Emergency Communications: Time is short to get comms up and running!

Emergency Communications: Time is short to get comms up and running!

From the Desk of Paul Stramer
Montana Comm Leader for Oath Keepers

NOTE:  Paul will be a presenter on our public webinar on emergency communications and EMP Protection, this Monday night, Oct. 24, 2016, at 8PM Central.  Go here to sign up for that webinar.

 

ham-radio-antenna-towerWith the announcement on October 11, 2016 by Stewart Rhodes of a new Patriot Truckers Division named “Oath Keepers Highway Recon Team” or HRT, I have been asked to help organize some of the systems that will be used to network the truckers and everyone involved in passing information in the Oath Keepers organization.  Here is the announcement on the Oath Keepers website:
https://www.oathkeepers.org/truckers-program/ 

Oath Keepers will be using several systems on the Internet and portable phones, along with CB and ham radio, but this article is primarily concerned with Grid Down radio communications.

As many of you know, I am in the communications business full time and have been for over 20 years now. I am also a general class amateur and a volunteer examiner #1524 for ham radio licensing. Here in Eureka Montana we have been adding new ham radio operators at a steady pace for over 8 years now and formed our first ham club in this area almost 20 years ago. We did this because of the looming crisis in the world. In that time we have helped over 300 people get their licenses in the area.

I have always insisted that the FCC rules from the very beginning have been designed for emergency and safety communications, and allow licensed ham radio operators to do things that others cannot do. That includes operating out of band, or with otherwise prohibited power when people’s lives and property are in danger.

To back that up I present here a letter from the ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League) that clarifies this issue per the FCC rules.  http://www.lincolncountywatch.org/hamguidelines.pdf

Notice that I said “licensed amateurs”. There are many reasons for requiring that radio operators be licensed to operate on the ham bands and other bands in normal times, or in emergencies.

Ham radio can be either a tremendous asset or it can be a big liability, depending on whether you know what you are doing, or not. By that I mean that a bunch of people who don’t know what they are doing can create so much interference with orderly communications protocols that the frequency becomes a hodgepodge of chatter and unusable noise. For evidence of that just tune in the CB band. It can also mean that people can become endangered by the very communications that are supposed to help them save the lives and property of the people they were trying to benefit.

There is no excuse for anyone not getting their ham license. The license is free, the study course costs only about $30, and the test materials cost only $5 – $12 in most places. The test is multiple choice. On the technician class test there are only 35 questions, and you can get 9 wrong and still pass the test. There is no longer any requirement on any ham test to learn morse code. We have given the technicians test to people as young as 8 years with good results.

For great places to study for your ham license examination use the free practice tests at http://www.qrz.com/hamtest/ or at http://www.eham.net/exams/

At this point I always get the same questions. Why should I trade in a right for a privilege, and why would I want to let government know who I am? Let me try to answer.

First, radio waves do NOT respect any borders. They go where they will. You can argue that government should not be involved in making rules about radio saying that it’s “not in the US constitution”. There are a couple of things about that. One is that it IS in the US Constitution that government must protect our borders. That includes invasion. Radio waves can be used to invade also. I believe that it is within the realm of government constitutionally to protect AMERICA’S INVENTION of radio from invasion and incursion by ANY foreign power, and to that end there are treaties with other countries involving the allocation of frequencies and usage of those that are rightly entered into by the FCC, and have been, almost from the beginning of the invention of radio communications.

The second point is this. You don’t want to unnecessarily twist the tiger’s tail. People do that with the driver’s license VS the right to travel, and some end up in jail for a while, when there are much more important issues to fight about. The same applies here. I don’t see any licensed hams going to jail because they want to use radio in an emergency, or simply because they have the ham ticket in their pocket.

The third is about staying under the radar where federal agencies are concerned. Guess what. There are almost one MILLION licensed hams just in North America alone. That, friends is good cover, and cover enough for the purpose of preparedness. What are they going to do? Do you think they could try to make criminals of all those hams with the stoke of a pen, and if they did, do you think they could physically enforce that? On the contrary, they would be way in over their heads, and they know it.

If you want to find any ham radio operator that has a license just do a search here with your zip code. http://www.qrz.com   When you apply for your license use a PO Box, not your physical address.

Go study, and when the interactive software says to schedule your test look up some local hams with the qrz.com site search link and ask them when the next test will be and where.  You don’t have to have the callsign to own the right equipment, or to listen to what is going on out on the ham bands. You do need it when you push the transmit button.

We also recommend you get a GMRS license. GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service. You can just BUY a license for about $65 without any test, that is good for 5 years, and can be used for business as well as personal uses. There are 8 channels available with wideband, full modulation on UHF at around 462.000 mHz. The license is good for the whole family, and each license can have their own repeater. We are putting up a GMRS repeater in Eureka soon, in addition to about 9 other repeaters we already have.

See all the ham repeaters in the country here:  http://www.artscipub.com/repeaters/  These repeaters greatly increase the range of your handheld or mobile radios, sometimes out to 100 or more miles radius from the repeater site.

See all the police, sheriff, and other emergency frequencies here:   http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/   

You might want to get a scanner from our radio store at http://www.fm2way.com/scan.htm so you can listen to what is happening in your area, especially in any emergency situation. Your life might depend on it some day.

My recommendations to get licensed STANDS notwithstanding all the comments I will get on this article, from our readers, about not wanting to get ANY licenses for ANYTHING because they would be trading in a right for a government privilege.  Just write your comments and I will answer them with some good reasoning on this. The rest of this will deal with what to do after you have your license.

What kind of radio should you buy?
To start with you will need a handheld dual band FM transceiver that covers at least the 2 meter and the 70 CM bands. And it would be best if that radio was also type accepted by the FCC to cover the business bands just above both of those bands. Band refers to a group of frequencies designated by the FCC for certain purposes.

The 2 meter ham band covers 144 – 148 Mhz (that is megahertz, or million cycles per second) The business band above that is the VHF business band and covers 150 – 174 Mhz.

Correspondingly there are two bands on UHF also. The ham band is 70cm (centimeters) from 430 – 450 Mhz, and the business band above that at 450 – 470 Mhz. All these frequencies (bands of frequencies) can be covered by ONE radio. We recommend and are using the Anytone 3208 U/V which fills all these requirements. Find it here: http://www.fm2way.com/fmhand.htm This radio will also do the GMRS band and comes programmed for your area.

You will be very pleasantly surprised at how well these small radios perform. I have talked up to 10 miles with just a handheld, to another handheld, and much further to a base, mobile, or repeater.

What is a repeater?

A repeater is a radio that is located at a very advantageous location like the top of a mountain, that listens on one frequency, and instantly transmits what it hears on another higher or lower frequency,  in real time. That allows you to extend your range up to the footprint of that particular repeater. Most of our repeaters are either solar powered or have a battery back up system that will allow them to stay on the air for weeks during an emergency. Some of our repeaters have a footprint of up to 150 miles or more.

There are literally THOUSANDS of repeaters in America.

All of these handheld units use FM modulation. Modulation is the method of putting an intelligence on the signal that can be converted back to audio so you can hear what the guy on the other end is saying. FM is frequency modulation, or varying the frequency of the signal a very little bit so a detector in the receiver of the listening radio can re-create sound. FM is very impervious to noise, and to other weaker signals, so it’s usually either pretty clear, or it’s not there so it can be heard.

That makes for very quiet radio operation with little interference from things like alternators in a vehicle, or power lines, like you would hear on CB which usually uses AM or amplitude modulation, which varies the “strength” of the signal.

Groups of hams can monitor several frequencies at the same time by using a feature called SCAN which rotates around several channels (with a different frequency in each channel) and when someone talks on one of the channels being monitored the scan stops and locks on that channel. At that point if you want to continue on that conversation you can press an exit key or touch the transmit button and the radio stays on that channel. When you are done listening you can start up the scan and monitor all again.

Please watch this video about the possibilities of various types of radios that can be used for safety communications. This is published by AmRRon, which stands for The American Redoubt Radio Operators Network.  https://amrron.com/  

I am MTOathkeeper on the AmRRon network, and a General Class Amateur radio operator with a callsign of KC7MEZ.  I am also a volunteer examiner for ham radio with a VE number of 1524.  See my station here:  http://www.kc7mez.com  The page gives a good overview of what we are trying to do with Oath Keepers. It also shows some of the alternative energy we like to use to power these ham stations.

In the announcement of the Truckers HRT division you will see a map, and after watching the above video it should be easy to see how these communications teams can be structured. We don’t give out the specific details for obvious reasons but if you are a member of one of the truckers teams, and have been vetted then there will be further explanations of how we do this on the radio. You can Join the HRT here:   https://www.oathkeepers.org/truckers-program/

The following video will give you an idea of what the bands will be like in an actual emergency. Everyone will want to talk at the same time, and it will take some practice to make any real communications traffic out of what we call a pile up.  This operator has a unique situation in that every time he gets on the air he has to deal with a pile up. But this is what it will be like when trying to communicate with radio when we have a “failure of civility” in our country.

To try to ease the pain in a real emergency we have band plans that will help to get the emergency traffic to the most people.  But nothing will prepare you for this except EXPERIENCE and familiarity with your equipment and some emergency communications protocols knowledge. There is no substitute for experience and practice.

Oathkeepers band plan:
http://www.lincolncountywatch.org/emergencycommplan.pdf

Click this link for a nice ham radio bands chart:

http://www.amrron.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Hambands_color.pdf

 

WHAT ABOUT ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE (EMP)? 

OK, now lets look at EMP protection.  One of the best short articles I have seen on this was written a few years ago by one of our hams in North Idaho.
http://www.lincolncountywatch.org/faradycages.pdf

Protecting your expensive equipment against an EMP attack is not an exact science, since a deliberate EMP attack has never been done so that we have any real time experience of the results, but much testing has been done that does indicate what could happen. The above article is just a small overview but provides some inexpensive solutions on a practical level that can protect spare equipment you already have.

One of the most detailed discussions of this topic I have read is here:

http://www.futurescience.com/emp/emp-protection.html

 

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A HAM LICENSE? 

Now a bit of practical information for local people that are NOT ham radio operators.

Even before you get your ham license, you can use Family Radio Service (FRS) and Multiple User Radio Service (MURS) frequencies without a license.   The good news is that dual band radios, such as the cheap handheld Baofenge UV5R, can use all of the above frequencies and are a good choice to use once you have your ham license.   And because those radios are so cheap, you can have a few extras (the more the better) and keep them in a faraday cage, to hand out to your neighbors once the balloon goes up.   They will be useful no matter what your skill level is, and their utility will only go up as you learn more.

This video is found on the AmRRon website at this location.

https://amrron.com/communications-resources/ch3-project/

Stations like the one at www.KC7MEZ.com will be monitoring all these frequencies after civil unrest starts.

If you have a CB, don’t throw it out, get an antenna and put it on the air, especially in your vehicles. If you don’t get one here:  http://www.fm2way.com/cb.htm   I recommend the Uniden PRO 510 or 520 for a simple low cost CB because we have used them for over 23 years in logging trucks and contractors pickups with very good results. They are tough, and have a full metal cabinet.
If you are a trucker and need a Single Sideband CB the one I recommend is the Galaxy DX959. This is the one I run on my base station to monitor Ch3.  It’s a completely legal CB with 12 watts output on SSB, which gives about a 3 times range boost over a straight AM CB radio with 4 watts output. We will talk more about Single Sideband in a future article.

Suffice it to say that with proper training, and the right equipment, you will be a big asset to your community and the safety and well being of your neighbors as well as your family in any emergency. To that end I hope you will ask lots of questions about Ham radio, and here is the phone number you can call to get personal attention to those questions. 800 889 2839

Again, The Cardinal Rule of Radio is  “Ask lots of questions”.

Paul Stramer   http://www.fm2way.com/
One of many National Commo leaders for Oath Keepers.
pstramer@eurekadsl.net
pstramer@gmail.com

 

Comments

  1. Jimbo 22 October, 2016, 03:19

    The link to the webinar does not work.

    Reply this comment
    • Elias Alias Author 22 October, 2016, 03:41

      Thank you for letting me know. I’ve resent the email with a repaired link. The link in the article here at the site does work, and it works now in the 2nd copy of that email I just sent out. Hope you make the call, and thank you for being here.
      Salute!
      Elias Alias, editor

      Reply this comment
  2. InalienableWrights 22 October, 2016, 10:56

    There are HUGE reasons for not getting licensed. One might be to avoid a FEMA camp. I can see the Feds picking up all HAMS as they are a threat to their monopoly on communications. Another HUGE reason might be that the Constitution does not authorize the Feds at all to get involved in thai matter.

    Reply this comment
    • JP 7 March, 2017, 04:24

      When SHTF really happens, who do you think the government will look for first, licensed or unlicensed? When SHTF really happens, ALL BETS ARE OFF !

      Reply this comment
  3. Joe in Missouri 22 October, 2016, 10:59

    How is licensing me. protecting our borders?
    You logic is about as convoluted as the Filburn v Wick decision about
    growing corn on ones own property,

    Reply this comment
  4. pstramer 22 October, 2016, 13:22

    Two questions that seem to be heavy from InalienableWrights and Joe in Missouri.

    First the Fema camp. How will having a ham license be an automatic ticket to a FEMA camp? Are you an Oath Keeper member? Do you vote in any elections? Are you a Republican? Do you sign a 1040 form? Do you visit conservative websites on your computer? Do you visit the Oath Keepers website? Do you have guns? Have you bought them at a gun store and filled out a 4473 form, EVER. Do you have a concealed carry permit?
    The point is there are many things we have all done that might give them an excuse, and since they are lawless, and we are law abiding, they are looking for ways we don’t comply with their codes and statutes and regulations. Transmitting on an unauthorized frequency (not having a license) is one of those excuses they will use. So eventually it’s going to push comes to shove anyway.
    Another aspect is that if you are not using your radio every day or several times per week, you are NOT going to be familiar enough with it’s operation that in a clutch situation you will know what to do without hesitation and confusion. It takes more than a little practice to get proficient at communicating. Owning the radio is step one. Getting a license, but more importantly the training that goes with getting the license is absolutely critically important to your ability to be a communicator. The Constitution does not authorize a LOT OF THINGS the feds are doing? So pick your battles carefully. This is not one of the battles you can win outside of pure violent confrontation. It will be a lot bigger excuse for the feds to pick you up and put you in the FEMA camp for NOT HAVING a ham license and using a radio, then it will be for having one and using it within their own regulations as we all are…
    It’s not paranoia when the threat is real, but until they are actually disappearing people off the street for no apparent reason, I see no real threat by having a ham license now, and complying with their regs on it’s use. Once this escalates to the night of the long knives the license won’t matter anyway because we will be in a civil war by that time, started by the enemies of American, our own government, and whether you go to a FEMA camp will be entirely on YOU and nobody else. If you want to try to stay out of the FEMA camp all by yourself, go ahead, but for my part I would rather do that with lots of help, and very good communications.

    Now for the protecting our borders idea.
    I live right here by the northern border. My house is just 4 miles away. I have been to the Border Patrol Citizens Academy classes and can tell you that in case of an incursion through their station they will be calling me ON THE RADIO to ask for help. Do you think for a minute that would happen if I wasn’t licensed? No. They are still maintaining their old VHF system for just that reason.
    So Filburn v Wick has nothing to do with it unless you are talking about usurped jurisdiction, which might be a real issue if we had a good and fair court system not owned lock, stock and barrel by the enemies of freedom. The real practical application of what you learn in studying for the license has everything to do with it.
    We at Oath Keepers are supposed to be creating good working relationships with the local people in our cop shops, fire departments, and agencies etc. including Border Patrol, wherever we can, and we do that on a regular basis here. You can’t do that as a complete outlaw right now. So I must ask you, are you willing to travel down the highways without a drivers license? Lot’s of people are. They might be right at law, and constitutionally, but is that the battle you really want to fight when there are much bigger fish to fry? SAME DIFFERENCE with the ham license.

    Reply this comment
    • patriot 30828 26 October, 2016, 15:01

      You are dead on with the post, have the same problems in this area, some just think that they just get on the radio any time any place that they have some kind of right, as a ham my self I know first hand that with out getting the ticket and talking and learning from working the radio, as well as learning from other hams I could not have the set up that I have now. These people will be dead in the water when they need it most with most likely the lives of there families on the line.

      Reply this comment
  5. OR-Patriot 22 October, 2016, 17:03

    Hi, I’m Jeff – KE7ACY, I’m an Extra class ham and just last night I started teaching a Technician class for my local ham organization.

    I just wanted to correct a couple of things, the Test is $15 (per test session), the cost of study guides varies a bit from free to $33 or more depending on your source. Any additional study materials will add more to the cost. There are tons of resources out there that are quite good as well as free. I’m using the ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League) study guides, but have also used the Gordon West study materials. You will NOT want to avoid getting licensed for a number of reasons. If you are going to acquire the equipment, any attempt to use it w/o being licensed WILL result in legal issues. The fines will start at $10,000.00 and go up from there in addition to the potential for JAIL time. I just within the last week read an article about an “outlaw” operator that was causing malicious interference, HIS fine started at $25,000.00 AND he was also looking at up to 5 years in Prison! Ham radio operators guard their frequencies and will not hesitate to report someone they know is operating illegally! Don’t try it, it won’t be worth it!

    Reply this comment
  6. DowntoEarthThinking.com 22 October, 2016, 23:13

    Comms are an excellent issue to focus on right now form many reasons. We have no idea what this election can or will bring in the near future and there can be no doubt the tensions are rising within our failed system. The control freaks are capable of any possible action on any day.

    Reply this comment
  7. pstramer 23 October, 2016, 00:18

    Thanks for your comments Jeff KE7ACY. We use the Grass Valley radio club VEC so our test materials are lower, and we charge only $6 per session per person.
    The first thing that usually happens when people are unauthorized or even if they are and break the rules is they will get a letter from the FCC. Don’t forget they have a satellite system to monitor our signals with for various things, like out of band, power levels, signal quality etc. But for the most part it’s ham radio operators who “police” the bands, and the FCC doesn’t bother people unless they are causing that malicious interference you mentioned. The fines can be up to $8000 per infraction. That means every time you press the push to talk key, but I have never heard of that level of fines against anyone.
    BUT I DON’T WANT TO GO THERE. So what if the feds know you have a ham license. We are in good company. There are laws against selective prosecution, but first we need a good and fair court system, which we don’t have, and have not had for a very long time. So like I said in my comment above, Pick your battles carefully, but as for me, my battle won’t be over not having a ham license.

    Reply this comment
    • Dr. dave 26 October, 2016, 18:05

      GV, CA? Would really like to check in with you, from Auburn, CA. What net do you attend?

      KG7EKC

      Reply this comment
  8. Bigdaddy D 23 October, 2016, 04:19

    You do not need a license, just do not transmit. If you do, us licensed hams will hunt you down and do all kinds of bad thing’s to you and your family. You see hams are also very good at direction finding and finding all the illegals.

    Reply this comment
  9. Arnie Lerma 23 October, 2016, 15:19

    An idea: Designate an oathkeeper in each county to keep $100 worth of 88-108 FM band transmitter equipment stashed. Combine an FM Modulator with a $30 linear amp at 5 watts would provide county wide emergency transmission. The licensing can be arranged by letter from the city emergency management office. Cars and boom boxes are everywhere, some will still be working.

    Reply this comment
  10. Badger 29 January, 2017, 13:53

    We’re getting conflicting information on the use of MURS and FRS. According to the above we do not need a license to operate the Baofenge UV5R radios for communication as long as we stay below 2 watts(?). I assume that means we can transmit too. We’ve been reading up on this and it runs 50-50 on yes-no you can/can’t transmit.

    I’ve been promoting the use of these radios by our local community and have been successful in getting several individuals to purchase these radios.

    Are we okay to use these without getting a license? We are planning to go the next step, but one step at a time.

    Reply this comment

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