks here on TSP forum + local hams have been very helpful in thinking of very practical ways to make this happen -- and I don't think any other radio system can compare.

That said, for local traffic conditions, a CB might have the edge.  I say "might" because it depends how active your local hams are on the 2m / 70 cm during commute times.  Still, when we had an unexpected dump of snow late one day last December, word was the hams were passing along info of the only open roads so those with hams got home, many without abandoned their cars.

GMRS/FRS/MURS work for close range person to person work, but two people with handheld hams could get the same or more effective use.

Offline TexasScout

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2010, 07:06:22 AM »
I was viewing a vid on YouTube from "YankeePrepper" the other day and he has ham gear, yet he has no licence.  He said he would not get one either.  Why?  OpSec, that's why.  he didn't want anyone to know who he was in a WROL or SHTF situation.  Just like any other "list" the "government" could come and confiscate all your gear and supplies because there is a list of all hams with there addresses.  Just a thought, I am licenced and have been for the last eight years.

Offline Chief_919

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2010, 07:32:14 PM »
I was viewing a vid on YouTube from "YankeePrepper" the other day and he has ham gear, yet he has no licence.  He said he would not get one either.  Why?  OpSec, that's why.  he didn't want anyone to know who he was in a WROL or SHTF situation.  Just like any other "list" the "government" could come and confiscate all your gear and supplies because there is a list of all hams with there addresses.  Just a thought, I am licenced and have been for the last eight years.

Thats a very foolish mentality.

It is like buying a gun, and never shooting it.

He doesn't know how to use his equipment. You learn by doing, and without the license, he can't do that.

If you are worried, get a PO Box for your license.

Offline TexasScout

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2010, 09:35:41 PM »
I do agree that getting your ticket is just the "start" of the learning process, however, I do agree that there is an OpSec issue there. A po box will not stop the government from takeing your gear.  It's a small thing to find you it they have a call sign.  A better way would be not using your call in a SHTF or WROL situation.  Otherwise, get your ticket and learn all you can.

Offline Chief_919

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2010, 11:53:26 AM »
I do agree that getting your ticket is just the "start" of the learning process, however, I do agree that there is an OpSec issue there. A po box will not stop the government from takeing your gear.  It's a small thing to find you it they have a call sign.  A better way would be not using your call in a SHTF or WROL situation.  Otherwise, get your ticket and learn all you can.

I think the concept of the government coming to take your gear is a huuuuuuggggggeeeee long shot.

There are about 400 licensed hams in my county. Maybe 100- and that is optimistic- are actually active and have equipment. Of them, maybe 30 have anything more than a 2m or dual band unit.

It would be a huge waste of time for them to travel about trying to take gear.

And in the very, very, very off chance they did, I will hand them that busted old 2m HT and tell them thats all I have.

Seriously- there is little to be gained by them coming around and taking ham gear they don't know how to use. If it is to shut people up, there will be enough signs it is coming for folks to hide anything and hand over some junk.

Offline buffalojustice

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2011, 02:18:55 AM »
I think the idea of the gov mass confiscating radio gear is unrealistic. If it were a local gov need for communications they will most likely ask for help, or they will end up returning with questions since they don't know what they are doing.  The fed has better gear and doesn't need ours. If it is a shut the people up situation they are far ahead in time and resource to set up jammers.

I saw yankeepreppers video as well and if he takes the time to learn the information and listens to the ham bands he may be alright if he has to use it. If not, he will probably blow his radio up. Beyond that, stepping on peoples toes will get him ignored at best. The guys up on 75 at night are a great example as to how "friendly" the airwaves can be to an intruder.

If any one wishes to include ham gear in their preps and not get licensed please at least take the time to learn how to use it and listen as much as you can to learn proper operating practices. The older radios are easily smoked if you don't know what you are doing and many of the new radios will protect themselves by not transmitting.  I like the reference to shooting, if you don't do it on a regular basis you will not be effective.

Besides, ham radio is a fun and satisfying hobby that plays especially well to the do-it-yourself-er.

Offline pac1911

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2011, 05:32:18 PM »
Good thread.

Just like anything else, if you know and understand the limitations of ham you may be able to use hame as a communications tool in shtf.

It is however one of many communications tools that we should have.

I'm excited that I installed a 2m/70cm radio in my wifes daily driver today.  Tomorrow we will tinker with some simplex coms to and from work.  I expecting that we will have the coverage that we need to communicate over that distance.  But it isn't the perfect solution. 

If she has to abandon her vehicle...
If I have to leave a head or behind her and we are separated by a large distance...
If her car is stolen...
If there is interference across many bands...

We better have another way to communicate.  Where other than home should she look for communication from me.  Internet, Family and friends, dead drops at pre established locations?

Ham is great.  I have learned a lot in the past year, but it isn't THE answer, it is just another important part of the answer.

YMMV
Paul

Offline 264Win

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2011, 10:14:52 PM »
Yes ham radio is the best option, but not the only one I have a CERT group that maybe 1/3 of the members have ham licenses the rest use CB, FRS, GMRS, MURS but we all connect we have a local net twice a month and participation has improved since we allow any means of comms and all are participating now and active voices in the system.

Offline grizz2225

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2011, 09:06:09 PM »
Don't think of it as a best and worst. Think of it as a tool in the box. It might not always be the best option but the one time that its the only option you'll wish you had it. I've been in buildings with so much rf noise that two cups and a string would be more effective.

Ham radio is a great hobby and a great tool for the box, but the down side is you might not always get someone. And if you do are they friendly to your cause? Can they even help if they want to? Who else might be listening?

Offline ClarkB

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2011, 09:41:57 PM »
When the Egyptian government shut down the internet what were the Egyptian HAMs doing?  I picture that as something that the government couldn't control.

Offline Hartmann

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2011, 11:17:32 AM »
When the Egyptian government shut down the internet what were the Egyptian HAMs doing?  I picture that as something that the government couldn't control.

THAT would be interesting to find out.  I wonder if any of the Ham magazines will do an article on it.

Offline pac1911

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2011, 06:38:29 PM »
The government probably has more control over the airwaves than they do the internet.  All it would take is the military to utilize their equipment to jam the frequencies that they were interested in shutting down, and you would be finished.  Whether or not that would be worth their time and energy is another story.  I don't see the ham bands as being the source for the kind of short term disturbance that Egypt is experiencing.  There simply isn't the kind of critical mass of people needed to really stir things up.  As other modes break down, it would become strategically more important.

Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2011, 07:27:28 PM »
I was viewing a vid on YouTube from "YankeePrepper" the other day and he has ham gear, yet he has no licence.  He said he would not get one either.  Why?  OpSec, that's why.  he didn't want anyone to know who he was in a WROL or SHTF situation.  Just like any other "list" the "government" could come and confiscate all your gear and supplies because there is a list of all hams with there addresses.  Just a thought, I am licenced and have been for the last eight years.

And there are just some of us that take God given rights seriously.

From another practical standpoint giving Caesar dominion over anything and he is going to use that advantage to try to kill you and yours when the time comes. Not very smart IMHO.

Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2011, 11:47:40 PM »
This thread started out with the question as to what the best SHTF radio might be and it seems to have not answered that question very well as of yet so I ask it again.  Is HAM suitable for a SHTF situation?   

To fit that bill  in my situation it would have to consistently and reliably be able to communicate at the very least 20 mile distances and hopefully 150 mile distances.  From my brief research 2 meter is line of sight only and 11 meter is not reliable over the horizon unless there is sun spot activity.

Is this true?

If so what other bands does HAM encompass  and are any of them rock solid reliable over the horizon? 
If not perhaps other methods of communication should be explored.  The founders used relay riders set up in advance
at Lexington and it worked amazingly well.

Thanks in advance for your input.

Offline chezrad

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2011, 08:18:04 PM »
I don't know about "Best". I was able to hit a repeater the other day at a distance of 70 miles. Not bad for "Line of sight" on a little 5 watt hand held. Just need a decent antenna.

Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2011, 12:35:33 PM »
I don't know about "Best". I was able to hit a repeater the other day at a distance of 70 miles. Not bad for "Line of sight" on a little 5 watt hand held. Just need a decent antenna.


What line of sight frequency were you using? 

And  this has to happen a very high percentage of time. I am talking about life and
death situations where communications has to go through.

TIA

Offline GulfGulfQuebec

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2011, 01:36:42 PM »
My 2 meter radio can easily go 50 miles line of site on flat ground. Also, look into "NVIS" for up to 300 miles being local on the HF bands.

Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2011, 01:49:35 PM »
My 2 meter radio can easily go 50 miles line of site on flat ground. Also, look into "NVIS" for up to 300 miles being local on the HF bands.

Thanks but maybe I did not make myself clear. Distance over flat ground me no good. Besides the horizon I have to
deal with rolling hills of about 500' elevation.

From my post:

To fit that bill  in my situation it would have to consistently and reliably be able to communicate at the very least 20 mile distances and hopefully 150 mile distances.  From my brief research 2 meter is line of sight only and 11 meter is not reliable over the horizon unless there is sun spot activity. Is this true? If so what other bands does HAM encompass  and are any of them rock solid reliable over the horizon? 

Could you please give me more of your experience with NVIS and what it is?  What are the costs involved?  Is it possible to use on a hand held?

Thanks

Offline metatron

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #20 on: April 04, 2011, 03:06:11 PM »
I've had my ticket for about 12 years, but as long as you can read an instruction manual you should be able to use a radio, there is no real need for a license unless you want to talk to other operators, and to be fair, as an under 40 year old male, there is not many people worth talking too. Conversations tend to center around how much money they have spent on their ham shack and what they had for dinner. If it were not for digital and space I would have given up the hobby nearly as soon as I got my license.

As for radio's if I was to recommend a good rugged/cheap/mobile radio I'd probably go with a one or two Clansman PRC-320 as I got 4 complete units for under £400, their do 2-30MHz and work at 30Watts and with the stock antenna their do 300miles. I'm not sure how easy to get they are in the US, but their a great UK military radio.  

Offline GulfGulfQuebec

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #21 on: April 04, 2011, 05:34:41 PM »
NVIS is not a radio it is Near Vertical Incident Skywave. You are basically bouncing your signal off of the atmosphere directly over your head instead of glancing the signal at an angle. You simply have to go online and find an antenna plan (they can be made with wires and volleyball poles pretty much) and be operating at or below 7.2 MHZ (40 meters). Rather than the signal shooting over top of people a few hundred miles away, reflecting, and coming back down hundreds or thousands of miles away, the signal goes straight up and comes straight back down in a large circular(ish) footprint a few hundred miles in diameter. You need an HF (shortwave) transceiver for this.

Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2011, 10:49:35 PM »
I've had my ticket for about 12 years, but as long as you can read an instruction manual you should be able to use a radio, there is no real need for a license unless you want to talk to other operators, and to be fair, as an under 40 year old male, there is not many people worth talking too. Conversations tend to center around how much money they have spent on their ham shack and what they had for dinner. If it were not for digital and space I would have given up the hobby nearly as soon as I got my license.

As for radio's if I was to recommend a good rugged/cheap/mobile radio I'd probably go with a one or two Clansman PRC-320 as I got 4 complete units for under £400, their do 2-30MHz and work at 30Watts and with the stock antenna their do 300miles. I'm not sure how easy to get they are in the US, but their a great UK military radio.  

Thank you very much.  I found them on Ebay 

http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=Clansman+PRC-320&_sacat=See-All-Categories

The price was steep IMHO but you get what you pay for.


Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #23 on: April 04, 2011, 10:51:11 PM »
NVIS is not a radio it is Near Vertical Incident Skywave. You are basically bouncing your signal off of the atmosphere directly over your head instead of glancing the signal at an angle. You simply have to go online and find an antenna plan (they can be made with wires and volleyball poles pretty much) and be operating at or below 7.2 MHZ (40 meters). Rather than the signal shooting over top of people a few hundred miles away, reflecting, and coming back down hundreds or thousands of miles away, the signal goes straight up and comes straight back down in a large circular(ish) footprint a few hundred miles in diameter. You need an HF (shortwave) transceiver for this.

Thanks my friend you have saved me a lot of dead ends with this info.  So much to do and so little time. :-)

Offline metatron

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Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #25 on: April 05, 2011, 09:16:18 AM »
I keep having friends telling me that CB base stations with a linear will work out to 30 miles or so?

Is this accurate? And if so is this due to ground wave propagation?   

I know just enough to be dangerous. :-O


Offline Thoreau

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #26 on: April 05, 2011, 09:43:15 AM »
I do agree that getting your ticket is just the "start" of the learning process, however, I do agree that there is an OpSec issue there. A po box will not stop the government from takeing your gear.  It's a small thing to find you it they have a call sign.  A better way would be not using your call in a SHTF or WROL situation.  Otherwise, get your ticket and learn all you can.

With regards to the bold portion above, posting videos on the internet talking about having ham gear also won't do much to dissuade 'the gubmint' from doing their evil black helicopter thing either.

Anyone who really thinks that the government has any reason, desire, or random inclination to go to EVERY single door of EVERY ham license must be short of tinfoil for hat repairs.  There are TONS of active ham licenses where people don't even HAVE gear anymore.  There are tons of people who have the gear but no license.  There are those with a license and gear, but who says the gear is anywhere near the address listed on the license, or that registered person is? 

Discounting a ham license out of pure paranoia is certainly anyone's right.  But just keep in mind what you're giving up by doing so.  You're losing out on a top-notch opportunity to learn a lot.  You're missing out on a great way to communicate with friends, family, or even complete strangerrs day to day, during smaller regional disasters, or even just a small local one.  You're missing out on equipment that can be used to get viable communications out of areas where cell phones simply don't work while out hiking or camping. 

In short, ham radio isn't just for complete WROL/SHTF/TEOTWAWKI. 

Offline metatron

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #27 on: April 05, 2011, 11:45:34 AM »
I keep having friends telling me that CB base stations with a linear will work out to 30 miles or so?

Is this accurate? And if so is this due to ground wave propagation?    

I know just enough to be dangerous. :-O



Its hard to say the distance a signal can carry. The issue is it depends on a number of things, ranging from frequency, weather, surrounding elements (mountain/hills, trees contain water), power out, what antenna you use and how its placed and I could go on. You also have some radios that are just more sensitive then others, when it comes to picking up weaker signals .

With my mobile set up I've made contacts 600 miles away on a clear day from a built up area, so I know others could do the same.
 

Offline tittiger

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #28 on: April 05, 2011, 12:10:52 PM »
This is frustrating trying to get to the bottom of things and of course everyone has a different opinion.

I am not sure but am I hearing that radio communications (without repeaters) are not something to bet your life on? That one day I will be able to talk to the farm 20 miles distant and the next day I won't?

What about ground wave?  Can both CB and HAM take advantage of it?

TIA

Offline Thoreau

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Re: SHTF...is ham the best communication option?
« Reply #29 on: April 05, 2011, 12:23:48 PM »
This is frustrating trying to get to the bottom of things and of course everyone has a different opinion.

I am not sure but am I hearing that radio communications (without repeaters) are not something to bet your life on? That one day I will be able to talk to the farm 20 miles distant and the next day I won't?

What about ground wave?  Can both CB and HAM take advantage of it?

TIA

I think something to keep in mind is that while no single radio method (for example, handheld with yagi antenna on 2 meters, or mobile rig @ 50 watts on 60m band using an nvis antenna, etc.) is going to cover EVERY base.  As metatron pointed out, there are so many variables that come into play that you often need to be flexible with your setup.  This may mean changing antenna types (omni, beam, nvis) or power output, or operating band depending on the exact circunstances.  Basically, there's really no such thing as an end-all-be-all when it comes to radio.  This is why the ham world has so many options available to it. 

As for being able to hit 20 miles reliably, that's still very dependent on the terrain between A and B.  There's always a way to pull it off, but knowing what you're doing with regards to antenna/band/power selection are going to be critical.

I might have missed it, but if you can provide more specifics on your circumstances, I'm sure folks here can help get ya going in the right direction.

As for ground wave propagation, I SHOULD know something about it having just upgraded to a general class ticket, but since I have yet to put any of those fun new bands to use (lack of equipment) I'm about as useful in that department as a random goat. 

I'll say this much though.  Getting a ham license and thereafter LEARNING as much as you can, experimenting, and getting to actually understand how these things work will put you in an infinitely better situation than sitting back and hoping that some jacked-up CB will work when ya need it to, and having no idea what to do if it doesnt.  =)