Your Startup SHTF Communication Guide


Your Startup SHTF Communication Guide

Let’s be brutally honest for a moment; virtually all people between the ages of 6 and 60 are addicted to their cell phones.  Don’t believe me?  When’s the last time you went a week without checking a facebook status, liking an instagram picture, or simply sending an email from your phone.  We’re social creatures, and this device has given us all the ability to stay connected from the farthest corners of the globe, but not without taking its toll.

As I write this, I’m sitting onboard a cruise ship headed back from Bermuda.  Internet onboard a ship is more expensive than a satellite phone call, yet kids and adults alike spend nearly a dollar per minute to post what they had for dinner, or that they saw a dolphin while at sea, all while surfing the net at slower than dialup speeds.

Your communications are such a vital part of daily life, yet this is the one area that virtually all preppers are seriously overlooking.

Cell networks can be taken out or bogged down to an unusable status by terrorist attacks, natural disasters, bad weather, forrest fires, power outages, and the list goes on.  So what’s your communications plan for when the SHTF?

How will you phone home to tell your wife and daughter that you were close to the Boston bombing terrorist attack but that you’re OK, when the cell network is bogged down?  How will you call your family in Oregon and let them know that the wildfires in Washington have moved beyond your danger zone and everyone is fine?  What will you do if a localized EMP or Solar Flare takes out your network, and you need to tell your family in Canada that you’re OK and will plan to use your VW Bus and you’ll be home in a week?

The Good News

There is good news… and that is the fact that radio communications can be safely and effectively used to communicate with family, friends, or complete strangers when all other systems are down.  Believe it or not, you can actually send email over HAM radio, and even text messages to friends who are anywhere else in the world.

Have A Plan

You need to first have a plan of some kind.  “If _____, then _______”.  This should be very detailed and start with your most likely scenarios first.

For example; there were recently some very serious out of control wild fires in eastern Washington.  This fire took out many cell towers, and made it hard for people to communicate with eachother.  Someone in that area could easily have their communications plan be “Incase of wildfire, monitor and attempt to contact family on HAM Radio Frequency xxx.xx at 9AM, Noon, 3PM, 6PM, 9PM for three consecutive days.  This would be written on a card and laminated, distributed to each family member, and followed incase of emergency.

Another example would be for people in California who are frequently plagued with earthquakes.  Their plan would be very similar: “Incase of earthquake that takes out communications, monitor and attempt to contact family on HAM Radio Frequency xxx.xx at 9AM, Noon, 3PM, 6PM, 9PM for 5 minutes before the hour until 5 minutes after the hour.  Additionally monitor all police and ambulance frequencies and mark the emergencies on a map to monitor the hardest hit areas.

The same plan can be applied to FRS and GMRS radios if families live within close proximity to each other.

We recently produced a DVD called Survival Communications, which goes into greater detail about this plan, but this will get you started with a basic plan for now.

Get The Gear

Getting the right gear is a critical first step, but with all the gear, and all the confusing language, what do you buy?

You should start with a basic set of 2 way radios, like you can find at almost any sporting goods store.  These are the FRS and GMRS radios.  These are the standard radios with channels roughly 1 through 25, and typically boast that they can go much farther than they can.  These are generally license free radios, and can be used to talk about 2 miles in most situations.  Many people buy these on the cruise ships, and are very disappointed to find out that they don’t have the ability to transmit through all of the metal on the ship, but they do work quite well outdoors.

Another item you should consider, and can get without a license, is a scanner.   It’s my understanding that you can listen to all radio signals without a license, but you must be licensed to transmit on “HAM Radio” frequencies (with the exception of the radios mentioned in the last paragraph).  A scanner is critical because it can help you get a good assessment of what the situation looks like around you.  Are their areas that are being looted (i.e. Ferguson, MO) that you should stay away from, or are there other areas where crime is higher.  If you monitor these areas via scanners, you can have a very clear picture of your surrounding areas, and start to map out and share this information with others in an emergency situation.

Other pieces of gear you should consider is an actual HAM Radio.  Generally speaking there are three different types of licenses you can obtain for HAM radio, and with your technician license (entry level and easiest to get), you can talk to the international space station, friends and family hundreds of miles away, and much more.
In my opinion, the greatest draw to getting your HAM Radio license is that you can lose all services in your area, and by using your HAM Radio and a computer you can send an email or text message in much the same way that you would if you had an actual internet connection.  This would be valuable in most situations.  Having spent much of my life at sea performing on cruise ships, I know what it’s like to not be able to have communications when an emergency happens on the ship… and I wish I would have had my HAM license early on.

A final pieces of entry level gear that I suggest, is a solar power charging station for all of your gear, and a Faraday cage to keep it all safe in.  You can learn some great DIY faraday cages in the Home EMProvements DVD.  If the phones are down, there’s a pretty good chance that the ability to charge your equipment may go down as well.  Having a backup power source for it will prove to be invaluable in a grid-down scenario.

Get Your License

The final stage of this is simple.  Get your license.  There are many HAM Radio clubs in towns across the world, big and small.  The big tip here is to study for your technician and general license.  Those are the first two levels of licensing, and are usually given at the same time… so study for both!

I hope this article helps to get you thinking a little bit about the various concerns that would make someone want to get a HAM License… but more importantly is to come up with a communications plan.  How will YOU get in touch with your family when the SHTF?

As always, we encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Also, be sure to check out Survival Communications by David Pruett, it’s available November 3rd at TheSurvivalSummit.com.  It goes into great detail about everything related to radios for preppers.

Stay safe!

Dave from The Survival Summit

27 thoughts on “Your Startup SHTF Communication Guide”

  1. Wonderful, I just got my KG7UTP. I can’t wait to see another of your wonderful videos. We are graduating another Ham class here in Priest River and hope to have 50 hams locally.
    Besides Survival and Emergency Preparedness I also teach Survival Radio and Ham is great.
    I look forward to the release of the video and as usual I will share it with the world.
    Hope to see you and your wife soon David,
    RangerRick, North Idaho

    1. Rick – Thank you for your strong work helping folks prepare. We are hoping the DVD will help those that are unaware of the importance of communications to explore and investigate this critical area of preparedness. Hope our paths cross again in the future. Be safe!

  2. Learn A LOT about radio communications first and get your technician license. Buy a single/dual band handheld or mobile radio for under $200 if you want the gear before you learn about it. If you spend a lot of money on radios you’re likely paying for features that you’ll never use until you get more advanced licenses. The trick is that radio comms is not even close to how cell phones work from a usability standpoint. Your location, the geography of your location, antenna height, antenna quality, radio and radio quality, and how much power you can send a signal with all matter a lot. Join a local HAM club and you may even be able to get some quality used gear for cheap. Most of us HAMs love new folks and love sharing what we know (or think we know).

    1. Daniel Kuykendall

      Great comment, I learned the term elmer in the filming of this DVD and I think it is an amazing community to be part of.

    2. Samuel – Well said! The whole purpose and intent of the DVD is to pique the interest of those that are unaware of the importance of communications in their preparedness plan. Most HAMs do indeed love sharing the hobby with new folks. Hopefully you are inspiring those around you to learn this valuable skill. Be safe!

  3. I remember when I was 8 and my father, who was in the Air Force stationed in Alaska in a remote sight, where we could not go. He had access to the ham radios up there and one of our neighbor’s had one also. That was the only way we got to talk to him the year he was up there!
    The neighbor would call us to say dad was on the radio. We would go over and get to talk to him on it!!

    1. Daniel Kuykendall

      That is awesome! One thing that surprised me during filming was how important it was to set up specific call times to talk. Such a cool tool when modern communications are not available.

  4. You all tout this as the ‘definintive guide for SHTF communications’….REALLY?? Put together by a well-meaning fellow who hasn’t bothered to obtain a HAM ticket above Technician.

    Quote "Since I am not licensed (yet), I won’t go into great detail here, as I’m still learning it myself and don’t want to pass on misinformation". Geez.

    You guys might want to re-think your marketing approach here. Maybe think past the dollar $igns. Seach out REAL comms experts like Sparks31 or DanMorgan76 for real world expertise.

    You guys are late to the party and don’t bring much to offer.

    1. Daniel Kuykendall

      We changed the title to start-up guide cause that was more fitting to the content. The blog was written by my partner who is getting his license this year (as well as myself). David Pruett in the DVD is licensed and knowledgable. We are not the experts and we don’t teach material, we find the experts and film them. We never ran into Spark or DanMorgan in our talks with ham groups but we’ll check them out.

    2. Mr Galt – Please know the intent and focus of the DVD is to pique the interest of those not already involved in amateur radio and hopefully illustrate the importance of this critical skill. You give excellent references to Sparks31 and DanMorgan76.

      The guys at The Survival Summit are not late to any party. They have the same interest as you in helping and encouraging people to get prepared. They are using their unique skillset of video production to help share resources. There is a lot of time and energy put into every DVD they produce.

      It sounds like your skill level is more advanced than the basic introduction that this DVD presents. This was anticipated in the production planning. The whole point is to encourage those not already involved to start learning. I would argue it is never too late and would encourage people to continue to prepare and learn. In reality none of us will ever be completely prepared. Hopefully you are sharing your skills with family and friends. Be safe!

      1. Mr Galt, david and the folks at survival summit are working hard to bring information out to the masses to have people better prepared and ready for what is coming. they are at least sticking their necks out and sharing the information ( and showing enthusiasm) to have people learn about HAM radio and the benefits it provides. You don’t necessarily have to be an "expert" In a subject to share the interest and communicate the information you have with others.
        Doing something, and sharing your knowledge..however limited, taking action, working to help others, counts for more in my book than sitting back and judging others without helping. That’s the easy way out and has zero risk. Being an advocate of John Galt , I would think you would understand that.
        I hope you understand that these folks are trying help others and that they encourage others, like yourself to do the same. Teach someone what you know and they can teach and encourage others or help you one day.
        Practice your preps and share knowledge. it is more valuable than money.

    3. Mr Galt – I forgot to say thanks for the compliment . . . "put together by a well-meaning fellow who hasn’t bothered to obtain a HAM ticket above Technician." I try to be as well meaning as possible and help as meany folks as I can within my limited abilities. I do not present myself as the definitive expert, only someone enthusiastic about a fun hobby. I clearly state that I am a Technician level and encourage folks to study and test for the General level license. I also refer people to more advanced resources.

      The point of the DVD is to not intimidate those unfamiliar with communications. A frequent comment that we hear is that people are either intimidated or don’t understand the language when talking to some HAM radio operators. Our hope is that we help decode the language to make entry into the hobby easier.

      As an aside, I am planning on taking my General test soon. Unfortunately, things have been a bit hectic on this end of things. Hopefully you are encouraging and inspiring those around you.

    1. Absolutely! AmRRON (American Redoubt Radio Operators Network) is an excellent resource. I would encourage everyone interested in preparedness communications to join AmRRON and download the SOI (Signal Operating Instruction). Be safe!

  5. Dave T (Illinois)

    Wow, not a word about local family communications and the capability to get everyone covered at roughly the same cost as a Ham would, it’s called GMRS, 50 watt base, mobiles and repeaters, as well as 5 watt walkie talkies, all can be had from radio dealers that specialize in buying quality used gear and reselling at a marginal cost. I was able to setup my wife and I for $3,000 for a repeater, antenna, mobiles in the cars, a control/base unit and walkie talkies, we cover our area from 4-5 mile radius of our home and 10-20 mile radius with mobile. Does Ham radio have a place, you bet, and to communicate with the outside world it’s a must do, but for immediate family contact GMRS allows everyone to communicate, legally, now, allowing you to practice and be prepared.

    I was sort of let down by your email/video. I certainly could have provided more useful information without giving away the store, as I assume this is about making money from us common folks.

    1. HI Dave, I would love to learn how you did this (type of equipment) as this is exactly what I am looking to do for my family. I just don’t know where to start.

      1. Hydrox

        I contacted Used-Radios.Com, spoke to Mike Hardy, I purchased a Vertex VXR-7000 repeater with a duplexer, was around $800, bought a Channel Master mast (as a tower at this time was out of my budget, but they can be found by just asking a person if you can have their old tower, many will say take it) some 1/2 heliax to keep signal loss to a minimum, a Comet 9dbi omnipole for around $100.

        I enlisted the help of a brother in law and mounted the repeater antenna about 40 foot up at the base of the antenna, I can get decent range even at low height, but I am on a pretty high spot and overlook the metro area.

        I was able to get 3 PM400 Motorola mobiles for $125 or so each, and 2 Motorola Astro Saber walkies, they are probably the best Moto portables ever made, old and rugged radios that were originally built for the military. I have simplex in all the radios in case the repeater is down.

        With this setup my wife and I can communicate over 90-95% of our AO and feel the NSA is not going to monitor that traffic (we know our cell phones are compromised, no tinfoil required).

        One of the best Prepper investments we made. There are sites online like myGMRS.Com and AR15.Com that have sections dedicated to SHTF Communications. I feel learning from everyone, Survival Summit included to see what nuggets of information you can get.

        Like I originally stated, Ham is a definate to have as a backup, but GMRS is a great way to get family in the game. I used eBay to find my gear, Amazon to read what people think about gear. Stay away from those bubble pack radios, also make sure you get your GMRS license, be 150% above board.

        Hope that helps.

        Daniel, David P, sorry for being so harsh on my OP, you are doing a good thing helping bring awareness. Everyone needs to be prepared, be it a decent amount of food on hand, water (months if not a years worth) and defense likes gunz and knives and less than lethal weapons and of course communications to get home or bug out.

    2. Daniel Kuykendall

      GMRS is covered in the DVD, it’s 102 minutes of material. We provide a lot of free info on our blog as well as produce high quality and content rich DVDs. We enjoy doing this full time and we do it without advertisements on our page or selling your personal info or metrics to advertisers. I hope this is a business model you can support.

    3. Dave – The DVD does introduce GMRS. You are not a "common folk". We are all in this together. The sole purpose of the DVD is to introduce the concept of communications to those not already involved. It sounds like you are well ahead of the curve and your skill-set is more advanced than that covered in the DVD. Hopefully you are sharing your skills and knowledge with family and friends. Be safe!

    4. GMRS is great for those folks that are just starting out in local comms.. it still requires a license to operate as does amateur radio. You quoted a cost of around $3000 for a complete system base station/repeater and handhelds. If you need to setup your own personal comms network the price can be quite high. That is the beauty of amateur (HAM) radio. You can use others peoples repeaters (if open to public), or join the repeater club near you for a small fee. without having to spend $1000’s.
      you can buy a reasonably priced baofeng handheld radio for $30-$100 that puts out 5-6 watts and can reach many repeaters in your area for the ham bands (2m and 440) as well as communicate on FRS and GMRS. Most ham radios ( base stations and handhelds) have wide band receive that includes police, fire, public safety frequencies as well as weather, ham, FM, and FRS and GMRS frequencies as well. Don’t forget Ham radio can also send packetized digital data as well..just like a fax, or email or internet, all wirelessly ,without using land lines or normal netwroking infrastructure. So more capability in a low priced device.
      So starting in amateur radio would be cheaper than creating your own GMRS base station and give you more capability than GMRS alone. Please don’t get me wrong, I admire you for getting your station setup but I don’t have that kind of money (and high elevation). to do what you did. I did it for much less ($100) and can communicate and gather information on more frequencies than just one.
      Make sure you practice your preps. gr8outdorz

  6. SandHawk
    Being Part of AmRRON Corps (with many other Groups’ Local clubs, OEM’s etc in addition) on a General ticket )(at least) I have seen a lot of stuff show up a bit late and short in the pants to the party. I get what’s being done here but you have to understand if a legal (ie licensed at the correct level), very personal time vetted relationship has not been logged air time wise and or eye to eye. Trust may not be there for you to just get on the radio and expect contact be made. Trust is a time thing and showing you are someone that will have to had at least committed some time into being legal and ready for whatever comes to cause this life or death requirement to have Comms during an EVENT no matter what it might be. Favors well in the real world out there. And you might find out it does not cost you a dime to get on board for training equipment whatever be the need. Hey DCT !!!

    1. Ken – First let me thank you for your dedication and hard work as an AmRRON member. I agree with you 100% that recommendation. Second, thank you for such an insightful and well written comment. Hopefully you are inspiring those around you to enter the hobby and ultimately join AmRRON.

      It sounds like you have a lot of experience. Your reference a very important consideration by mentioning "I have seen a lot of stuff show up a bit late and short in the pants to the party." That is one focus of the DVD, hopefully to help people start learning now and give them resources to continue to grow as they incorporate communications in their preparedness plan. This is where experienced folks like your self play a critical role by sharing your knowledge and skills. The DVD emphasizes the importance of being legal, getting your license(s) and practicing often. As you well know, the only way to master a skill is to practice, practice, practice. Be safe!

  7. This is a good topic. Glad you’re doing it. Does the dvd go into detail in how to use HAM ? I have a tech license but i’m still having trouble knowing how to use it. Also, can a HAM radio be used to monitor scanners? Or would I need to buy a scanner specific fhat purpose? Thanks.

  8. I’ve read that the penalties for using a radio incorrectly with a license are worse than getting caught using it unlicensed. Plus the man knows where your gear and everything is when licensed.

  9. Having purchased several of the videos put out by these guys, I’ve been very pleased so far. A video is not the be-all, end-all on any subject, but they do a very good job in conveying information (usually basic info with some advanced stuff here and there) to get most people started in the right direction. I’m an ‘extra’ class ham, yet I purchased the communications DVD anyway. Even if I find one "pearl", it’s worth it to me. It might even be that bit of info that helps most in a time of need. If I gain nothing personally, then I will still be able to gift the video to a friend or neighbor who is just starting out. "Knowledge is power" is not entirely correct. Knowledge put into action, or shared with others who can use it – THAT’s power. As for the posts about these guys making money, etc. So what? Good for them, I wish them every success. If I didn’t think the product worth-while based on the descriptions or teaser videos, I am always free to keep my money in my pocket. Why the nastiness? I appreciate the professionalism displayed in the responses to the ‘haters’. These guys are a class act. Anyway, I have no affiliation with TSS other than being a satisfied customer. Keep up the great work & 73.

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