Communications is among the top five priorities in my household’s emergency plan and should be something carefully considered in yours as well. As
a situation grows imminent (or immediately after a sudden event) one of the first protocols in my plan is to make a cut-and-run/shelter-in-place
assessment. Communications and Intelligence is critical in order to make that judgment. The very last thing you want to happen is to attempt to
bug-out only to find yourself stuck in evacuating hordes or herded into ‘official’ staging/evacuation/refugee areas. In either case whatever
planning and stockpiling you’ve done is for naught.
– Every prepared individual should have at least one good wideband receiver that is battery or preferably
crank-powered. This radio needs to be able to receive domestic AM and FM stations, Shortwave (international) and Weather stations at a bare minimum.
Additional coverage in the TV audio frequencies (at least some since they run from Ch 2 at 59.75MHz all the way up to Ch 10 at 197.75 for just the
first nine channels), the Aircraft band (188 – 136MHz AM) and some Public Service bands (155MHz and 453MHz FM vicinities --- there are many others)
would be good to have as well. Depending upon the nature of the situation, this will allow you to gather current information that will enable you to
plan and to assess not only the seriousness and scope of the situation but how quickly it is evolving and changing. Depending upon the extent and
nature of the situation it may be necessary to get this information from quite a distance which will have a significant impact on your ability to plan
tactically (i.e., shelter-in-place v. cut-and-run). Make sure that you keep an updated reference of all frequencies you might need (and have the
equipment to monitor). This information is widely available on the net. You don’t want to be running the dial looking for news during a crisis.
– Most any survivalist scenario involves the collapse of normal services for some period of time. That includes power,
cell phones, cable, telephone, internet, and very possibly broadcast radio and TV. This could be caused by infrastructure damage and/or demand
overload. In any case, at some point it will become necessary to venture out for repairs, provisioning, security, etc. Having two-way communications
with members of your own group or being able to coordinate with neighbors will become important. Portable CB radios (operating AM or SSB at the upper
end of the HF band) or FMRS (FM in the UHF band) are the most common choices. Both have ranges limited to a couple miles or so (out of the box). The
older CB radios have a slight edge on distance and do have a ‘universal’ emergency calling channel (Ch 9) making them well suited for getting
outside your immediate neighborhood. The FMRS handhelds, however, are best suited for ‘tactical’ use (to coordinate security, for example).
Communications Beyond Your Local Neighborhood
– Most all of us have family or loved ones at a distance. At some point there is going to be a
need or desire to find and coordinate with them. Similarly, it may become necessary to call for assistance. This equipment can be expensive and is
somewhat complex to use --- not to mention the licensing requirements to operate. Essentially your choices are military, business/commercial and HAM
gear. Obviously, there are legal considerations. As a general rule, the ‘range’, size and power requirements of radio equipment decrease with
increasing frequency. So, a UHF handheld may be small, with a stubby antenna and run for several hours on batteries but its range will only be a few
miles. Conversely, if you wanted to communicate cross-country (or internationally) you’d need an HF rig which would require a much longer and
complex antenna system and a much larger power supply.
HAM radio operators typically have equipment that functions on several bands. Most are prepared for operation during emergencies and have
contingencies for power outages. In the case of emergencies, HAM operators all over the world activate radio ‘nets’ to move message traffic and
news when commercial stations cannot. Your local HAM operator can get brief messages from you to your loved ones almost anywhere in the world in an
emergency. I would encourage serious survivalists to get their HAM licenses. The old requirement of morse code has been eliminated for the VHF
bands. In the very least, find out where your local HAM operators are. For more information you can visit this site:
EMP and Your Communications Plan:
Having communications equipment is great --- but only if it works when you need it. EMP from a nuclear event could destroy your equipment if you
don’t plan ahead. There are nuclear weapons that are optimized to create EMP in order to wipe out the targeted country’s communications, command
and control. These are detonated high in the atmosphere to maximize the effect. However, any nuclear detonation is going to have an EMP burst. A
ground detonation will have much of the EMP blocked and scattered by terrain and obstacles but for most modern electronics it doesn’t take much to
fry or disable your equipment.
Long metal structures and grids will act like antennas and concentrate the EMP. Things like the power grid, copper plumbing, steel structures,
cables, antennas and the like --- buried or not --- will concentrate the EMP and anything attached will similarly be affected. EMP works somewhat
like lightning and will travel over the surface of metal objects. The longer the metal the greater the risk. Your best insurance is to store your
survival electronics in a metal box. I use a large aluminum footlocker. For more on EMP go here:
Intelligence Gathering Considerations:
Your communications capabilities are going to be primarily used to gather intelligence. What’s going on? How widespread is it? How are things
developing? Is help coming? When? Are we safe? Are things stabilizing? Depending upon the scope of the situation you may need to gather this
information from a number of sources and at considerable distances.
Local intelligence gathering will probably be accomplished by patrolling from your base and reporting back what you find. In addition to
communications equipment, you’ll need maps against which to reference the intelligence you collect. Copies of USGS maps of your immediate area
(1:25,000 scale) are a good idea. In a pinch, aircraft VFR sectionals (1:50,000 scale) will do and can be purchased at almost any local airport.
These provide features and terrain information that can be used as reference points and to chart overland movement if necessary. I’ve also
downloaded Google earth images of my home. These provide a birds-eye view that are useful to plan egress and, if necessary, defensive strategies for
the immediate area of my home base.
Communications and Intelligence may not be the sexiest part of Survivalist planning but it is, just the same, essential. You‘ll need to know what
is going on and where. The human psyche doesn’t function well when it can’t understand its surroundings. Staying calm and making good decisions
is largely a function of being informed. No matter how good your prior planning and how extensive your stockpile, one bad decision can cost you and
yours everything. Start your planning now.