Disaster Communications -What’s your take on the subject?

Just some thoughts from my point of view and ideas for discussion…  I follow a lot of ‘Emcomm’ and ‘prepper’ related YouTube channels.  I have always been a ‘preparedness’ guy and radio is a big parts of it for me.  It seems there has been an influx of people into the amateur radio hobby that are coming from the ‘prepper’ mentality and that is great.  Cheap radios on the market and Clubs offering courses are getting them on the air with their Technician licenses fairly painlessly.    Overlanders/off-roaders seem to be a bunch that understands the importance of good clear communications too.  GMRS and Amateur radio are both benefiting from this group.

I guess what is alarming to me is the amount of these channels recommending ‘buying a Baofeng and programming it for your bugout bag’.  Licensed in the Amateur or GMRS service or not… having a versatile radio like this isn’t a bad idea.  Shoot! You can buy the radio and nearly all of the accessories offered for around $100. The radio is ‘open’ meaning you can program it in any service.  Great for off-roading and being able to communicate with your group or family using MURS and GMRS services too.  I’m ignoring the concerns of type acceptance and the FCC rules of using that radio outside of its ‘intended’ service… in a true emergency, or a couple of watts in the middle of nowhere, I really don’t care that much honestly.  Doubt I’ll ever be able to tell you aren’t talking on a type accepted radio for the service we are in.

It’s difficult to cover all situations;  but what got me thinking about it was that I had a friend ask me about buying and programming a Baofeng for his ‘bugout’ bag.  He is not a radio hobbyist, but came to me because he knows I am. His approach is more of a survivalist/bug-out scenario type occurrence.  I think he was looking for a simple yes or no answer and didn’t expect to fall into a rabbit hole.  Honestly, he should know me better than that.

I suggested he forget about buying the Baofeng first.  My answer was  “by a decent shortwave (general coverage) receiver with side-band capabilities”.  I think the ability to gather information from afar on the AM broadcast bands at night, US based shortwave stations like WWTW, WCR, WBCQ, and also getting a news perspective from outside our country like BBC and RNZ (Radio New Zealand), AND Ham Radio operators worldwide to be paramount to getting information directly about what is happening, what to avoid, and likely where to get needed services.  We also talked about better receive antennas like a roll-out wire antenna that can be clipped to the receivers antenna.  Simple stuff.  Big bang for the buck type stuff.  A really decent shortwave radio like the Tecsun PL-330 can be had for about $79!  The radio will scan for broadcast signals and create its own memory banks with its findings!

Secondary, would be a dual band radio or VHF/UHF scanner.  Enter the Baofeng here.  In this radio I would, of course, have all of my local repeaters and simplex frequencies for amateur radio, my local utility company’s frequencies,  police and fire, etc.  One tip I’ll share since I’m a forest road explorer and deep woods camper…  ALL of my ‘mars modded or open’ handheld radios have both Washington and Oregon states Search and Rescue frequencies in them.  They also have all of the forest service repeater and simplex frequencies programmed in a bank.  Makes it a bit easier for them to find you if you have a way to respond to them.  Just a step further than your reflective space blanket and whistle. 

In the big picture, I guess I don’t really concern myself with the ability to communicate via two-way radio. I put more value in having a solid ability to monitor the situation and gather as much information as possible.  I definitely have both capabilities in my ‘plan’ but value information gathering a bit higher.

I’m not meaning to leave out Amateur related emergency services like ARES, RACES, AuxCOMM, or even neighborhood CERT groups.  All complimentary and of great importantance to the Amateur Radio service.  Just not my thing in general.

What do you think about this subject?

Todd KB7RQQ

2 Comments on “Disaster Communications -What’s your take on the subject?

  1. its blade running, what side do you want to fall off of, better to have & not need or to need & not have
    if SHTF I will use my radios for listening, however you wont find me transmitting
    you dont know who is nearby and what they are willing to do to get what you have

  2. Exactly! Not going to be giving up my location.

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