For some reason all regular communication methods have been shut down. Telephones, mobiles, social media, Internet, TV, and broadcast radio. It could be a consequence of nature, a total loss of power, government action, or even a super virus, it don’t matter!
That is the scenario.
Realistically your only option left is radio and there are so many to choose from.
Some designed for specific tasks, others for general use.
i.e. Marine, Radio Amateur, CB, Taxi, Site radios (aka PMR or business radio), or one of the many short-range radios you can pick up from the supermarket, toy shops, or electronics outlet.
I need to get a little technical here but bear with me,
I’ll be a gentle as I can.
I’m making as assumption here, dangerous I know, but most people know a little about portable radios.
In its simplest form, it’s a little box, with a press to talk switch, and a channel selector in most cases. It runs off batteries, and usually only a short-range device. As an example:-
What is being shown is a CB portable radio for fitting into a vehicle or your home and the “walkie-talkie” sort of thing you may use in business or something your kids use for fun.
Again, it don’t matter what.
The thing is, whatever you can get your hands on, the other guy must be using the same type. So if he has a CB set, apart from the radio amateurs, government, and military who can pick up most anything, you’ll need a CB set too.
Those little toy radios your kids use? If you’ve got one the other guy will need the same. It doesn’t have to be the same make, just use the same kind of transmission and channels.
Now here’s the problem. Choice.
There are literally hundreds of different types.
Some better than others and a huge arguing point with “experts” about what you need for survival.
I’m going to narrow it down in terms of range.
- Short range (across a few streets or a mile or two in the open country) are usually UHF types.
Don’t panic, the clue is in the aerial. Short stubby little aerials are a sign of this type of radio. Think about the ones the kids use or your site radios. The aerials are seldom more than 3 to 6 inches long, fixed length, usually covered in rubber and sort of flexible.
- Medium Range (across town or maybe 10 miles plus in the open country).
These are usually VHF or HF types. The aerials are longer, sometimes telescopic in hand-held walkie-talkie types. Basically 8 inches or more in length. (The one shown is a CB set (HF) with a kit for installation into a vehicle)
- Long Range (many many miles). Usually the preserve of the radio amateurs, home base CB or freebanders (think CB on steroids), marine users, or professional occupations.
A FEW NOTES
(and a bit of fun)
- UHF, VHF, HF? WTH is that all about?
What carries furthest, a low whistle or a really high-pitched one?
For me and the dog it’s a low one or better still a low warble.
The tone or note of that whistle is known as its frequency.
In radio terms it goes High frequency HF, VERY High Frequency VHF, and ULTRA High Frequency UHF. The lower the frequency (note) the further it will travel. The higher the frequency the more it obeys the light laws i.e. it don’t pound its way through buildings or foliage so easy. It likes to SEE YOU in a line of sight, torch beam sort of way. (And loads of Radio Hams take to their keyboards as this is way too simple an explanation for their highly technical minds.)
- Generally speaking the bigger the aerial and the higher up you can get, the further you can speak. Again sort of simple, the higher you are the more you can see and radios like to see as much as they can. Keyboards fall silent(ish)
- Lower frequencies don’t need loads of power to achieve the same range. (BANG, Radio Hams re-engage keyboard mode again)
Got to love that anger and by now you’ll probably realize I’ve little time for the more ‘rabid type’ of Radio Amateur. Probably because I’m a die-hard freebander!
Back to radio.
Radio is used in two main ways and as I’m a believer of keeping it stupidly simple aka KISS, here is a little picture to help you.
There are two main ways of using a radio.
You to ‘him’ is one, or if ‘he’ is too far away you use an automatic booster station called a REPEATER to contact your friend. CB’ers and some others just use another person in place of that automated box of tricks where a middle man relays your message to and from your intended target. Much like they do regularly on the water (marine band sort of thing).
Anyway it’s simple, easy peasy lemon squeezy sort of thing.
Using the Radio Amateur network of repeaters you can do this with a little training and thus one very good reason for getting licensed and properly setup. An instant range boost (sort of) talking to people who are used to using radios. Yet not strictly necessary.
I keep thinking about the licensing bit.
Prepper paranoia, you’re on a list! No not really.
The gear is expensive and not readily available on the high street.
Some of the kit is superb too, built to exceed your wildest dreams.
Problem is I only think local, neighborhood, across town sort of thing using stuff I can get from anywhere.
I’m a believer in using radio but maintain a realist approach to its use and consistency i.e. will it work over a given range everyday.
So with that in mind, I’m only interested in contacting other survivors who are living within easy walking distance of me. Typically that’s no further than 2 hours on foot (CBRN, weather, and safety contingent).
I also need to keep in touch with my family when we are out foraging or scavenging or just separated. Again the range is set by time and distance but usually only a mile at most, 15-20 minutes walk.
Thus I’ve no need for a sophisticated set up just one that is readily available on the high street, cheap, easy to use, and reliable.
In the UK that has narrowed the choice down to two.
A portable “walkie-talkie” type of CB set or the short-range UHF (stubby aerial) thingy I can stuff in my pocket.
Instantly radio amateurs will be saying their VHF (6-8 inch aerials) sets are vastly superior and stuff into pockets just as well.
OK, I can live with that but Granny Jones keeps in contact with her neighborhood watch group of 8 and her carers using store bought public use UHF sets. Little £12 ($18) stubby aerial units.
The local farmer has all three of his tractors fitted with CB sets and one in the farm-house.
It’s him, her, and the like I want to talk to NOT OUTER MONGOLIA.
So where am I going to, coming from , or whatever?
In the prepping and survival (dare I add patriot or militia) world, great discussions are made about what everyone should use and how to use it. I’ve no problem with that and as regards RANGE, the radio amateurs have it for me. Regarding security or COMSEC, sometimes I wonder if things are taken a bit too far (paranoia) let alone along a high-tech philosophy. I suppose living in a land where the government is looking to round-up all free thinkers and either jail or eliminate them. So be it. Good luck to them.
Only I’m not actually part of all that.
To me it’s just my family group and what’s local that matters.
What have we got?
CB sets and a couple of common as muck UHF 8 channel “stubby aerial” walkie talkies. Both types run off AA batteries, both as cheap as chips.
I’ve no idea about your personal situation but in times of communication shut downs (and boy am I thinking government here), I think you’d be wise to get some sort of radio communications up and running to suit your needs.
The caveat for that is I feel you need to be thinking first and foremost about what everyone uses and NOT JUST WHAT THE ‘PROFESSIONAL’ survivor or experts says you should have.