A Common Man’s Commo Plan

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by Tunnel Rabbit, Survival Blog:

INTRODUCTION

Once our cell phones become unusable or useless, only then we’ll we fully appreciate the need for radio communications. I am writing this because I am painfully aware of how vulnerable we are. Please get “radioed-up” ASAP and use your equipment now and regularly to attain a baseline of proficiency. Satellite phones are not a good substitute for reliable old analog radios that are not dependent upon third-party infrastructure.

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THE PLAN

The commo plan that I lay out in this article is simple, affordable, flexible (adaptable), and provides redundant capabilities and interoperability for the least amount of money.  It also requires the least amount of expertise, and no license to operate. Any plan should be well-rounded and cover as many possible contingencies as possible, within our budgets.

As security will be “Job One”, and because without comms you can not adequately coordinate a defense, and because few have a commo plan of any kind, and because most of us can not afford to buy everything we might need, I have some suggestions: I suggest these low cost and simple to operate handheld transceivers  as a first purchase to be used for a security operation and substitute for a local telephone system, and for general use, as the situation dictates.

FRS/GMRS

I have three recommendations for FRS/GMRS radios, depending on your budget. Starting in the bargain basement, these are:

Baofeng BF-88ST Pro FRS/GMRS Walkie Talkies.  These have a USB connection that can use a USB DC-to-DC adapter for 12 Volts Dc (VDC) to charge this radio off the grid. The average price is just $13. These are very inexpensive and easy to use. They can be programmed with UHF frequencies. The lowest power setting is 1/2-watt, and the highest setting is 2 watts. (See the manual). Those who download the free CHIRP software can use the BF-88 selection to program these radios with frequencies that are off the beaten path. This is a major advantage as communications security is greatly improved. I have tested these radio extensively and the range in favorable terrain can be extended to upwards of 10 miles if a receiver is connected to an external antenna. I use a Baofeng UV5R connected to a homemade J-pole as the base station radio for BF-88STs. High-gain omnidirectional antenna for GMRS are available for purchase and would work even better than a J-pole.

Then there is the more expensive and capable Midland GXT1000, or the camouflage case version, the GXT1050vp4. These have the 12 VDC  power option, for recharging. Use these on the lowest power settings (1/4 watt = 250 MW) preferably on FRS channels 8 to 14 for semi-secure operation, and up to 3.5 watts of power on channels 15 to 22. Use other radio services for greater communication security. The FRS band will be heavily used and monitored. To preserve tactical surprise use FRS only when no other radio service is available.

The Midland LXT500 is midway in price and performance between the BF-88ST and the GXT1000. It offers silent operation and a call alert function that can awaken those who are sleeping, to muster a defense.

MURS HANDHELDS

MURS handhelds with a manual hi/lo power setting are a much better choice than FRS/GMRS radios for a retreat/community security operation. Use the 1/2 low power setting for intra-team, and the two-watt setting for inter-team comms. The MURS band is now better known, yet it is nowhere near as popular as FRS/GMRS. It will be monitored as it is well known in survivalist circles, but the wider public is mostly unaware of its existence. It may also be used to talk to other local preppers. Attach a MURS transceiver to an external antenna and use that radio as your base station. Use an external antenna on both the base station and a mobile MURS radio in a vehicle, and the range can be a surprising 10 to 20 miles. The Browning BR-82 is a good quality high gain 5/8ths wave magnetic mount antenna that comes pretuned for 150 to 158MHz. It is ideal for MURS and affordable for around $30.

VHF MARINE BAND RADIOS

As an alternative, or perhaps as a primary for a security operation, VHF Marine Band handhelds that use somewhat obscure frequencies in inland regions. These typically have 1-watt and 5-watt output power settings. This radio service will also be monitored, yet not by the public in general. It will mostly be monitored by savvy Amateur Radio operators. A 25-watt mobile VHF Marine transceiver could be purchased later as a base station to greatly improve your range, when used with handhelds. Its range is similar to the 2 Meter Ham radios and might be up to 30 miles or more in favorable terrain when a base station is talking to a handheld. The range would be further if talking from a base station to another base station. Again the Browning BR-82 magnetic mount antenna is a good choice for a vehicle, or it can also be used for a base station if there is a metal surface that can act as a ground plane that is at least 40 inches in diameter.

CB

Amateur radio bands are dominated with technical types, but CB is where most of the movers and shakers will be. The CB band along with all the popular radio services can fit into your PACE plan. FRS/GMRS handhelds will be important, then MURS, and then Marine Band, yet CB will be strategically important if the transceiver is set up for long-range work. However, GMRS is now competing with CB for first place. It could be argued that CB will prove in the final analysis to be the most important radio service, since CB is a legacy radio service, and because there are millions of old CBs in storage. It has that potential.

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