InReach

I just came across this handy little gadget, and I can’t believe I had not seen it sooner. We talked about emergency communications the other day, and this product line from Garmin looks pretty amazing. It is a GPS device with built in satellite communications. That is some Star Trek communicator shit right there.

The equipment allows you to send your location, an SOS, and even two way text messages via satellite. The only real drawback is cost. There is a monthly subscription fee that ranges from $15 up. The devices themselves cost between $300 and $600. Steep.

I’m telling you that if I regularly travelled far outside of cell range, this would be a sure thing. As it is, I am not sure I can justify the cost for my travel habits now, but if I were still doing the offshore boating or backcountry hiking thing, I would already have one.

I know this post reads like a commercial, but it isn’t. As usual, I accept no advertising. I just occasionally come across products that I think are interesting and would be of value to my readers. I have no relationship with Garmin or Amazon, other than being a customer. In this case, I don’t even own this product, although I am really thinking about it.

Prepping: Communications

For nearly 20 years, I have spread the word that communications were lost in disasters. I learned during Hurricane Charley in 2004 that there is a need for communications. Cell service was out for weeks. With no way to reach the outside world or communicate with family members, checking on each other was a severe handicap. So I added getting a HAM license as a step in my preparedness campaign. It was a simple test, and a $10 fee for the license, and you don’t even need to know Morse code. In exchange, I got a license that allows me to operate radios that have enough reach for most disaster communications.

Some try to rely on CB radios. Try it, you won’t be happy. There are only 40 channels, but millions of CB radios. It’s an unregulated wasteland. In the best of times, the channels are clogged with people running illegally high power levels (in some cases over a thousand watts) and effectively jamming the airwaves with nonsense, just because they enjoy being assholes. The last time I listened, there was a guy on Channel 19 who was broadcasting an anti-Trump rant for over an hour. Nonstop, making Ch 19 unusable. There is another group who makes a hobby of doing the same on Channel 6. So CB is out.

Some opt for FMRS radios. With 22 channels and only 2 watts, the limited power and channel options mean clogged communications and short range.

In my opinion, GMRS or HAM radios is the better option. Each has its own benefits and issues. There is a third, better option out there, and we will get to that in a minute.

GMRS advantages:

  • The license is only $35 for 10 years, one license is good for an entire family, and no testing is required
  • GMRS licensees can operate repeaters, which will extend your range.
  • Can use up to 50 watts, but handhelds normally are 5 watts or less

GMRS disadvantages

  • There are only 30 channels on 22 frequencies, and they are shared with FMRS radios. This means possibly clogged channels
  • GMRS licenses are only good for members of the same household. Different houses require a separate license

There is also HAM radio. Advantages:

  • Thousands of channels to choose from, even in just the 2 meter and 70 cm bands
  • License needed, but only $15 for ten years
  • Less congested than other radio services
  • Can be used to patch into telephone service
  • Can be used in digital modes to connect to Internet, transmit pictures, or other data to other digital HAM sets

HAM disadvantages

  • One license per person is required, and there is a test
  • more technically demanding.
  • Radios have a lot of capabilities, but can be complicated to operate and program
  • Required to speak plainly. Code phrases are not permitted

Radios are cheap, and can be as easy or as complicated as you need them to be. You can get a GMRS radio that has three controls and doesn’t need programming for only $50 or so. The only controls are on/volume, channel selector, and push to talk button.

Then there is the third option. The best of both worlds, and the one that I have selected: Programmable radios.

Get yourself a HAM license AND your family a GMRS license and buy a mixture of radios. This allows you to have all of the advantages of FMRS, GMRS, and HAM while allowing you to circumvent the issues of all three.

Get programmable radios.

  • They can be had for as little as $45 each. They come pre-programmed for the GMRS channels, and your family members who need to communicate with them can do so with very little training.
  • If used within the FMRS power restrictions, non family members can legally borrow and use them
  • Some, like the Baofeng UV5R, can be programmed for HAM channels, meaning that those with a HAM license can use them for all three services
  • Adding a GMRS repeater gives you a lot more range and flexibility, can be used as a base station, and costs less than $220.

Possessing the two licenses allows for great flexibility. You could use GMRS on your street to communicate between houses. The ones who are more technically inclined could serve as “communications specialists” and communicate between streets that are several, or even dozens of miles apart. Use your imagination.

PACE plan

Your communications. The way that we communicate with the outside world. Think for a moment how you do that and how important that is. How robust are your communications? What would your life look like, if it was all taken from you? Once you realize that, you can look at your own situation and plan for the loss of some or most of your communications.

The PACE acronym is a great way to remember your communications plan. Let me explain: PACE is an acronym for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. Whenever communications between two parties are important, that line of communications will progress through those four stages until communications are reestablished. PACE is how we designate the order in which the parties move through available communications systems until contact can be established between the two parties.

Just how critical the line of communications is between those two parties will dictate how many steps are used. Ideally each method will be completely separate and independent of the other systems of communication. As an example, let’s look at a sample of communications between two parties:

  • Primary: This is the primary means that contact is made. It is monitored continuously. In our example, we know that the two parties constantly carry cell phones, so they have chosen to primarily communicate using cell phones to send text messages and/or phone calls.
  • Alternate: This is a secondary means of communication that is monitored nearly continuously. It uses, but does not require, cell phones. In this case, our two parties use email sent over the Internet.
  • Contingency: This method will not be as fast, easy, or convenient as the first two methods, but is capable of accomplishing the task. The parties rarely monitor this method. In this case, our two parties have agreed that they will reach each other by using radios. They have also agreed upon a channel/frequency plan that will be used to communicate.
  • Emergency: This is a method of reestablishing contact of last resort and typically has significant delays, costs, and/or impacts. Often only monitored when the other means fail. In the case of our two individuals, they have agreed to communicate by means of messages that will be left with at known trusted location (think geo caching, or a dead drop) A message might read: “Hey Skunk: I’m doing well. I will be at drop 6 in three days. Meet me in three days by arriving at point Chevy and calling on Channel Green. Booger sends”

Make sure that you have a way to reach those important to you. Make sure those communication paths are redundant. Make sure that they are secure. The time to plan is now. Hat tip to Aesop for the post idea.

Communications idiocy

Russel G., in response to this morning’s training video pointed to this video.

Now let me explain why the guy in this video is a tool.

His warnings are silly. He says that communications are useless because reasons. He then lists five of them. Let me explain why this guy is a clueless idiot:

1 The number one reason for not having communications, according to this idiot, is that you don’t have other preps taken care of. “You ain’t got a well. What if utilities go down because the Russians hacked it?” A radio won’t help you because you and none of your buddies have any preps except radios, gold coins, and ammo. Is this guy new to prepping? Does he think that he is the first guy to think of the five basics? (Food, Shelter, Weapons, Communications, Water)

2 No matter how much comms gear you have, there will be no one to talk to. Well the same would go for owning guns, or any other prep. Guess what? For about $350, you can buy ten BAOFENG radios, the programming cable, and the software. Now you have ten people to talk to.

3 He says radios don’t work because the people who own these radios are too stupid to know how to use them, or have the software to program their radios.

4 In point 4, he claims that they will RDF your radio, match it to the cell phone you are carrying, track that for weeks, then use that to raid 47 of your compatriots at once.

  • This is dumb as well. See 5a and 5b, below. Even if they started doing this, imagine the fun that could be had with a couple of decoy radios planted in the cars, homes, or office buildings of random targets.

5 In this point, he imagines a situation where a person keys up the mic on his VHF radio, an RDF unit locates it, then directs massive firepower on to the transmitter’s location. There are multiple problems with this scenario.

a. If you are using the UV-5R, why would you use a special frequency out in the middle of nowhere, where the OPFOR would be certain it was a target? The strength of the little guy in assymetric warfare is that he can blend into the background. Why stay in the woods when you can stay in the middle of town and use a GMRS or baby monitor frequencies? Do you see them flattening an entire grid square in the middle of Atlanta because they detected one of several million GMRS radios transmitting?

b. VHF is line of sight, and this is low power we are talking about. Thanks to physics, in order for ANY force to reliably RDF on it, they have to be within a few miles. Each RDF unit would only be able to detect in an area of about 30 square miles. Now imagine trying to cover the state of say, Tennessee with an RDF unit every 30 square miles. 24x7x365. How manpower intensive is that? Couple that with the billions of radio transmitters there are out there, and you see the scope of the problem in the enemy telling the difference between the sheep and the goats.

c. Even if they started doing this, imagine the fun that could be had with a decoy transmitter placed next to something the rebels want to destroy. A water plant, some power transmission lines, or a dam. It’s like having the enemy supply your artillery and demolitions for you.

The biggest threat isn’t RDF. It isn’t that you will have no one to talk to. In fact, the biggest threat is none of the things he mentioned. The biggest threat is that one of the people in your communications network has been compromised and is actually an informer. That is true even if you don’t have radios.

His entire video is just a variation of “you can’t fight the government because they have F-15s and nukes and you don’t.”

Radio Training

You have all taken my advice and gotten your HAM radio license, right? A technician license is easy to get. A 2 meter handheld radio can reach several kilometers and costs less than $50. Start thinking about communications methods that don’t include the Internet.

Assuming that you have already gotten that license and a radio, here is a 20 minute lesson on how to use the Baofeng UV-5R handheld radio.

HAM radio

A woman in North Central Florida has demanded that a HAM radio operator in her neighborhood stop using his equipment because it is interfering with her insulin pump.

This is bullshit. According to the FCC database, the HAM operator in question has a callsign of WB9UYK. He lives at 8546 SW 79th Ave, and has since June of 2019. The woman who is complaining lives at 8566 SW 79th. Ave, according to voter records. Using Google maps, the two houses are 74 feet apart, at their closest.

If I were the HAM operator, I would demand an engineer’s assessment showing that MY equipment was the cause of the interference. There is a Reddit thread on this one. Greybeard: if you see this, what do you think?

EDIT: There is also a thread on QRZ.

Communications

Earlier today, there was a story that broke about the Biden Administration, with their corporate partners in a Mussolini style fascist agreement, shutting down the public square by silencing SMS messages that are contrary to Big Brother’s message.

This isn’t the first time that these conspirators have silenced opposition:

It is difficult to fight and resist oppression if you cannot communicate. You also don’t want the secret police rolling you up too easily. When the DOJ was conspiring to overthrow Trump, they were well aware of the NSA’s capabilities, yet they chose to communicate with each other through HAM radios to coordinate this effort, even though such use was in violation of Federal law.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The National Security Agency (NSA) picks up and records almost all electronic communications, thereby effectively wiretapping telephone conversations, email, and practically everything else we send out electronically. What the NSA doesn’t get, their partners in social media and at Google do.

The wife of a Deputy Director of the DOJ was coordinating this attempted coup, and would be well aware of the NSA’s capabilities. There are many technical reasons why spying on HAM radio would be a nearly impossible task. Just by using the frequencies and methods permitted to a person with a Technician license, there are thousands of available channels. Toss in the various modes like Digital, SSB, USB, AM, FM, CW, etc., and then consider that the higher frequencies are short range and would require hundreds of listening stations in every state, and it becomes a very difficult proposition to monitor HAM radio.

Insert basic tradecraft where a message is inserted into an innocent sounding conversation, and there is no practical way to shut down or monitor communications. It also becomes impossible to monitor a quick message through traffic analysis, if the operators do not identify, the conversation is short, and the transmitters mobile.

The coup plotters know this, and this is why they chose to communicate that way. This is how the pros do it.

A technician license is easy to get. A 2 meter handheld radio can reach several kilometers and costs less than $50. Start thinking about communications methods that don’t include the Internet.

Don’t you see that things are only going to get worse? There is no voting out of this, and no one is coming to save you. Time is short, and preparations need to be rushed to completion.

Code cards

As a follow up to my communication frequencies post, a continuation of my communication series:

The conspirators who were responsible for the Fusion GPS dossier and wiretapping of the NYC election headquarters of Trump’s campaign were using HAM radios to communicate and coordinate this effort, in violation of Federal law. No one at the FCC cared.

Then word came down that people involved in the January 6 Capitol incursion were using HAM radios, so the FCC decided to begin looking out for that. Because of this, any communications that we are conducting need to be encoded in such a way as to not appear to be a code.

The answer to that is in cryptonyms. Setting up a cryptonym system is easy. All it takes is to setup a set of codewords that can be used in a sentence.

People pick up pseudonyms that don’t sound like pseudonyms. Generating them is as easy as using a random name generator. Locations can also be generated. You can give a place a random person’s name. Actions can receive a random verb.

When you transmit, you can still use your callsign:

This is WX4 NNE. John Davidson, are you there? (John Davidson doesn’t exist. That name is a code word for an asset you want to send a message to)

Another station answers:

This is KK2 WXA. John is helping Karen Bartow this weekend with her tennis game. He said he would see you on Monday at the gym.

Now the asset “John Davidson” just told you that he met the asset “Karen Bartow” this weekend at the Walmart on 23rd street (code named tennis court) and would update you by Monday by leaving the information at the dead drop (code named “the gym”).

You get the point. Use your imagination.

Common Radio Freqs

In the event of a complete loss of communication, here are the channels that I will monitor/use. There is little to be lost by putting these out here, because a quick frequency scan by anyone who wants to listen will find them as soon as you transmit, anyway.

Citizen’s Band
Channel 9 | CB9 | 27.065 | AM | Channel 9
Channel 19 | CB19 | 27.1850 | AM | Channel 19
Channel 22 | CB22 | 27.2250 | AM | Channel 22

FRS Channels
BAND| CHANNEL |FREQUENCY MHZ | MODE| ALPHA TAG
UHF |FRS 1 ===| 462.5625 | FM | FOX 1
UHF |FRS 2 ===| 462.5875 | FM | FOX 2
UHF |FRS 3 ===| 462.6125 | FM | FOX 3
GMRS
BAND| CHANNEL |FREQUENCY MHZ | MODE| ALPHA TAG
UHF |GMRS 15==| 462.5500 | FM | GANG 1
UHF |GMRS 16==| 462.5750 | FM | GANG 2
UHF |GMRS 17==| 462.6000 | FM | GANG 3
MARINE
VHF |MARINE 3 | 156.1500 | FM | BASIC 3
VHF |MARINE 72| 156.6250 | FM | BASIC 7

MURS Channels
BAND| CHANNEL |FREQUENCY MHZ | MODE| APLHA TAG
VHF |MURS 3 ==| 151.9400 | FM | MUSIC 3
VHF |MURS 4 ==| 154.5700 | FM | MUSIC 4
VHF |MURS 5 ==| 154.6000 | FM | MUSIC 5

HAM VHF/UHF BANDS
BAND| CHANNEL |FREQUENCY MHZ | MODE| APLHA TAG
2 METER |”652” | 146.520 | FM SIMPLEX | SIX FIVE TWO*
2 METER |RED | 147.250 | FM SIMPLEX | RED
2 METER |PURPLE| 144.850 | FM SIMPLEX | PURPLE
70 cm |GREEN | 424.250 | FM SIMPLEX | GREEN
70 cm | BLUE | 432.350 | FM SIMPLEX | BLUE
70 cm | 600 | 446.000 | FM SIMPLEX | SIX HUNDRED*

*Channels “600” at 446.000mHz and “652” at 146.5200 mHz are both channels commonly monitored by amateur radio operators.