In this series of articles, we’ve touched on many aspects of what you should be considering to round-out your communications plans for when the SHTF.
I recently read an unusual article dealing with why/how to organize a convoy for a more secure evacuation of your family and friends. It was very detailed in its explanation of the options, and the dangers in deviating from the plan.
Surprisingly, the one detail not mentioned was how much more efficient and effective the plan would work if even the simplest radio communications were included:
- to notify the lead vehicle when the rear guard was disabled;
- when a scout vehicle needed to be dispatched;
- when the scout needed to report, or recommend a diversion…
Much of this kind of communication would require little more than walkie-talkies or CBs, and 2-meter VHF handhelds the size of a pack of cigarettes would have broadcast (TX/RX) to/from all members of the convoy, even if they were spread out.
QRP: Worldwide TX / RX with only 1 or 2 watts
You can buy a low-power rig like this “PIXIE” on eBay for anywhere from $6 to $15, depending on whether you want a kit, or a completely assembled transceiver. They are made in Hong Kong.
The good news is that it will transmit and receive worldwide, it will run on a couple flashlight batteries and it will fit in your shirt pocket.
Those are the “Pros;” the “cons” might include that they only TX / RX in CW, and they will operate on only one frequency. It will arrive from China with a crystal installed for the 40-meter band frequency of 7.023 Mhz, which is a popular one in Asia. You can operate it on any other frequency by just changing the crystal to one for the other frequency of your choice.
My license (General Class) doesn’t allow me to use 7.023, so I just took a soldering iron and removed its crystal, spent another $3 on eBay for a crystal that covered 7.122 Mhz, and soldered that one in place of the original.
7.122 is within the CW frequencies my ticket allows, and it is one of the more popular ones used by followers of QRP in the United States.
If you get really involved with QRP radio, there are other, though more expensive, rigs that will operate on many frequencies, and on several bands but still fit nicely in your Bug-out Bag.
Here’s my favorite, the Elecraft KX-1:
This model has been discontinued, but Elecraft has replaced it with newer models like the KX-2, and KX-3, with many of the same, and some newer features.
This model runs on 6 AA batteries spans several of the more popular bands and has a built-in touch-keyer (best way to send CW) attached to the front. It comes in a small waterproof case, complete with earphones and antenna, so just open the case and you’re ready to go!
This radio weighs only 9 ounces, so it will fit very nicely in your Bug-out Bag, unlike my first QRP rig – a Heathkit HW-8, which I still have. Its power supply, alone, weighs more than my KX-1, but they were both developed about two generations apart.
That’s about all you should have, to get started on your communications needs. Why not look into joining a local club, then spend a few of these cold winter evenings on a plan to assemble, prepare and practice your new skills?
GLOSSARY OF LINKS USED IN THIS SERIES
Main Trading Company ( http://www.mtcradio.com/ )
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is a treasure trove of information, both for members, and prospective members. Spend some time on their web page (www.arrl.org) and you’ll find a wealth of links for newcomers to the hobby.
Ham Elmer” will be a big help, too ( http://hamelmer.com ) In Amateur radio, an “Elmer” is someone who takes you under his/her wing to help you get started
a “Continuous Wave” (“CW”). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuous_wave)
the “SKILMAN Introduction to Morse Code” (https://skilman.com/ )
Wikipedia gives full detail on QRP at this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QRP_operation
QRP operation refers to transmitting at reduced power while attempting to maximize one’s effective range.
Morse code prosigns or procedural signals are dot/dash sequence symbols that do not represent written characters, but instead are used to manage transmission and formatting of messages.
“Associated Radio,” in Overland Park, Kansas
https://www.hamradio.com/ “Ham Radio Outlet
One of the bigger “Big-box” stores
https://www.showmecables.com/ Show Me Cables”, a Missouri company with a large collection of cable products and services