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Fun topic - SHTF communications plans and equipment?


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I see posts at times where people want a radio for “emergency” communications. That’s great. But if you don’t have a way to keep the radio on the air it’s useless.

Various radio services are used, Ham Radio, MURS and GMRS/FRS. Since this is primarily a GMRS forum what plans and procedures have people implemented, such as frequencies, alternative power sources (solar, generators etc.) to keep their station on the air? 

Myself I have radios for all of the above. I also have a collection of solar panels, charge controllers and tend to use LiFePO4, LFP, battery packs. I hate Lead Acid batteries. I’ve ruined enough of them even with care. In addition I have a few battery eliminators when using the mobile or the big LFP battery packs. The LFP batteries you can charge and just about forget them on a shelf for a year or more and they still hold enough charge to power a radio for a significant time. Can’t do that with a Lead Acid type.

For antennas I have one dual high gain on the Jeep that works for Ham, MURS, GMRS and another dual band I can deploy on a portable 20 foot push-up mast. I have additional mobile antennas with magnet mounts I can use too. Making a 1/4 wave antenna is dead simple. For GMRS the vertical element is only 6 inches tall. Used some 2M elements that screw into the magnet mounts and cut them down to the frequencies required. I did that for a 1.25M one since I have a few tri-band radios for Ham and didn’t have an antenna for the band.

Some of the charging bases for my radios use up to 15 VDC, while the battery packs they charge never exceed a bit over 8 VDC. Running them on 12 to 14 VDC should work fine. A few of them I modified with Anderson Power Pole connectors to run off a vehicle electrical system or the LFP packs with the adapters I made. One set of radio models I have battery cases that will take various types of expendable batteries.

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I live near dangerous Hayward fault, and the house is on one side of it, and wife's and mine offices and kids colleges are on the other side of it. We have an emergency plan, sort of, and communication plan is a part of it. And comm plan is not a biggest or most important part of our emergency preparedness.

However, since we are talking about radios. The first question to answer is who exactly you want to talk to in the emergency? And why? Or maybe you only want to listen?

I care about friends, I care somewhat less about society in general. Most I care about is my close family. In my family everybody is trained with GMRS radios (and also me and my daughter are hams), everybody knows what Radio-3-3-3 is and how it applies to our family needs. Everybody knows the main and reserve frequencies, and how to put radios on scan. How do they know and trained in all of that? Many years of camping, hiking, biking, kayaking and other outdoor activities with regular use of GMRS handhelds and mobile radios.

My preparedness status has some gaping holes in it. Biggest one is that my big battery for base station degraded, and I haven't got around to replace it yet. Our electric car can power our base station and computers for a couple of weeks. We actually lived off it for a week without stable electricity last year, during the big fires 10 miles from my house (SCU Complex in August 2020). But it's not much help if the car is on the _other_ side of the rift when "the big one" hits.
Second hole - I lost ability to listen to local police and fire with the move to P25. I currently lack P25 in my setup. I'm experimenting with RTL dongle, but that's not a solution, really.

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In a SHTF situation, the best I currently hope for is local comms with locals, either simplex or through repeaters that may remain online. A couple of local repeaters on located on hospitals and are known to be powered by emergency power. Although I am on the fringe, in an emergency situation I can listen to and get into both with marginal audio.

I have no family members within radio range, only radio-enthusiast friends and acquaintances. I figure bench depth in this area will be a huge help in keeping information flowing. Once I have my HF antenna up, effective comm range will improve.

My original focus for radio has been simplex communication with my wife. Both HT to HT and HT to base for when one or both of use if one or both need to wonder out for a while.

I have SLA in my shack but with limited capacity. I also have additional large SLA on float to power the sump pumps in grid down. I know I have limited capacity and no recharge capability in a GD situation and also no generator. Note to self…Improve this.

We always keep loads of spare batteries, battery packs, flashlights, lanterns, food and propane on hand for cooking and heat supplement. Propane would be my source of energy if I added a backup generator.

We have plenty of NOAA radios, including those with solar capabilities. We have some external LiPo batteries to help with cell phones in the event cell service remains up with available capacity.

I have been hoping to move my shack into the basement, but if I do that I know I need have even more need for extended runtime capability on the sump to keep basement dry and usable to protect the shack and food stores in an extended GD scenario.

Overall, on scale of 1-10, I feel I am only prepared about to a level 2. Good for a few days in some areas and a few months in others. But honestly, not very well balanced. Note to self…Improve this.


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  • 3 weeks later...


For a SHTF I recommend a backpack with a 5550e for local comms, encrypted, and a FT-817ND for long range all band/all mode work.  333 is how I would operate in a SHTF scenario.

All our cars have a mobile radio on them, either a 5550e or an EVX-5300... and all of my family members carry an XPR7550e, along a complementary SL7550e with spare batteries. We initially used them only for family business matters, but now we are at a point in which we use them all the time, for personal stuff too, instead of using the cellphone. In fact, I don't carry a cellphone anymore... the infrastructure I've built is so reliable now that I no longer need for the government/goggle/et all. to know where I am at every moment by tracking my cell movement, shoving some ads in my face in the process.


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My plan involves nothing more than Cellular Voice for primary communication with Wifi/Cellular Data for Alternate Use. GMRS for Contingency and 2M/70CM HAM for Emergency Use to supplement my GMRS as the 2M mountain top repeaters were are **WIDE** coverage and have backup power. We are talking 4000+ plus feet AGL. My plan involves communication for the "local" area which is around 30 miles. This is easily accomplished with my solar recharged Retevis RT97 on a mountainside. Now family and friends just pick up and turn on a HT. Due to geography here it works well. .

Most of this was fueled by the Cellular net becoming overloaded during our Earthquake in 2018. That illustrated a real world need for local comms between family and friends.

I don't really care about extreme long range comms through HF as we are so cut off here it doesn't really matter to me. If the world got to a point where our comms were down for so long that the only way to reach outside of Alaska is HF I have so many other more important things to deal with than speaking with the lower 48. Push come to shove, there are enough HAM's here that I could just find one.


Solar is what I obviously chose for these low power needs.

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On 8/22/2021 at 9:12 PM, axorlov said:

 How do they know and trained in all of that? Many years of camping, hiking, biking, kayaking and other outdoor activities with regular use of GMRS handhelds and mobile radios.

This here is important.  Sometimes just letting the kids have a radio while they drive their power wheels around gives them some good familization. My wife learned basic radio use while back country hiking. Cell service drops quick here so radios allow simplex use between hiking party members and some popular areas are covered by repeaters so that gives some duplex familization. 

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