Channel 3 Project

Since the average citizen is NOT an Amateur Radio operator, there is a need to have a standardized method of being able to communicate with one another.  Nearly everyone has at least one form of communication requiring no license to operate: CB, FRS/GMRS, or MURS radios.  There is a movement in the prepping community to setup an emergency communications protocol that will allow people to communicate during a situation when communications are down. Because this link-up protocol is being distributed among various circles, if someone needed assistance they have the highest probability of linking up with someone of like-mind, even if the two parties did not personally know each other prior that moment.

Enter the Channel 3 project. The channel three project is where people will monitor the radio on the threes-

  • FRS/GMRS Channel 3 – 462.6125 Mhz
  • MURS Channel 3 – 151.940 Mhz
  • Ham Radio (simplex) – 146.520 Mhz
  • CB channel 3 – 26.985 MHz

Do NOT use sub-channels, TCS, or “privacy” codes

Make Contact In 3 – 2 – 1
– 3  (Turn your radio on and set it to Channel 3)
– 2  (Attempt to broadcast for approximately 2 minutes)
– 1  (Attempt again every 1 HOUR, on the hour, to save batteries)

If there is a real emergency, you could also monitor the channel threes to give assistance to others in need. To save batteries, monitor for 5 minutes on each side of the hour to increase the chances of hearing another prepper who may be communicating using the “Make Contact In 3-2-1” method. Some operators are monitoring every three hours, some every hour, others will do so continuously. It depends on each radio operators resources and battery capacity.

Remember, when making contact with someone you don’t know, always proceed with caution. Especially during an emergency or SHTF situation. Don’t allow someone inside of your perimeter that you do not know.

Etiquette dictates that if we simply use these frequencies for monitoring and calling others, we can keep the chatter to a minimum and people will be able to monitor these frequencies 24/7 in case of emergencies for important information.

Because this emergency protocol is being distributed among the prepping community, users have a high probability of linking up with someone. The purpose can be either for relaying important or emergency communications or simply conversing with community members as a block watch program.

This project does not take the place of calling 911 in the event of an emergency if you are able to do so. This is an information service when cell or landline communications are out of service during an emergency or any sort of SHTF situation.

In a local, regional or national emergency, traditional communication networks may be overloaded or even nonexistent.  As has been proven time and again Amateur Radio has proven to be the only dependable means of communication.
While a test and license are required to operate a “ham” radio under the current rule of law, there are other means of communication. I have already posted a comprehensive guide to the different radio frequencies.
Hams typically have local “practice nets”; predetermined times and frequencies where they reach out to one another.  Some nets are associated with the Channel 3 Project, where participants will take a break and switch over to channel 3 of CB, FRS, etc. in an attempt to contact local citizens. This is the opportunity for hams to relay any news to the citizenry, and, in exchange, find out about local conditions such as road closures, civil unrest, etc. 

Pass this along. Keep it in mind.

Communications Plan

There is a reason for all of the HAM radio posts of late. Since I am moving within a few months, I need to rework the communications plan for the homestead. Since we are moving more than 30 miles away, there will be a new set of repeaters, a new fire department and police department to deal with, and other things. So I just broke out the programming software for the mobile radio (a Yaesu FTM400) as well as for the Baofeng handhelds, and I am busy reprogramming all of the new frequencies into the radios.

Then next time we are down checking out the progress on the house, I will also check to see if I can hit the repeaters I want to use.

I won’t even begin to set up the base station until I can see what antennas I will be able to put on the property. That won’t be until after we move.

HAM Repeaters

When communication by cell phones stops working, most of us can (and should) be able to switch to radios. Still, radio to radio direct communication in the VHF and UHF bands is generally limited to a few miles. To go beyond that, either HF frequencies need to be used, or some sort of a repeater is needed. The issue with HF is that it requires long antennas and is dependent on atmospheric conditions. Not a big deal if we are talking about base stations, but handheld and vehicle mounted radios are VHF or UHF for that reason.

Repeaters allow HAM radios in the VHF and UHF bands to “talk” beyond the horizon. We have already talked about the SARNET, but there are local and regional repeater nets that give quite good coverage. For example, here is the one for west central Florida, centered around Tampa Bay. Just five repeaters cover the entire area.

The yellow circles are the area covered by 5 watt handheld radios, the outer circles are 50 watt mobile radios.

There are over 700 repeaters in the state of Florida alone. There is an excellent tool here that allows you to look for the repeaters in your area on a map. It isn’t complete, but it is very useful. Whenever I go somewhere, I always make sure that I have a list of repeaters for emergencies.

I was once in Maine on a fishing trip when we happened upon a car accident in a very remote area where there was no cell phone service. I was able to get the repeater in Millinocket, which was over 50 miles away, and called for help.


In Florida, SARNET is a network of HAM radio repeaters in the 70cm band (. They are all connected, so activating one repeater ensures that your traffic will be heard statewide. A list of SARNET repeaters can be found here. Anyone who is a licensed HAM radio operator can use it in analog mode only, as long as the state disaster centers haven’t closed the net due to an emergency or other disaster, but it’s important to remember that anything you say will be broadcast across the entire state. Here is the coverage map:

It’s a great way to find someone that is a HAM operator, and then direct them to another means of communication. Long conversations are discouraged on SARNET. The network voice radio usage is intended to be short communications between users. During long conversations you are activating all of the SARNET repeaters across the state for an extended period of time, subjecting all of the hams in the state to a conversation that they have no interest in. Long local conversations are encouraged to move off of SARNET and onto another repeater that does not activate the net. Still, it’s a great way for a HAM in Key West to quickly contact one in Pensacola. Here is a video to explain it:

Another great use is calling a Mayday if you are in an emergency, because you are guaranteed to get a response if every HAM and EOC in the state can hear you.

Communications Training and Gear

With things appearing to deteriorate on a constant basis, I think that it is a good idea for this blog to be a bit more proactive in not just commentary, but in tidbits that people can use. After all, that is why I store and distribute training manuals with the link that the top of the site. With that in mind, I want to put more information out there.

Let’s do communications for this post. 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.

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.

A HAM radio running low power on VHF or UHF would be audible for less than a mile or two, making interception a difficult process, at best. A high quality handheld radio that is capable of both the VHF and UHF bands can be bought for about $20. I bought a few of these to loan out to people in an emergency. You can get a nicer one for $70, and that is the one I use. I still own a nicer, far more expensive Yaesu that cost me almost $400, but I have found that the Baofeng works just as well at a fraction of the cost.

I am currently reading “The Guerrilla’s Guide To The Baofeng Radio” and I think it is a great book, full of both technical and practical tips to using this radio. It’s well worth the $23 it cost me. There are other ways to communicate, and we will talk about them later.

Now, the disclaimer: I don’t advertise, and receive nothing for my reviews or articles. I have no relationship with any products, companies, or vendors that I review here, other than being a customer. If I ever *DO* have a financial interest, I will disclose it. Otherwise, I pay what you would pay. No discounts or other incentives here. I only post these things because I think that my readers would be interested.


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.