Hello, Frank here.
If you are a regular reader, then you know a week or so back we introduced a re-post of an article that was a year or so old. This effort was very well accepted and we genuinely thank you.
As most of you are aware, when, not if, our society shuts down, or collapses, then it will be too late to start making general preparations. I believe communication is one of the areas grossly overlooked by those that are trying to prepare. Whether you want to transmit on a radio, listen to local events or world events, then there are certain types of equipment that you will need. Most of these items can be dual or triple purpose, and will not break the bank unless you choose to do so.
The following article is a re-post about basic radio communications. You can find many other articles listed under Frank's Radio Communications. If this is of interest to you, then please read some of these articles. They are written in easy to understand language with the beginner in mind. Thank you for your considerations, and I hope you enjoy the following re-post. If you have a comment, please share it, because this is one way for all of us to learn. That little radio in your hand may some day save your life. Thank you again.
Originally published August 12, 2013
Hello, Frank here.
I'm going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts.
The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or
amateur radio. So, let's go back and talk about all of the stuff I have
covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let's go.
radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have
them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios -
non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios.
CB radio is line-of-site communications, most of the time. CB radio
operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere
similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11
meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the
conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job
of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your
cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the
way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to
other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I
recommend the Galaxy
line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a
quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is
prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.
talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post.
Next, let's talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very
popular. The vast, vast majority of them are handheld radios.
People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and
just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication.
These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be
hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at
about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better
from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big
difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or
power systems inside the radios.
we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All
of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged.
If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.
In a previous post,
we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically
the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good
clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the
advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles - this is a sales gimmick. Not all
of us live on a flat planet, if we did, then the advertisements
be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate
with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels
are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or
GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio - one is camo and one is black. The
reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable
batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the
charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they
charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries
while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of
years on our little farm.
We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency
and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies
operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and
will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major
manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a
commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on
the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies
for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output.
CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does.
A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB
they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio
frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them
come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My
recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio.
It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It
is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss
legalities and license requirements in just a minute.
Non-transmitting radios. This is a
group of radios that you listen to only. We're going to talk about
shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few
others, but for the most part this covers them. Let's start with weather
radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency
by the National Weather Service. Most parts of the country receive
good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don't. I would highly
recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.
This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county
level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I
would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a
It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a
built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still
receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post,
it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external
antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.
Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are
handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is
whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital
signal similar to what
did nationwide a few years back. This is not a national movement. This
is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many
communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your
local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable
for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone
communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will
receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham
frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it
is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your
responsibility to find out the laws in your state.
I'm not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band
is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of
the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen
to marine band signals which includes the Coast Guard.
are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88
channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157
MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on
these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band
frequencies. A little side note - your scanner will also receive
railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and
you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which
frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.
receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are
receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined
everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are
AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in
these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want
to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives
SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are
capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham
radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio
transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies
and also receive all of the AM shortwave transmissions. Shortwave radios
can be as
as $50 - $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner's HF ham radio that will
transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have
to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to
transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We
are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the
next radio post.
Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies.
If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries.
Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA
or AAA batteries that you
replace with rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of
rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile
radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12
VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a
base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive
radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will
work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a
power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you're going to operate a ham
radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend
that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide
you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery
chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items.
Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are
operating in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use
a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your
antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need
different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For
your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go
to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas.
Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most
part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external
antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna.
It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect
an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a
long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There
may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what
your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of
this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type
connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable.
It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of
under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.
There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to
become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in
the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As
I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS
license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any
transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications
signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or
cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power
transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4
watts to, let's say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next
door's TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If
your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for
most part, no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio,
which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example
the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly
that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized
frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will
find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000
watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down
the road and you don't bother grandma's TV signal and you don't
interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no
one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is
now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier,
if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or
care. But....if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone
will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.
of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if
you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know
what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you
don't know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON'T DO IT.
Lot's of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra
power. It's not a question of legal or illegal, it's a question of, if
you don't know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to
your cute little girl's brain. So, one more time, if you don't know what
you are doing, DON'T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.
time, we're going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies
very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some
miracle, mysterious thing. It's just a group of frequencies or bands or
meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody,
somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little
bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with
links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations.
We'll talk more later. 73, Frank