Once again, it’s time to take a step back and make sure everyone is on board. In this post we will discuss a simple easy approach to getting your communications equipment in line and up to speed. If you do not have your HAM radio license you NEED to get it. If you are reading this article, you have already made the effort. Now that is off my chest……I will move forward.
Let’s say you are studying for you HAM license and you need something now to get comms up. Or, maybe your friend or family member needs something but is not interested in radio. Here’s where you start. As we know, listening is much more important then transmitting. With that said, the first thing on your list should be a police scanner. Ideally you will get one that will cover p25 phase 2 digital signals. These radios are expensive, get the best you can afford. Before buying one, check: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/
This website will tell you what frequencies are in use in your area. Once you have figured out what type of radio system your local area uses you can base your scanner purchase off that. With all that said, if you can’t afford the fancy radio you need to monitor local fire, police and EMS then get whatever you can. Something is better than nothing. Even with a $20 craigslist scanner you can receive signals and gather intel. The key is practice, use it and learn how it works! This is something you should be listening to all the time. The things that you hear on your scanner are happening right outside your door in real time! After you get your first scanner, get more. The more scanners you have the more capabilities you have.
Next, you need to talk to your people. The people you will want to talk to will be your friends, family or group members. Get everyone a CB. As I have said before, they are cheap and work very good for local “around town” comms. Also, you can get great intel from you locals over the CB. As I write this article, I am listening to the local group of CBers on channel 12. You will be suprised to see how much action is still out there. Surf around, not all locals are on channel 19. Don’t forget, CB is 12 volt and uses little current so power options are easy. Lots of people want to know if they need a CB that has SSB capability (single side band). SSB will give you greater range then a regular AM CB but everyone in your group must have a SSB radio. SSB is great, if you can get it, go for it. If all you have or can get is a plain ole AM CB, that will work fine. You can set up a mobile station, a base station or even a portable station. As far as antennas go, there are many off the shelf mobile antenna options. As for base ops, you can buy an off the shelf antenna or you can make a dipole with spare parts you have laying around (see https://dialtoneblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/community-comms-part-two-primitive-social-media/).
The next thing you will need is squad communications. Short range “walkie-talkie” type comms. Enter the Baofeng UV5R. This radio is a inexpensive handheld radio that can serve you well for the price of around 30 dollars. It will work as a HAM radio on the 2 meter and 70cm bands and it will also work on FRS, GMRS and MURS frequencies. If you don’t have your HAM license, do not transmit on the HAM bands. This still leaves the license-free bands for you to operate on. This radio offers many accessories such as hand mics, AA battery pack and better antenna options. This radio is not as high quality as a Yaesu, Kenwood or Icom unit but at the price/function it is a great fit.
Hopefully this will help some of you get you comm kit in order. Remember, this is just a start, keep working on your skill set. Most important, get out and communicate in the wild. It’s easy at your radio desk. Go to the woods and play radio……..