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Author Topic: Survival Radios, Really?  (Read 7352 times)

gil

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Survival Radios, Really?
« on: January 25, 2017, 08:29:59 PM »
Hello,

This is a video follow-up to Peter Parker's (VK3YE) excellent video titled "Ultra Simple Survival Radio, is it a Scam?"


My $0.02:

Gil.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2017, 03:39:35 AM by gil »

RadioRay

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2017, 10:12:47 PM »
I like Peter's videos, and I get the feeling that he's just a great guy.  However,  I think he's off the mark here on some key points. Some things, like those 160 mW keychain transmitters (unh, antenna???) Are a gimick to get money for nearly nothing - got it.  However,

What type of 'emergency'?

A. If simply summoning help and there is no cell service , EPIRB at sea or Gil's SPOT on land.
      1. If not commercial available, SOS SOS SOS on any open band is likely to generate a pile-up.

B.  Communication for information like situation reports from friends and relatives, or an organized group is probably ONLY on a single band at a specific time, like the sked that Gil and I kept for over 2 years, almost exclusively at QRP levels, unless I was testing some equipment for the county EOC. What made this friend-to-friend contact work was that we had a sked and we kept it - whether we had commercial infrastructure or not - and a few times I did not, due to hurricane or tropical storm strike at my former coastal home.

Look - I enjoy Peter's creativity with pedestrian mobile magnetic loops and 'squid pole EFHW' antennas that he's made videos to demonstrate, but this idea that nobody is going to hear you on a simple set, - I've done this from expedition camps, and from truely wild country for years. Is my QRP rig the go-to solution in a car wreck?  No, 911 and keep things healthy until the blue lights arrive.  However, if no commercial infrastructure, I go to radio for information, and communications with people I know and already have operating skeds and nets with. If all else fails SOS SOS SOS  and hope that some dummy does not return with 'UR 599 TU".

Perhaps it needs to be understood that my "emergency radio" is not intended to call for help from civil authorities if things go bang. I have experienced a huge advantage during grid down situations by being able to communicate with friends and family. Then again, I've done this as a matter of habit for decades. Come to think of it, after one particular hurricane my HT contacts with friends at the emergency operations center was the only 911 service for our cluster of four remote houses during four and a half days of grid down and closed roads and my e-mail was via winlink HF. .


73 de RadioRay  ..._  ._
« Last Edit: January 26, 2017, 04:00:11 AM by gil »
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

km4mcm

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2017, 02:01:03 AM »
Radio ray I totally agree. I was in law enforcement during the change from UHF VHF analog to digital. My questions to the bean counters was what about hurricanes and other weather events. Their response  was, the stations had alternate power. My next question was do we have alternate towers and antennas? They looked at me like I was crazy. Using VHF UHF we could successfully get away with two repeaters. In digital mode range is so much shorter.  It takes five repeaters to cover the same area. Talking car to car is only possible for a couple miles at best.

As an everyday use digital is OK. But I'd like to meet the guy who thought this was so awesome. They did not take into account that rural areas don't have 10 story buildings every few miles.

But interoperability and NIMS training is going to solve all that. Lol that's a whole nother animal to kill.

I was just about to test for my tech license so I would have more weight with my sheriff. To at least have 2 or 3 people per shift basically licensed. I felt with the personnel becoming hams and getting to know local hams would be invaluable in a grid down emergency. Not to mention using the ham radios to communicate over the old VHF UHF system as most agencies still have their equipment at tower sites.
 
We haven't had a direct hit by a hurricane since the 30's I believe. When it comes it's going to be bad. 

All that to says any comms is better than no comms. But, it's better to have the right comms and know they will work.

Sent from my Lenovo TAB 2 A10-70F using Tapatalk
« Last Edit: January 26, 2017, 02:03:51 AM by km4mcm »

gil

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2017, 03:57:45 AM »
Hello,

Good points Ray, and I agree. I made the video purely about life-and-death emergencies for which I would want another mean of broadcasting an emergency. I wouldn't use a Pixie for that :o Small CW rigs are great to stay in touch in what I would call voluntary survival situations. Our skeds really showed that it was easy to establish contact using from 100mW to 10W I'd say more than 80% of the time. My 80m 1-Watter will be a great NVIS sked/net machine, when I get to fixing the transmit issue ::)

True, an SOS would generate a huge pileup ;D Hopefully there would be some self-policing there.

Al, I am surprised that your agency needed more digital repeaters. I am trying DMR radios right now and the range is about the same as analog but voices remain clear until the edge of the range where it just stops working suddenly. Of course, law enforcement systems must be different and use schemes like frequency hopping and encryption...

Gil.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2017, 04:01:38 AM by gil »

Quietguy

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2017, 06:17:52 PM »
Al, I am surprised that your agency needed more digital repeaters.

Often the problem is caused by going from analog VHF to digital 700/800 MHz systems.  Areas with terrain issues (those darn hills, valleys, canyons and mountains) - particularly rural areas without tall buildings - are not good candidates for replacing 150ish MHz public safety systems with 700/800 MHz trunking systems.  People tend to think of 150-160 MHz as line-of-sight, but that isn't strictly true.  There is lots of signal bouncing that goes on with VHF analog that doesn't happen with UHF trunking systems.  Many cities have been disappointed when their shiny new trunking system reduced their coverage area.

Wally

gil

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2017, 05:49:26 AM »
That makes sense Wally. I have noticed that it is easier for me to trigger my local repeater which is on the very edge of my range using VHF than it is using UHF. I suspect 6m would work even better, if the repeater had it...

It makes me think that 6m might be a better option for local communications than UHF or even 2m... After all the military uses 30-70mHz transceivers for such ranges.

Gil.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2017, 07:53:09 AM by gil »

Tempstar

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2017, 07:31:56 AM »
Digital UHF usually has the same range as analog VHF, simply because the receivers have a 110-120db noise floor compared to the 70db noise floor of an analog system. The problem with digital such as DMR is the all or nothing syndrome. Once you hit the limit of receiver sensitivity it cuts out because there isn't enough uncorrupted data to process.
 As to the OP, the best radio out there won't help if no one is listening.

cockpitbob

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2017, 09:38:39 AM »
As to the OP, the best radio out there won't help if no one is listening.
That's a point I always make.  You need to transmit on popular frequencies.  If you just need to talk to someone/anyone, a broadbanded radio that will do FRS/GMRS, VHF repeaters, CB and HF will cover your bases.  Think FT-817 or equivalent.  I like my Boefeng UV-5R because it does the 2m/70cm Ham bands and FRS/GMRS bands (not legally, of course).

gil

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2017, 06:53:24 AM »
Hello,

I think the local range is mostly for inter-group communications. If you don't already have a group of local Ham friends there might be nobody in the vicinity you should risk talking to. Even local Hams you know might turn out to be not-so-good guys in an emergency. I would listen a lot, only transmit if absolutely necessary and be vague as to my location.

Let's be honest here, in a dire emergency radio won't be a priority for anyone, except again if you are part of a group, and that should be where the emphasis is regarding gear. The problem is that few people have any interest in radio. Let's take my parents for instance... I tried showing them my UV-5R+; too complicated. Older folks might not be able to operate the simplest radios. The MD-680, they understand. A BF-888S would work too. The radio has no screen, only two knobs and the PTT button for them to use. Even a simple CB might be too much for some people. In a group, you know what channels you will be on. The Ham operator in the group can have the do-it-all radio. Unfortunately probably nobody else is going to even go near it, much less operate.

I use DMR just like I use analog. It works well and voices are clear up to the limit of the range, then nothing. Unless you are going to connect to a distant repeater through the Internet it doesn't bring much more to the plate, except increased privacy, and in some cases encryption. Nobody seems to use the broader area talk groups and most people use TG9 (local group) or regional ones like the one I listen to, 20859 (Lille region).

For local comms I am starting to think that CB and 6m are the better bands. I use UHF now but range is truly limited to line-of-sight. I typically get only three or four kilometers from handheld to handheld on the ground and ten kilometers from a fifth-floor apartment to the ground. In Europe we have PMR instead of FRS but the specs are similar. A 2m handheld might work better than a UHF one but only with a long enough antenna (1m). CB and 6m radios require a manpack arrangement. I am looking into the PRC-351/352 for local stuff, but I am the only one licensed so no training possible, at least no transmission.

HF is king in my book. It can do all ranges and you can listen to AM broadcast news, not to mention the best mode of them all, CW!

The two most important factors are light weight and low current draw.

Gil.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2017, 06:55:49 AM by gil »

KK0G

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2017, 08:46:30 AM »

The two most important factors are light weight and low current draw.

Gil.


Exactly, with a HUGE emphasis on the latter. It doesn't matter if you have the latest, greatest, most high tech whiz bang radio using some super cool highly secure, fail safe mode......... if you can't power it because it sucked up all the precious electrons you stored up, it's just an expensive paper weight.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

KK0G

cockpitbob

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2017, 10:51:42 AM »

The two most important factors are light weight and low current draw.

Gil.


Exactly, with a HUGE emphasis on the latter. It doesn't matter if you have the latest, greatest, most high tech whiz bang radio using some super cool highly secure, fail safe mode......... if you can't power it because it sucked up all the precious electrons you stored up, it's just an expensive paper weight.
I agree it's important, but every year it seems a little less important.  Really good batteries, little solar panels, USB charging twig stoves and everything else that have been coming along recently are making battery life less of an issue to me.  It's a great time to be a ham with all the new low power rigs and high capacity battery technologies.

gil

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2017, 12:52:49 PM »
It is getting better, especially with new battery chemistries. Producing the electricity still requires much work in the form of better solar panels, heat exchange (Peltier), chemical reactions or plain good old mechanical work. It's great to be able to store more energy in smaller packages but for long term operations, we need to produce it. I can think of certain situations where the atmosphere could be full of ashes or other particles rendering solar panels useless, or the absence of wind, etc. The manual generator always works but it takes a lot of efforts for extended periods to feed a radio, hence the need for very low current draw. You're right Bob, it is a great time to be a Ham with all the new stuff coming out. I'm still waiting for a 30W radio the size of an MTR.

I see go-boxes the size of dorm room refrigerators that probably draw a few amps on receive. I just saw on YouTube a radio backpack tipping the scale at 33lbs! If you plan on transporting heavy equipment in a car, fine, I'm not saying it can't be useful. I bet such arrangements have only been used a few yards from the car, or the user didn't have much else to carry for any length of time. These go-boxes are good for disaster relief supported by an infrastructure, not for preppers on the move. I would suggest all Hams interested in survival radio to build a smaller kit you can fit in a cargo pants pocket. I always assume my car won't work or I will be separated from it.

Gil.


Quietguy

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2017, 04:50:22 PM »
These go-boxes are good for disaster relief supported by an infrastructure, not for preppers on the move.

Or, they are good for the "radio operator" supporting a group in a retreat setting, if you happen to be a member of a group with a retreat.  For an individual on the move... not so much.  It goes back to the first thing people should do but isn't much fun, so it tends to be avoided:  define your realistic needs before obtaining the equipment.  Over and over again we see people on other forums asking "what radio should I get?  Is the Baofeng a good choice?"  Not one word about what purpose they expect the radio to serve, not one word about their terrain, not one word about who they want to talk (or listen) to...  IMHO it is very much like asking "how long is a piece of string?"  But if you ask them for details there usually is no answer.

Wally

RadioRay

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2017, 09:41:59 AM »
Very good points in this discussion.  I'll 2nd Wally's point that without a definition of projected need, then the equipment is - at best - a crap shoot.  This is the key with any tool and is a pit for the whole 'survival business'. 

What is the BEST "survival knife"? 
(Answer: The knife you have with you during an emergency is the best one.)
( Anything locked in your gun safe is for your next of kin after you die. )

What is the BEST survival rifle,
handgun,
camouflage pattern,
shovel,
dog,
cat,
SURVIVAL cappuccino maker?


Well, like any other tool, likw Wally said, ask yourself what do you need it to do? How about the less important want it to do and what are your SWAP (Size, Weight and Power) constraints ? Of the remaining "Survival _______" which can you afford and is worth the money?

SKILLS -v- stuff! :  Americans in particular, invest heavily in expensive gear, while they almost totally neglect their skills.  Skills travel very lightly with you and usually cost very little to develop and build upon. A skilled operator in a very common grid down situation can do a LOT with a sub-$100 QRP rig, a bit of wire antenna and a battery during an emergency. OTOH - a mega-contest station , costing many tens of thousands with all the high fashion whirley-gigs as seen in QST advertising would likely be dead in short order due to power budget and inability to move it. Listen to the people on this forum who learned that QRP CW   >>>> OPENED<<<< their ham world, rather than reducing it - but I digress.

Bringing it back to the basics; Wally's point is further illustrated in that a skilled and experienced person will make better (and thriftier) GOOD selections than one who does not even know which question to ask.

For me, radio preppers are not into radios for the purpose of merely flipping a switch to call "The Authorities"
(bow your head when you say those words! ;)
 
.... to RESCUE,  feed , clothe and mend us. 



Instead, communication during an emergency is mostly listening for eye witness and 2nd source information (not 4 - 10th source propaganda) , some transmitting of specific messages to friends and family and in an extremely rare usage, to civil authorities, if they are conducive to that, in your area.  I concentrate on that circle of influence defined as 'one-tank-of-gas-range'. That's the area with the most direct impact and aid for my family and friends. Outside of that one-tank-of-gas-range, the importance of events and communication drops off, some might still might be useful or interesting, but is not likely as immediately important.

Being from Idaho, an HF voice call to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police would likely not help me in a local forest fire.

... and might irritate my Wife  ;-)

Buying a wrench depends upon the size and type of the nuts & bolts.


RadioRay  ..._  ._

« Last Edit: February 03, 2017, 10:15:20 AM by RadioRay »
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

Tempstar

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Re: Survival Radios, Really?
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2017, 11:18:04 AM »
Interesting thread here. True story, we had a "Go-Box" competition last year at a club get together. Most were in 4u to 8u rack cases, but one fellow shows up with a 3' tall, 210 pound metal case with 2 105 amp batteries in the bottom, and only had 10-6 meter coverage. The winner had a small backpack with an FT-857 Yaesu, roll up solar charger and a 12 AH battery, coming in at 16 pounds with antenna (random wire), tuner, mike, key, and headset. Our scoring system made a lot of people re-think their set up, so I'll post it here:

HF radio= 100 points, plus 5 points for each band covered, plus 50 points for demonstrated CW capability
VHF= 50 points
UHF= 50 points
Digital (DMR, Fusion, P-25, etc) = 25 points
Non-HAM frequency coverage (FRS,GMRS,CB,MURS)=50 points
Hands free transport= 50 points
Self contained (as in included in the kit) power= 50 points
As-carried weight x 6, deducted from total score

Example: A kit has HF with 5 bands and CW, VHF, UHF, and power on-board in a backpack (Hands Free), with non-HAM frequency coverage, scores 425 Points. It weighs 18 pounds, x6= minus 108 points for a score of 317.

The example is that of our winner.
The next highest score was 194.
Most of the guys headed home to re-work their kit that day.