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  • Emergency Comms without cellular & IP

    Posted on Dan Montague Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums Outside the box Rumors and what-ifs Emergency Comms without cellular & IP

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      • #2266492 Reply
        Dan Montague
        AskWoody Plus
        Related topic?: Mr. Parker’s May 4th article “Simple ways to receive severe-weather alerts” and replies.
        New Topic: I hope that readers might have tips, or know of places to look or someone to ask: our family’s current emergency preparedness communications plan relies entirely on cellular network or cable provider internet. In case our local cell network & IP provider goes totally down in an emergency, we are currently researching options available. Such might include 2 way radio services (GMRS, FMRS, etc.). My location Jacksonville, Florida USA, but please feel free to turn this international. Any thoughts very much appreciated.
      • #2266524 Reply
        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        Nothing quite like hamradio for this. Sort of training-intensive if you weren’t doing it already, though.

        HF backpack radios can reach around the globe if you know what you’re doing. VHF handhelds in the 2 m band can occasionally reach some 50 km… oh and once you’re licensed, you can in most countries get gear that can at least listen to GMRS/PMR446/whatever bands too.

        And then there’s APRS.

        One thing only – there’s no privacy on the ham bands. Encryption of content is specifically forbidden in various international agreements. (Cryptographic authentication might be allowed in some regions.) This sort of limits the use of generalized IP over hamradio… though there is some amount of (country-specific) overlap between ham and military bands. (Don’t know but wouldn’t be surprised if the military auxiliary hamradio folks, like MARS in the US, are allowed to have crypto.)

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      • #2266726 Reply
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        If it’s so bad that you lose both phone and IP then I think electronic communication is not that high on the list of things to worry about. Maybe a big white sheet and a can of spray paint is all you need.

        cheers, Paul

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        • #2266736 Reply
          mn–
          AskWoody Lounger

          Depends. Lots of places where the infrastructure isn’t all that robust.

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2266849 Reply
        wavy
        AskWoody Plus

        The little Chinese SDRs are quite versatile, under $30 and some have the emergency bands easily available. Not necessarily the ones I link to here, they are just examples..
        https://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-UV-82HP-High-Power-Radio/dp/B00Z52HP10/ref=psdc_2230642011_t2_B00E4KLY34

        https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E4KLY34/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1

        A few flares may also be helpful..

        🍻

        Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2266916 Reply
        Dan Montague
        AskWoody Plus

        The little Chinese SDRs are quite versatile, under $30 and some have the emergency bands easily available. Not necessarily the ones I link to here, they are just examples..
        https://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-UV-82HP-High-Power-Radio/dp/B00Z52HP10/ref=psdc_2230642011_t2_B00E4KLY34

        https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E4KLY34/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1

        A few flares may also be helpful..

        Software-defined radio (SDR), Thanks, wavy. I will look into that.

      • #2267110 Reply
        Elly
        AskWoody MVP

        For people who are really interested in robust emergency communications, I’d like to really recommend investing the time and energy to get ham licenses and equipment.
        1) You have the potential to talk world-wide.
        2) During emergencies with power outages, some Hams have invested in power supplies, battery back up, generators, etc… and volunteer to provide emergency communications. I’ve been able to relay messages to/from family in a disaster area, that were not Ham operators, through a volunteer local operator, when all power/phone/etc was out.
        3) There are regular Ham events and contests, giving you a community of knowledgeable users.
        4) A license does not require that you learn and use Morse code (I never ‘got’ Morse code, but there are expert operators that can send/receive code faster than I can type).
        5) You are not limited to a single type of communication, as there is also FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes, in addition to Ham radio bands- having options during an emergency could be important. Back in the 90’s Hams had video chats (not the correct terminology, but translated to what people have available now). Hams explore cutting edge tech, but also have a solid established equipment base… and there are those that collect and use old equipment that ‘glows in the dark’ (tube radios).
        6) Inexpensive hand held ham band radios are available for less than $50, but be aware that a Ham operator invested in the hobby can spend thousands of dollars… (you don’t have to, but they do…). Some are made rugged emergency use. You are not tied to a proprietary system or have to pay for monthly access. If you have a license, and any kind of working equipment, you can use the bands reserved for Hams… but must follow the laws of your country regarding radio communications.

        Non-techy Win 10 Pro and Linux Mint experimenter

        3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2267118 Reply
        Kathy Stevens
        AskWoody Plus

        Then there is the alternative real emergency option.

        Buy an inexpensive hand held ham band radio.

        Do not worry about a license.

        Charge it up and keep it charged up.

        Put it in a draw and forget about it other than to keep it charged.

        Then, if thing go bump in the night, pull the radio out of the draw and see if you can find help. I do not think that the Federal Government will prosecute you for using an unlicensed ham radio in an emergency. Then again you may want to explore a new hobby and get a license.

        In addition, there is the old breaker breaker approach.

        Obtain a citizens band radio (CB) for short-distance (3 to 20 miles) person-to-person bidirectional voice communications. No license required.

        The problem with CB is that it relies on line of sight communications and if you live in an area that is heavily forested or mountains your range may be limited.

        I have been a radio nut for years and one of my prized possessions is a computer controlled Icom IC-R7000 VHF-UHF receiver. The radio covers nearly all of the 2000 MHz of spectrum including low band, VHF civil and military aeronautical bands, marine, business, FM, amateur, government, cell phone, and TV bands.

        Great for listening to the local police, airline communications, etc.  At one time I used to enjoy listening to cell phone conversations (and I can still pull in their signals).

        Now I can use it to pull in Wi-Fi signals. So, don’t forget to pass word protect our router.

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        • #2267126 Reply
          mn–
          AskWoody Lounger

          I do not think that the Federal Government will prosecute

          … *which* Federal Government again…?

          I mean, this is fairly safe to do in the US and most of EU, but wouldn’t generalize.

          2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #2267128 Reply
            Kathy Stevens
            AskWoody Plus

            You are correct.

            I am based in the US and have traveled extensively throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.

            There are parts of the world where I am extremely careful about what I say – even in my hotel room! And forget about unencrypted internet communications.

            1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2267160 Reply
        wavy
        AskWoody Plus

        A note:
        One must also set those cheap little radios to usable frequencies, the one I have uses a USB to serial cable ($20 t0 $30 and a program called Chirp (free) to do so easily. If you are only doing so once for a couple of fixed frequencies that should not be a problem .

        BTW That Icom was pricey , no??

        🍻

        Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2267212 Reply
          Kathy Stevens
          AskWoody Plus

          Yes, the Icom R7000 was pricey.

          At the time I purchased it, at a duty-free shop in Tokyo in 1989, the R7000 was selling for $1,000 at Universal Radio in Ohio. The Japanese duty-free price was substantially less.

          The radio still works. So, over the long-term it has served me well at a low annual cost ($32.00 per year).

          And now, after 30 years, a used R7000 can be purchased on Ebay for $500.

          When I first started using the R7000 I teamed it with a Compaq Deskpro PC.

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      • #2267348 Reply
        wavy
        AskWoody Plus

        And now, after 30 years, a used R7000 can be purchased on Ebay for $500.

        Some classics hold their value 😉

        🍻

        Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2276179 Reply
        Dan Montague
        AskWoody Plus

        mn– , Thanks, I agree hamradio would be great. Initially thought I wouldn’t have the grit to get entry level license, but … I’m getting ahead of myself. For several years I’ve had my eye on handheld transceivers capable on the GMRS frequency band, with secondary interests in the FRS, and ham radio frequencies. So 3 weeks ago I purchased a pair of BaoFeng UV-5R transceivers. The UV-5R can be programmed using a special USB cable and CHIRP software on my Windows 10 Pro machine. Piece of cake, I thought, but turns out it’s tricky enough for me that I decided to get some help.

        A local amateur radio club had a regular monthly meeting scheduled for 2 weeks ago and I decided to go. I also decided, on a whim, to take a ham radio practice test. I did well enough that I decided to study for and challenge the licensing exam. Yesterday I passed the entry level Technician test and should have my ham license tomorrow! (Also bought a GMRS license). Going forward, I plan to volunteer for some of the local amateur radio emergency services (ARES or such). Also plan to study-up and challenge the higher level ham licenses.

        mn–, BIG THANK YOU for hint about APRS – was able to Google around and found some online interactive maps of local APRS stations, including local weather stations and hams operating such. I also found another article that hints about
        “APRS/SMS Gateway – Bridging the gap between APRS and SMS.”

        That brings me back to emergency communications scenarios. Our events are usually hurricanes (cyclones), and in the last several years we’ve sheltered while storms moved through our location. A storm may degrade the local cellular network, meaning you lose signal, or the signal gets worse, fewer bars, more dropped connections. Before you lose all connection, you may have enough signal to push an SMS text message into the network, and the network may still be working enough to transport your text. I had read about using SMS text as an emergency communications link during cell network degradation. For both hurricane MATTHEW (2016) and Hurricane IRMA (2017) I successfully used SMS text to post to my Facebook status or wall page. These were short one-way notifications to family/friends about our status and immediate plans. Unfortunately, Facebook has dropped that service. Their web pages are still up and showing how to post using text, but it doesn’t work anymore, and they have not responded to my queries. Similarly, Twitter has restricted SMS text posting to certain markets (not USA?).

        To conclude, with the UV-5Rs I should be able to use GMRS & FRS frequencies, but in 2018 or 2019 the FCC announced that these radios are not licensed for use on the ham bands (even though there are over a million of them in the USA).

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        • #2276640 Reply
          mn–
          AskWoody Lounger

          To conclude, with the UV-5Rs I should be able to use GMRS & FRS frequencies, but in 2018 or 2019 the FCC announced that these radios are not licensed for use on the ham bands (even though there are over a million of them in the USA).

          … Wait, you need to use a licensed model on ham bands over there? I thought half the point was that hams can build their own and not have to take them to be inspected…?

          I mean, many of the “interesting” ham rigs are in significant part homebrew one-offs over here at least…

      • #2276735 Reply
        Dan Montague
        AskWoody Plus

        To conclude, with the UV-5Rs I should be able to use GMRS & FRS frequencies, but in 2018 or 2019 the FCC announced that these radios are not licensed for use on the ham bands (even though there are over a million of them in the USA).

        … Wait, you need to use a licensed model on ham bands over there? I thought half the point was that hams can build their own and not have to take them to be inspected…?

        I mean, many of the “interesting” ham rigs are in significant part homebrew one-offs over here at least…

        mn– I’m very new, but here’s how I think it works in USA. For home-built rigs, the licensed amateur herself certifies it for use. I am pretty certain she doesn’t have to get it inspected, but look out if it causes interference. Neighbors may complain if it interferes with their TV, mobile phone, pace-maker, etc. Other amateurs may notice and report her.
        For store-bought rigs, each manufacturer applies for and gets it certified for certain frequencies. The FCC (USA regulatory agency for airwaves) issues the manufacturer a Grant of Equipment Authorization or license for use. This must be attached to the unit. When I got the units, the first thing I checked was that label. So I thought “Yep, all good.”
        Wait, wait, not so fast. It took several weeks for me to dig deep enough. Search of the FCC database for the license shows that it is legitimate for FCC Rule Part 15. Uhhh, … wait a mo’ … that’s not Part 97 (Amateur Radio). What does Part 15 cover?  Unlicensed RF Devices, and unintentional emitters? The clearest explanation I found was on YouTube. That ham walked through the FCC’s Letter of Enforcement about the UV-5R. Along the way he offered opinion that their Letter of 2018 needs some work, and meanwhile about a million owners will probably continue to use the radios, some illegally transmitting on ham bands.
        Sorry for long-winded response.
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