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Author Topic: I have my Technician license, what's next?  (Read 24053 times)

Geek

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I have my Technician license, what's next?
« on: April 27, 2013, 07:57:54 AM »
So I've gotten my Technician license and an HT.  My son is studying for his license.  In the meantime I have been listening to whatever is happening on the 2m band and reading this forum.  The forum seems composed of newbies to radio like myself and folks who have been into radio for decades, with no one in between.  I remain interested in this primarily as a prepper, not a radiohead.  So now that I know I've solved my problem out to about 50 miles I just need to follow through with a bunch of HTs wrapped up in Faraday cages and go back to putting food in 5 gallon buckets.  That seems pretty dull, so I need a new challenge that doesn't involve a soldering iron.

The next communication goal would be to collect news from outside that 50 mile circle during an emergency.  So here is my scenario:  I get another Hurricane Sandy coming through (I am in the area here it hit.) and the power is out everywhere except my house because I am the only one in the neighborhood with a generator.  (My neighbors are slow learners.)  Because of preparations up to this point I can communicate with my family in a 50 mile radius, but they're all fine.  The cable service is out, and the AM/FM radio isn't providing anything because every station within a hundred miles is without power.  What would be the least challenging way to a) pick up stations from a bit further away, or b) establish some sort of Internet connection.  The goal is to get some news from outside the disaster area without learning morse or picking up a soldering iron.  Since I mentioned the generator, low power is not a requirement.

Please explain any acronyms or terms so I have a clue what you're talking about.  :-)

cockpitbob

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2013, 09:13:21 AM »
Hi Geek,
Since collecting information is your main goal for longer distances, a good short wave receiver is what you want.  "Whort wave" (a.k.a. HF to us hams) is the set of frequencies from3MHz to 30MHz and are the ones that do a great job skipping around the globe, depending on atmospheric conditions.  As you know, hams get involved in emergency and disaster communications so being able to listen in on the ham bands will bring in a lot of good info.  Most good receivers will get evrything from AM broadcasts (<1MHz) up through and beyond the short wave bands.

Google around for SWL (short wave listening).  It used to be a real radio-sport with people sending and getting SWL cards just like hams exchanging QSL cards.

A good antenna makes all the difference.  One good option is the Par end-fed SWL antenna.  If you have room to string a 45' long wire anywhere into the trees or off your chimney you'll do enormously better than some 4' long telescoping antenna.

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2013, 11:58:51 AM »
3-30Mhz sounds like helpful advice.  Is everything in those bands in Morse, or will I find plenty to listen to?

WA4STO

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2013, 12:05:09 PM »

The next communication goal would be to collect news from outside that 50 mile circle during an emergency.

Please explain any acronyms or terms so I have a clue what you're talking about.  :-)

We're here to assist you.  So if you find that we're talking over your head, don't be bashful; hit us (me) up side the head with a 4 x 4 and tell us (me) to be more descriptive, more factual, less acronymical.

First, congrats on getting the Technician.  A job well done.  You now have free access to millions and millions of radio frequencies. 

I would encourage you to go get the General now.  Same story; we provide you with ALL the questions and ALL the answers to the exam.  No surprises.

But even with the Technician, and given that you live in an area with a bajillion licensed radio amateurs, it's entirely possible that you can become a part of the long distance networks that we have established for your use.  More on that later, if you have an interest.

My second encouragement would be along the lines of redefining what you want to accomplish.  To my mind, it's almost useless to think in terms of listening in for information, without establishing real communications.  What frequency would you listen on?  What information would the transmitting station be providing to you? 

Those questions are what have prompted me to participate in networks that *I* can transmit (and receive) into so that *I* am in control of who I am communicating with, where I get my info from, how reliable those people are and -- of course -- how prepared they are.  SHTF?  Are those  networks still up and running, are the people intent on keeping their information coming and going? 

All of that is determined -- in advance -- by you.  By your exercising your equipment and your skills. 

Given where you're located, the HT and almost any antenna will let you into the amateur radio networks.  You'll need one more piece of equipment which costs about $40 used and since you're not into soldering irons, you'll end up purchasing the cable for it off the shelf.

Does any of this pique your interest?  Fire away with questions.  Right here is a fabulous place to get the answers.

Best 73

Luck, WA4STO
ARRL A1-operator, BPL Medallion holder
NTS(D) Digital Relay Station, Central Area
NTS(D) Target Station, CAN, TEN & NE
TCC Station ?Foxtrot?

Joe

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2013, 12:10:23 PM »
Hello Geek

You will have plenty to listen to on 3-30Mhz. Gather the frequencies used by your local clubs for emergency comms. That way when dial it in, you know about where the information is coming from. I dont know if you have one but a good scanner with external antenna would be good. You can program in your local channels and NOAA but also the Interoperability channels that DHS has chosen. You can download and print the frequency list. The download is at the bottom of the page.

http://www.dhs.gov/national-interoperability-field-operations-guide

73 Joe

cockpitbob

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2013, 12:11:55 PM »
3-30Mhz sounds like helpful advice.  Is everything in those bands in Morse, or will I find plenty to listen to?
Take a long look at this chart.  It details the bands hams are allowed on.  Green is voice.  Red is digital modes.  Morse is allowed anywhere but usually happens in the red areas.
The letters beside each color stripe indicate what minimum license you need to transmit in those frequencies.  You can listen anywhere, no license required.

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2013, 02:39:41 PM »
Thanks for the help here so far.  I do intend to get the General license, but I admit I have not started to study for it.  My communications needs are met, two way, for a 50 mile radius.  My goal is to be able to get news during an event like Hurricane Sandy.  Obvious everything from cable service to cell phones were out of service within a day of the Hurricane as they exhausted whatever backup power they had.  I was comfortable at home with my generator, but if nobody is broadcasting you won't get much news on your typical AM/FM.  My objective is to pick up some kind of news from outside the area.

Note that I have been in a variety of disaster situations such as Hurricane Sandy and being in the WTC when it was hit.  I can tell you that in almost any disaster a complete loss of news is to be expected.  It would be nice to pick up a station from a long way off and hear things like, the nature of the disaster, how long it is expected to last, how wide an area is affected, etc.  That should be an easy hole to plug.  I just checked the frequencies my HT can handle and they go through the 3-30 MHz range suggested, so I am going to listen in on those frequencies and see what I can pick up.  I can easily imagine needing a different antenna for that and have no idea how well it will work until I try.


Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2013, 05:39:08 PM »
I checked the manual on my HT and the frequencies recommended were supported, so I set it to scan and I picked up three religious broadcasts and nothing else.  I am not going to take this as a sign to go to church.  Anyone care to recommend an antenna for my Yaesu HT that covers 3-30MHz?

Quietguy

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2013, 05:44:06 PM »
Geek, I would encourage you to consider your two-way communications needs as just begun, not complete.  The problem with all this is it requires practice and repetition to learn what it is all about.  Comms isn't something where you can pick up a few radios, stick them in a box and check an item off your preps list.  When the time comes that you need those preps, you need to know how to use them without fumbling around for cheat sheets and trying to remember how things work.

As far as shortwave goes - like everything else in radio - there are multiple aspects involved.  One is commercial broadcast... there are many, many stations around the world that broadcast on short wave.  Many of these are government run stations, like the BBC, Voice of Russia, China Radio International and many others.  They mostly broadcast in AM mode just like your local AM radio stations, only on shortwave frequencies.  They are an excellent source of news, but national biases come into play just like with US news sources.

There are also a lot of ham radio allocations in the shortwave bands.  Many special purpose nets are organized when there is a disaster or other need.  There is a regular Hurricane Net that activates whenever there is a hurricane threatening the US.  That net provides up to the minute reports on storm conditions.

A good communications receiver that accepts an external antenna and covers the AM broadcast band will pull in regional stations well outside of your hurricane impact area at night. 

A touch of radio nostalgia: when I was a young teenager all of the local radio stations that played that new Rock and Roll music in the Tampa Bay area of Florida went off the air at sundown per FCC rules.  The few stations that remained on the air at night didn't play music that young teenagers at the time wanted to listen to.  So, routinely we would tune the old vacuum tube car radios (well, they weren't that old at the time) to out of state high powered "Clear Channel" radio stations.  We could reliably receive WLAC in Nashville and sometimes could get WCKY in Cincinnati among others.  My point is... with a decent receiver and the hurricane-enforced quiet of no electrical noise you would be amazed at what you can receive.  But you will never know these things unless you spend a little time and poke around the bands and do a little experimenting.  You don't need to make a career out of it, but most people have a little down time where they can practice these skills.

And, yes... I am that old.  I really enjoyed seeing Buddy Holly along with Bill Haley and a few others in concert.

Wally

gil

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2013, 05:45:53 PM »
Hello Geek,

Just use a long wire... The longer the better, usually... Or try the PAR (LNR Precision) SWL end-fed.

Gil.

Quietguy

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2013, 05:51:51 PM »
Anyone care to recommend an antenna for my Yaesu HT that covers 3-30MHz?
Go to Ebay and find an adapter that goes from whatever your antenna connector is (I don't have one so I don't know) to something like a BNC connector.  Then make yourself a wire antenna maybe 20 or 30 or 50 or however many feet long that you can easily deal with.  This will only cost you a few dollars and will give you reception of shortwave.  Length isn't critical because you aren't going to transmit on it and you aren't going for a specific frequency.

Wally

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2013, 08:33:35 PM »
Hello Geek,

Just use a long wire... The longer the better, usually... Or try the PAR (LNR Precision) SWL end-fed.

Gil.

How long is the PAR and do you mount if vertically or horizontally?

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2013, 08:43:19 PM »
Geek, I would encourage you to consider your two-way communications needs as just begun, not complete.  The problem with all this is it requires practice and repetition to learn what it is all about.  Comms isn't something where you can pick up a few radios, stick them in a box and check an item off your preps list.  When the time comes that you need those preps, you need to know how to use them without fumbling around for cheat sheets and trying to remember how things work.

As far as shortwave goes - like everything else in radio - there are multiple aspects involved.  One is commercial broadcast... there are many, many stations around the world that broadcast on short wave.  Many of these are government run stations, like the BBC, Voice of Russia, China Radio International and many others.  They mostly broadcast in AM mode just like your local AM radio stations, only on shortwave frequencies.  They are an excellent source of news, but national biases come into play just like with US news sources.

There are also a lot of ham radio allocations in the shortwave bands.  Many special purpose nets are organized when there is a disaster or other need.  There is a regular Hurricane Net that activates whenever there is a hurricane threatening the US.  That net provides up to the minute reports on storm conditions.

A good communications receiver that accepts an external antenna and covers the AM broadcast band will pull in regional stations well outside of your hurricane impact area at night. 

A touch of radio nostalgia: when I was a young teenager all of the local radio stations that played that new Rock and Roll music in the Tampa Bay area of Florida went off the air at sundown per FCC rules.  The few stations that remained on the air at night didn't play music that young teenagers at the time wanted to listen to.  So, routinely we would tune the old vacuum tube car radios (well, they weren't that old at the time) to out of state high powered "Clear Channel" radio stations.  We could reliably receive WLAC in Nashville and sometimes could get WCKY in Cincinnati among others.  My point is... with a decent receiver and the hurricane-enforced quiet of no electrical noise you would be amazed at what you can receive.  But you will never know these things unless you spend a little time and poke around the bands and do a little experimenting.  You don't need to make a career out of it, but most people have a little down time where they can practice these skills.

And, yes... I am that old.  I really enjoyed seeing Buddy Holly along with Bill Haley and a few others in concert.

Wally
I qualify as a senior citizen but feel like I am the youngest guy around when I listen to the local HAMs.  :-)

I take your point about the skills but there are so many things to learn that some of them are going to be a book in the library until needed.  Right now I am doing all my radio experimenting on a little multiband HT.  It is working out amazingly well.  I may get into it more deeply, but I am still coming at it from the prepper trying to get covered on radio perspective, not the HAM operator who has decided to prep direction.  We have both on the forum here and it is really helpful.

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2013, 08:47:51 PM »
Hello Geek

You will have plenty to listen to on 3-30Mhz. Gather the frequencies used by your local clubs for emergency comms. That way when dial it in, you know about where the information is coming from. I dont know if you have one but a good scanner with external antenna would be good. You can program in your local channels and NOAA but also the Interoperability channels that DHS has chosen. You can download and print the frequency list. The download is at the bottom of the page.

http://www.dhs.gov/national-interoperability-field-operations-guide

73 Joe
Thanks, but I spend too much time in airports to trust anything that says "Homeland Security".  :-)

KC9TNH

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2013, 10:17:18 PM »
First Geek, congratulations. Next 25m target is your General. I would highly encourage you to begin study for this ASAP and then test for it. Why? Much of the General exam you will find is regurgitated Tech material (or slightly re-done with a bit more detail) so you can focus more energy on the new stuff that comes with it. Do it while it's fresh. Honest.

Lots of trails the thread could take but I'll just mention a couple of things SPECIFIC to what you said you feel the need is, and want to expand on. You mentioned being able to contact others, particularly relatives or those OUTSIDE the affected area who may be able provide you critical info. That's because there's an informational black hole - oh, and you're in it. Another shameless marketing ploy for the General.

(Sermon warning)

If I lived in an area that could suffer a storm like Sandy (or many others through history) I'd have the General and have a basic workmanlike HF transceiver, 100 watts. (These will typically do CW, Single-Side Band (SSB) voice, AM and one or more types of RTTY (Radio Teletype) or digital modes. The comment about being able to also ID yourself to those outside willing to help you or provide info is something I heartily agree with. SWL is great, really and a good staring point - investiment very minimal. And it will continue to be great right up to the point that they're not telling you what you need to know.

The HF transceiver will, specifically, give you coverage of 80/75m, 40m, and 20m for sure. How much of that you can receive will be related to how much antenna you can do - 'nuther discussion but if you have room for 33' of wire you can do a fine 1/2 wave 20m antenna so you can do 2-way communications with.....

The Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14.300, who seriously watch weather systems like Sandy before they become formalized as hurricanes and up to the point where...
The Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 stands itself up.

Except for contesters who have their brains & manners encased in Titanium, these are internationally recognized frequencies for emergency activity & the nets that support them. 14.300 goes 24/7/365 and depending on time-of-day may be the Intercontinental Traffic Net or the Pac Seafarer's Net.

These folks are all volunteers, lots of experience, very professional - general "howdy" check-ins are their last priority. Many of these folks volunteer for shifts on MMSN and will then go pull a shift or two on HWN when needed.  They know their stuff, and there are enough "fans' out there who've acted as relays that it's rare that someone doesn't get heard.  During Sandy, which I monitored, it was not unusual for them to get requests from INSIDE the area, research actual emergency management bulletins being issued, and then pass back to that affected station info specific enough that "hey, there is going to be some scheduled release of waterflow and it should only impact as far as the location 5-blocks from you, blah-blah." They are VERY good.

So if something like Sandy is approaching or likely, naturally you've got your deep-cycle batteries available & charged, the old laptop will be charged up & you're prepared to ration your power for stuff that matters and - if taken just a little further - your computer & HF rig can do digital email, over HF, and let everyone OUTSIDE who cares about you that you're really livin' large.  :)

There's one reason for your General. And you DO NOT need to run out & get a brand-new whiz-bang DX-RockStar transceiver.  There are LOTS of good ones on the used markets by hams who change their rigs more than their un...  well, you get the idea. You do not need to do this all at once; it's a journey. But as someone told me once, the two best times to plant a tree are 20 years ago & right now.

FWIW: I would do the same thing, with only a slightly different focus (like calling in groceries) if I lived in the hinterlands of Alaska.  I love CW, I really enjoy the satisfaction of making a low-power signal more than it is with an antenna, and copying weak signals, BUT - in this specific instance, a basic HF transceiver capable of voice signals as well is something that's called for. Just my $.02, but at that point it's not a hobby, its' YOUR situation not mine, not the guy surrounded by Secret Service getting a helo-borne tour of your area, it's you & yours.

I mention the 75m thing (the area typically 3.8-4.0 mHz) because alot of states' regional HF nets will fire up in that area because that band works very well for just covering a 300 mile area or so.  Contact them & find out what frequency that is.

I think your focus is on the right priority because what you mentioned can and has happened. In terms of running a risk analysis, likelihood not often, but consequences are in the potentially devastating category.

(End of Sermon)
 8)

Radio Preppers

Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2013, 10:17:18 PM »