Frequency considerations and introduction.

Started by gil, May 09, 2012, 03:09:47 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


I bought my first CB radio in 1984, a Lafayette LM300. I wish I still had it. Ten years later I got a President Jackson. After CB went ?down the drain,? I stopped all radio activity, until today.

I clearly remember twenty years ago, even five. I did not then have any of the concerns I have today. The future was bright with no clouds on the horizon. I don?t think the world is going to end this December twenty first, or next year for that matter. The Mayan who wrote his calendar must have been tired that night, and his wife was complaining about how much time he spent on it, so he probably just thought it went far enough and left it at that.. I am no doomsday preacher.
There is a certain unease among us however. The media is broadcasting multiple disaster and prepping shows. The economy isn?t going better. Five years ago, I had five ounces of gold, bought for less than $1500. Today, those coins would be worth close to $10,000. Only five years later! I am still hitting myself on the head for selling them before the increase. We may wonder why the value of the Dollar and the Euo have not gone down by a factor of six or seven. One only has to watch the news to start worrying.

I have always been the poster child for safety. Yet, I have enjoyed dangerous activities like ultralight flying, cave diving, motorcycle riding, parachute jumping and others, but always prepared and trained properly. The fact that I am here today has nothing to do with chance.

Being prepared for me means being prepared in all areas. I have seen people stocking up food while smoking two packs a day, shooters with dozens of guns who can't run to their 100yrd target, or people with a bunch of medical supplies but no water or any means to purify it. I have seen very few preppers with the means to communicate!

So, I am studying for my HAM licenses (yes, all of them), while enjoying my Galaxy DX 979 CB.

I have thought about HAM bands quite extensively and done a lot of research with an emphasis on emergency use.

For local communications, 2m seems the best option. I would also include a few FRS handhelds to keep track of family members and local friends in your neighborhood. I can't think of anything the 70cm band offers that 2m can't do.

A CB is a must as well, but it should include SSB, to take advantage of the 11m band's ability to skip on the ionosphere, thus allowing very long distances.

I am also intrigued by the 6m band, which at times behaves either like VHF or HF, depending on conditions. It also has the advantage of small antennas, with a half-wave being, well, 3m long! I found an old 6m Gonset Communicator III AM radio on Ebay for cheap, with a crystal for 50.4mhz. That set would probably survive an EMP sitting right in the open! If only someone else around had one...! 6m AM would make a great local frequency, if small and cheap handhelds were available. You would also get skip when the conditions are exceptionally good.

On HF, I am planning on sticking to 20m (14mhz). Lower than that and you run into antenna length problems. You can find cheap QRP kits for that band. I have ordered a small CW only transceiver kit for $30! How can you beat that? 20M is probably the most popular HAM band and would be great to listen to in a national emergency. Moreover, propagation is decent to great most of the time during the day and early evening hours.

In my opinion, better have a few radios for different bands rather than one that covers them all. I do want a Yaesu FT-817ND, but I will have a metal can with a 2m handheld, CB, 6m SSB, 20m QRP transceiver, a handful of FRS handhelds and a few accessories stored inside a cardboard box inside the can, for EMP and water protection. For a few hundred dollars, you can be well prepared as far as radios go. Much less than the cost of a good rifle ;-)

Jim Boswell

Good idea,
Being a ham is no good if you can't gather information as needed. Yes, I still own a CB radio and when we have an ice storm I hook-up the CB and gather information  that I pass on to other hams on the 2mt. repeaters.
When SHTF, you bet I will not be coping NBC, I will tune into BBC for a more impartial angle on the news.
A good short wave receiver and scanner are the backbone of any prepper's communication system. If the short wave receiver don't have an antenna connection then don't buy it.


I would suggest that you NOT limit yourself to just one HF band, it may or may not be of particular use depending on the situation.    For example, 20 meters is a 'long' band in the daytime especially.  You can certainly be too close to particular stations and them not being copyable.
If you're really interested in emergency communications, why not contact your local Emergency Operations Center?  They would be happy to furnish more information than you'd believe.  They will probably hit you up about helping them, so expect that (they're always looking for an extra hand or two, you know?).  No, you don't have to be a ham, but it can help.


Hello Paul, and welcome aboard  :) Reaching out to the local Ham community is on my list.. My K1 has 20 and 40m, and it seems to be a good combination. 20m is up during the day, and 40 at night... I am planning on building a Small Wonder Labs Retro-75 (AM transceiver) and a Rock-Mite 80, and put them in the same box. I will experiment with NVIS on 40 and 80 as soon as I can.

Jim, I looked at the MFJ-8100K short wave receiver. That would be great to gather news...



I'm new to Radio Preppers, do please indulge me a bit.  I've been a ham since 1958 and a Navy rescue helicopter aircraft commander, and more recently a Red Cross chapter disaster communications leader.  It seems to me that frequency capability, important to be sure, is down the list of important things to decide when it comes to emergency preparation.  Please consider:

1) With whom do you wish to communicate?  Family, friends, fire department, pharmacy, Red Cross?
2) Where will  they be?  Other side of the block, in town, next county, nearby state, distant state, traveling on the road, at sea, in another country?
3) What communication do you need?  Brief conversation, lengthy instructions, formal message, lengthy list of help needed, detailed photographs?
4) How quickly must you communicate?  By dinner time, tomorrow, in an hour, NOW!
5) What disasters do you anticipate?  Earthquake, pandemic, flood, volcano, wind storm, nuclear event, CME?
6) How close to secret is the information? Ham radio can't use codes, cyphers, or encryption, but some modes are less easy to intercept than others.

Each band has a place in preparation.   It would seem appropriate to be prepared to operate on as many frequencies and modes as possible.  The order of equipment acquisition will be dictated by the class license of the operator and the answers to the above questions.  Undoubtedly, two meter FM has many applications and is one of the least expensive ways to start.  However, it would be foolish to think that the Technician license and a hand-held is going to accomplish more than a few of the above communication needs.  I know too many Techs who may have been sold two meter radios as the solution to emergency communications.  It certainly is not.

Another way to look at this: Become more prepared by engaging in the Amateur Radio hobby.  Upgrade to Extra as time permits, but do it.  Certainly upgrade to General forthwith.  If a seven year-old can do it, you can.  Learn the capabilities of the equipment you now have.  Really know that little handheld, how to program it, and how to best use it.  Then get into HF.  Get into the fun of antennas, propagation, and operating.  Don't stop getting equipment until you know digital modes like PSK31, Olivia, and most importantly-- Winlink.  If you believe you won't need the Internet in an emergency you are wrong.  You, your HF radio, computer, and Winlink put Internet Email in your hands independent of any phone lines.

It has been my experience and the experience of many others that in an emergency, we will use only those things we are familiar with.  We won't have time to learn complicated new skills with the pressures of a disaster.  This means that if all you can do is press the PTT button without understanding the equipment, frequencies, modes, and propagation you might as well get two tin cans and some string. 

Independence from organizations is to be commended only up to the point where you have no need of them.  It would be wise to understand the various emergency communications programs and organizations before deciding that you must remain cynically aloof.   There are a bewildering number of organizations that are willing to step up in time of crisis; you may find that one or more of them may fill a hole in your own communications planning.  Don't be afraid to look into them.  Incorporate your active participation in one or more organization that makes sense to your communications plan.

Whatever you do, DO IT!  Do it often.  Do it regularly.  Don't stop doing it.


Keith, K7KEV


Hello Keith,

Welcome aboard, and thank you for your input. It is nice to have experienced Hams here!

My idea of preparation is to learn the skills necessary and gather the essential gear required in a prolonged, at least state-wide crisis. Most likely, Nation-wide or larger, for a long period of time, months or years, no matter the cause. Communications is of course just one aspect of this type of preparedness, but an important one. The role of Ham radio is this scenario would be information gathering and sharing, with other Hams, and even emergency services sometimes. I however do not plan to pay for classes to provide a service. So, we are assuming here that there is no internet, no cell phone service and no power. We could also assume that emergency services might not be operating, or operating with a reduced staff (most people have a family to take care of). The military would probably be operating, but would likely be overwhelmed. There certainly wouldn't be an FCC... What could cause such a situation? A solar storm like in 1859 would. So would an EMP. A pandemic, sure. A total economical collapse would be pretty bad too.  I used to think it was very unlikely. These days, I am not so sure. There are many doomsday scenarios, many of them extremely unlikely, even sometimes ridiculous. Some however, you can learn about in history books, and history does repeat itself..

Let's look at the World population growth:

When did the spike start? When we started using oil. Remove oil and the line goes back down as fast as it went up. I wouldn't call oil production "reliable." The economy is of course linked to the oil market.

What kind of information? First, the cause and extent of the damage, including listening and possibly forwarding any official broadcasts. Learning about the development of the situation in other locations could warn people about what to expect. There could be coordination between families to form larger groups, for security purposes. While continuing to monitor the situation(s), the primary use of local communications would probably center itself around security. 2m would indeed be great for that purpose. HF of course would be a must-have for beyond line-of sight. Why security? When I see what people do on Black Friday to get a discounted laptop, I have no doubt as to what they would do to get food. We are always a few meals away from chaos.

A main consideration about the type of radios to be used in my opinion is current draw. In the absence of power, and after gas runs out for generators, there would be only solar power... Current draw also dictates the size of the batteries you might need to carry, on foot, if traveling becomes necessary. Sure, you could have a big rig at home with a generator and lots of gas. The sound of a generator though would attract looters looking for a well stocked fridge. For me, light, QRP type radios are a necessity.

Thanks again and have a great week-end,



For the experienced ham who has a toolbox of techniques instead of just a toolbox of trinkets, limiting band access is neither necessary NOR practical.  A field-deployed G5RV and modest tuner will give you round-the-clock world-wide propagation access from 80m - 10m.

A set of fiberglass military masts, a carabiner, and a reasonable length of 550 cord is sufficient to get the whole system on the air, even without a tree in sight.

Rather than designing your kit around how you can most strategically limit your options, perhaps you should redirect that energy into how you can most strategically eliminate the most limitations.

Just a thought.


You reminded me about line of sight. When I tried out the CB (old and dusty from the early 1980s). I dusted it off and charged it up for a few days. It worked - well, I heard static. When I drove up he hill the static was friendlier.

My husband has an old windmill/antenea up outside our south door. Maybe that will come in hand once again. Our farm house sits down hill among a few rolling hills. There are high hills North and directly West of us. Not sure how all that might affect reception (I know you all use a different word (chatter??), but not certain).

I feel inspired to pull out my handcrank shortwave and see what happens. I will try to get the CB going again too. I would be nice to be able to comment on what kind I have access to. I am the type that forgets which version of windows is on which computer (we have 3).

Thanks everyone. BTW, is there a newbie section to this yet. I mean real newbie!!


Jonas Parker

Gil, you might want to take a look at the GAP Titan DX vertical antenna.


Thanks, they seem to have good reviews. A bit expensive though...