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Author Topic: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding  (Read 5911 times)

Frosty

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SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« on: February 24, 2013, 10:30:39 AM »
Have been thinking recently about radio watchstanding and record keeping in a SHTF/WROL situation. There's just the Mrs and I (and two dogs) here, so a full 24X7 watch schedule isn't very realistic for more than a day or two.  Some distant family/friends may arrive, but can't count on that.  My current plan is for the person on security watch to monitor the immediate area from an indoor vantage point, but also monitor traffic on our radios/scanners at the same time. Hadn't given it much thought previously on how we'd keep a record and history of events, beyond pencil and paper anyway.

Thinking of getting a digital voice recorder with VOR for recording traffic we might otherwise miss or want to replay, a big map of the area (have a free source, so that's easy), a clipboard for notes, and maybe create a checkoff sheet to record normal/recurring events like police reporting in/out of service, automated repeater ID messages, utility company automated messages/pages, NOAA weekly tests, etc.  A dry erase board might be nice for passing information between watchstanders.  Frame an area map, and update it with dry erase markers as things become known or change maybe.  The goal for now being to come up with a workable plan and get the supplies together, so if anything serious happens we'll at least some idea of what is/isn't going on in the immediate vicinity for safety/security purposes. 

Any thoughts on improvements, and what are your plans?

kc0rzw

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2013, 11:00:50 AM »
Some of the new scanners come with an SD card slot to record stuff.  Might be useful for your purposes.

WA4STO

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2013, 11:58:18 AM »
Any thoughts on improvements, and what are your plans?

My personal interest is in participating, enhancing and enjoying the satisfaction of long-distance "information" by way of the digital modes.

Participating:  I belong to a nationwide group that utilizes an existing infrastructure that does not rely on the internet, is exceptionally well managed by humans and offers error-free transfer of "conditions" and "information" without any possibility of the general public (or even the media) from getting at it.

Enhancing:  I have recently (last week) taken delivery of an old PK232MBX from the NTSd equipment bank.  It was upfitted with the latest EPROMS and now uses PACTOR I on the NTSD networks.  Several times a day, I connect to the Central Area Staff MBO, take any and all traffic destined for Nebraska and distribute it throughout the State.  That's an enhancement, since there was no outlets for Radio Email in Nebraska before I was granted this equipment donation.

Satisfaction?  I'm once again interfacing with message handlers from 20 to 30 years ago.  That's comforting.  But the real surprise is how very much better we are now assisting preppers, the general public, and ourselves as radio amateurs.  That's real satisfaction.

Best 73

Luck, WA4STO

 


Frosty

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2013, 01:23:18 PM »
Unfortunately mine doesn't have the SD memory option, nor the Bearcat digital one (BCD396XT) that keeps getting moved down the list of "must have" items.  Thanks tho kc0rzw. 

Luck - what can I say, except that I come to radio out of need, not out of desire.  I don't see how making my home a node in an information network enhances my family's security.  Quite the opposite actually.  My satisfaction comes from providing safety and security for my family to the best of my ability, no matter what may happen.   Diff'rent strokes.  I did look into the 2m NTS in my area, nothing in range.  If it were, I might be looking at how to capture the data and search it for items of interest or concern.

gil

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2013, 01:55:12 PM »
I would personally advise staying away from technologically complicated options, like a computer, SD cards, etc. Complexity fails easily... Nothing beats paper and a pencil. Make sure you have enough of it, because it does run out.. Save paper as much as possible. I would avoid anything that uses power as much as possible, except for the radio of course, and that has to be low current.

Gil.

WA4STO

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2013, 02:25:35 PM »
I don't see how making my home a node in an information network enhances my family's security.

Understood, Frosty.  Definitely different strokes for sure.

In my case, it's definitely a matter of availing myself of information and "conditions" from afar.  From my point of view, it's of intense interest to learn that something is happening on one of the coasts that might well affect my family and I here in Nebraska.

At the same time, during "normal" times, my family can not only be more aware, but we can also provide an important part of the infrastructure so that others can avail themselves of the information that's out there, but might not be available otherwise.

To my mind, it's a win-win.  But I sure do understand your point.

Best 73

Luck, WA4STO

Frosty

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2013, 04:09:23 PM »
From my point of view, it's of intense interest to learn that something is happening on one of the coasts that might well affect my family and I here in Nebraska.

I hope this lid might find some way to help too. 

KC9TNH

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2013, 04:16:00 PM »
Whole post; great questions.
I have some LL's from a recent exercise, and about 40+ yrs working on my FOG diploma. Let me sanitize some thoughts. This'll be a nice break from playing with VOACAP.

Part 1 (not knowing the posting character limit)
FWIW, you're thinking right in terms of 99:1 ratio of info coming IN vs. potentially going out. And as gil says, KISS. (There's a reason that aircraft carrier people in the COC still stand around a table & move little model airplanes, because stuff happens and they have to KNOW the status of stuff.)

My first approach to your questions would be the old PACE acronym; for the unwashed or those that aren't vets on Big Sis' threat list, that's Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency. You don't need to make your home into an Emergency Operations Center. I got a chance awhile back to put in a tornado scenario; other planners had previously left it out after asking me what kind of straight-line winds our towers could take. Answer: "About a 140mph." So they assumed everything would be fine and moved on to injecting some other scenario. I got the chance later to remind them that actual towers seldom go down BUT all the horns hanging off 'em and their brackets can get beat to hell. Those little line-of-sight alignments go askew and, voila', no cell, no wide-area wireless, all kinds of things. You don't need a hysterical populace overloading 911 to have problems. So I got to watch a pretty experienced crew go gradually back to the stone-age. (And, yes, it was fun; ok, I'm twisted but their Crackberries went south too & they almost needed a 12-step program.)  ;D

Quote
There's just the Mrs and I (and two dogs) here, so a full 24X7 watch schedule isn't very realistic for more than a day or two.  Some distant family/friends may arrive, but can't count on that.  My current plan is for the person on security watch to monitor the immediate area from an indoor vantage point, but also monitor traffic on our radios/scanners at the same time.

Great start, use what you know you'll have. If others arrive, you'll want to vet them anyway as to whether they're of value, or better left making coffee. (If they're un-trainable in the art of making coffee, which is important, then you just assign them to feed & water the dogs who really ARE important as acoustic sensors.)

Quote
Thinking of getting a digital voice recorder with VOR for recording traffic we might otherwise miss or want to replay, a big map of the area (have a free source, so that's easy), a clipboard for notes, and maybe create a checkoff sheet to record normal/recurring events like police reporting in/out of service, automated repeater ID messages, utility company automated messages/pages, NOAA weekly tests, etc.

All the things you're thinking about are worth having or doing. Remember PACE. Yes, you want to keep things as simple as possible; if all you have is a kid's homework binder & some #2 pencils, well that's it. But DO NOT fail to use the technology you do have as long as you can. The thing that keeps backup measures and standing a watch viable are REPEATABLE things you do that are well-practiced by those doing them.  It doesn't mean that there's a tornado or flood or some isolated civil unrest & your first reaction is to take yourself back to the 19th century. (Maybe later.)

The idea of being able to quickly engage a voice recorder is excellent for at least a couple reasons. Watch officer may be busy doing something else important, hears something else in the background & can snag it, then come back to it. You may want it recorded for mutual interpretation when being relieved.  Another use for this capability is that it gives the person standing watch the ability to record something perhaps too lengthy to jot down to pass along at the handoff. When you use this capability, play it back at least once to make sure that the recorder works, and you said what you want.

I would recommend a couple different means of this; the little digi-voice device (the ones hated by obnoxious LEO's who made the youtube Oscars) and - if you have some kind of audio hookup to your computer from the radio - just fire up the little built-in recorder.  If not, no big deal.

I am a big fan of a simple written watch log and, again, the consistency of your practices - and keep them simple because simple is REPEATABLE AND SUSTAINABLE - makes things better all the way around.  If not doing 24x7, figure out what works. Whatever it is, whoever's tagged, that is where they belong. Stuff gets written in a log by the watch officer no matter what. There are things that should be done during a watch even if nothing bad happens.  "Checked the area all 4 compass areas - nothing noted."  Motion sensitive light came on; investigated, nice 10-pointer strolling by to browse the backyard."  "Checked charge status on battery systems & rotated."

Stuff like that, including when you get relieved, and the other person takes over and a FORMAL NOTATION of the handoff is made.  (This isn't a trivial thing, in practice that invests the person in something they now own, for better or worse.)  Forgive the source of my FOGness, but this is called a "battle rhythm" - TIP: this stuff also helps keep someone awake. Attached is a simple example that anyone who's been in the Army would recognize. Just gem up something that works for you, but simplicity is best. If you homebrew something, settle on it and print out a bunch while you have the chance. It doesn't have to be kept perfectly "neat" - the important part is in the middle, the INFORMATION. The person on watch should feel free to use as much as necessary to keep track of what's happening.  Frankly, if one thing fills up a page of this AND you've activated your voice recorder you should probably wake up the person who's your relief NOW - they can sleep later.

« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 05:55:35 PM by KC9TNH »

Geek

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2013, 05:43:07 PM »
I would personally advise staying away from technologically complicated options, like a computer, SD cards, etc. Complexity fails easily... Nothing beats paper and a pencil. Make sure you have enough of it, because it does run out.. Save paper as much as possible. I would avoid anything that uses power as much as possible, except for the radio of course, and that has to be low current.

Gil.

Excellent point.  I include pen and paper in each BOB.  A trip to Staples can cover a lot of communication and record keeping needs.

madball13

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2013, 05:50:36 PM »
I would personally advise staying away from technologically complicated options, like a computer, SD cards, etc. Complexity fails easily... Nothing beats paper and a pencil. Make sure you have enough of it, because it does run out.. Save paper as much as possible. I would avoid anything that uses power as much as possible, except for the radio of course, and that has to be low current.

Gil.

Excellent point.  I include pen and paper in each BOB.  A trip to Staples can cover a lot of communication and record keeping needs.

A rite in the rain notebook and pen is a great investment

KC9TNH

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2013, 05:53:16 PM »
Part 2

During the aforementioned migration of the 21st century EOC squirrels to the Pleistocene Age, one thing they dearly missed was an easel and butcher-block paper.  You have this covered with your dry-erase board and I would rather see 2 smaller ones than a big executive wall-hanger.  One for regular updated stuff, and a place of some kind to post or write things that may have a longer life.  Your idea of a map of the area, covered in something that allows a dry erase marker is pretty good.  If you cover a map in acetate draw it REEEEEALLLLLY tight. Dry-erase smears on lamination or acetate, it's not meant for that. Consider instead the old-fashioned grease pencil; keep a rag & some lighter fluid around to clean it up if needed. It really does work better on plastic than dry-erase, save that for the whiteboard.

On your map, which is on your board of whatever, put a pin of some kind with a long string attached to it and punch it right into your home location.  Then hashmark some intervals on the string that directly correspond with the map scale so you can use the string & quickly see "hmmm, how far is that?" which may influence a decision you need to make.

All the above takes actually very little in supplies.  Scotch tape, stapels, a simple 3-hole punch, pencils AND A MEANS TO SHARPEN THEM, simple spiral-bound kid's homework book as a "scribble" area for really temporary stuff. As you properly note, you're not collecting information for the world, but for you.  You're vacuuming up everything so you can do decision making for you & yours.

Be creative in what you listen to on the radio; it might be the public works guys (who like to chatter) rather than the police who give you the knowledge that, "hey we've got to close up this floodgate a bit for the homes downstream" and in that 1% mode you may need to monitor the collateral effect of them letting the water rise upstream & let them know if the water is beginning to affect you instead.

Here's one more super-Ninja emergency operations tip that makes for much more value in your preparedness:

AFTER you're aware that Situation-X is going on you need to discuss beforehand, and talk out examples of, what constitutes "white noise?"  That is, "other stuff" that you're going to hear that is really chaff to the grain you want, but can be distracting.  You will not be in a position to tell the other end to STFU, but you won't know until you hear it that it turns out to have no value.  So discuss things that are important and what's not ("dog at large, removed dog to the pound").  Between you & your bride (or other competent straphangers), it helps to understand the rhythm of "what does NORMAL sound like?"  Then you'll get a feel for what's important & what's a waste of your time. This stuff is part science, part black art.

For all, including any straphangers "helping" you out:
You get there well ahead of your shift so that the other person can a) go to the bathroom and as a result  b) give you a very relaxed & balanced brief on what happened and answer any questions AS YOU THOROUGHLY READ THEIR LOG because they may forget something they wrote down 6.5 hours ago because the voice-recorder went south. (If you toss my night's log on the table in a cavalier fashion without reading it I will toss your ass out.)

Hope some of these ramblings help the discussion. It is not the sophistication of the components used, but the consistency in using them, whether it's reloading ammo or assessing information. Most of all, make sure whatever you do is something that works for you & your bride.

This is the internet & maybe worth only what you paid for it.
:)

Frosty

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2013, 06:47:36 AM »
KC9TNH, I didn't make it past your first sentence without having to go check google.  VOACAP, what the heck is that?  Voice Of America Civil Air Patrol?   :)

Great info.. I haven't seen a grease pencil in many moons, but that's a good idea for lamination or glass.   The string to measure distances is another good idea, whether as the crow flies or for a twisting road.   So true on the simple and repeatable watch procedures too, have to try to find the sweet spot between BS busy work with no purpose and "your turn at watch, nothing to report" passdowns. 

it helps to understand the rhythm of "what does NORMAL sound like?"  Then you'll get a feel for what's important & what's a waste of your time. This stuff is part science, part black art.

Right, exactly.  Can't program the scanner and throw it in the faraday cage, have to practice listening for what's normal now so you'll recognize what isn't later.   Going to be confusing enough if the SHTF (especially if the Feds show up), have to be able to separate the wheat from the usual chaff.

Be creative in what you listen to on the radio; it might be the public works guys (who like to chatter) rather than the police who give you the knowledge that, "hey we've got to close up this floodgate a bit for the homes downstream" and in that 1% mode you may need to monitor the collateral effect of them letting the water rise upstream & let them know if the water is beginning to affect you instead.

Yep - road crews, power/utility companies, tow trucks, school bus, and taxicab frequencies usually provide more details.  The police (and fire frequently) stay pretty tight lipped, and "go to 800Mhz" when they want to keep info confidential around here.   The guy in the tow truck will just come out and say it, "there's a 4 car injury accident on northbound 391 near Elm and traffic is backed up for 2 miles.  They've got the jaws of life out.  Gonna take awhile to clear this up". 

Thanks for the pdf, might use that as is as the daily log.  Still thinking a separate checkoff sheet for the normal repeating events makes sense.   If there's a decreasing number of police reporting 10-8 (in service) for example, I want to know that.

You're vacuuming up everything so you can do decision making for you & yours.

Within reason anyway.  Like you said, not trying to set up an EOC - just want to try to stay one step ahead of things.

KC9TNH

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Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2013, 07:52:00 AM »
If there's a decreasing number of police reporting 10-8 (in service) for example, I want to know that.

You're vacuuming up everything so you can do decision making for you & yours.

Within reason anyway.  Like you said, not trying to set up an EOC - just want to try to stay one step ahead of things.
Yep, you're tracking. (The idea of where the local auth's are dispersed to, or what's sucking up their time,  or making them unavailable is good to know.)

The biggest point is "what meets my information needs?" and then add latitude for stuff that may cause a new lightbulb to go on.  Use whatever means you need to track whatever you need. YOU are the one building your picture of what's in your AO (or further away) that affects you & yours.

Happy trails.

Radio Preppers

Re: SHTF/WROL Radio Watchstanding
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2013, 07:52:00 AM »