Sun. Nov. 29, 2020 – still raining, still plodding along

And still raining.  Ground is SATURATED.  Bayous are full.  Some people are going to have a problem soon.

Slept late after being up all night with the power outage and restore.  Followed by an Amber alert.  Felt worse after sleeping until 10 than if I’d just gotten up at a normal hour.

I went out to do a pickup- got a 440mhz ham antenna for very cheap.  Turned out I missed the guy’s estate sale with all the radios and gear.  The house still had 3 big antennas, a multiband HF yagi on a crank up tower, a set of 144 and 440 yagis for EarthMoonEarth on a rusty old tower, and a multiband vertical ground mounted.   I asked, and she wanted $100 for all but I needed to take them down and take them all.   Closer inspection, I realized the crank up tower was cranked up.  The guy had been gone for a long time.  If the tower was still in the up position, it probably didn’t COME down… I offered on the ground mount, but she turned me down.  I don’t want the project or the risk of taking down a broken tower.  I sure would have liked those antennas though.  (The HF yagi was 35 feet across and 60 feet up.  The EME yagis are about 10 ft long.)

Got home and went to work putting up the range hood.  Finally finished that around 10pm.  Still need to get up in the attic and hook up the power and the duct.  It looks great, but ended up about 4 inches too close to my face.  I’ll either get used to it or not.

Did go through another bin of stuff for the auction.  Arranged to meet the plumber at the rent house on Tuesday.  So I got some stuff done but it still didn’t feel like a lot.

And everyone’s bedtime is now messed up.

Today’s plan is more of the same.  Finish the range hood.  More auction stuff.  Cleaning.   MAYBE some Christmas decor if the rain stops.

And of course, keep working on skills, keep building community, keep stacking.

nick

Wed. Nov. 11, 2020 – Veterans’ Day

Overcast, damp, but hopefully cool.

We got a bare dusting of rain in the early morning yesterday, and it was still sitting on stuff at 6pm.  THAT’S how damp it was in Houston.  You sweat just standing still, even at 76F.

I did one pickup, of stuff for the house mainly.  I did get 3 partial jugs of smokeless powder for reloading.  Not something I do, but I’ve got most of what I’d need to reload shotgun… or I’ll sell it as a bundle and hopefully get more than I would for just the pieces.

Today I need to rent a trailer to get all the things.  Mainly I bought 2 pallets of fiberglas batt insulation.  I am going to finish my bathroom project this fall/winter/spring.  It was 2/5 the price of lowes, and that’s a pretty big discount.  I really only needed one pallet, but for the first time in months, the pallets went for less than $200 and my ‘safety placeholder’ bid won.    I’ll use it up in the attic over the kitchen where the existing insulation is minimal.

I’ve got another pickup before that one.  I won some shotgun ammo in a local estate sale.  It went for much less than the crazy high prices the rifle and pistol ammo brought.  Shotty will work just fine, come the day.

Before all that though, daughter 1 has an orthodontia appointment this morning.   I’ll be taking her to that, then back to school.

After all my other tasks, then I’ll use the trailer to move one more thing in the late afternoon/evening and I’ll be done running around for the day.


The local and regional PD have been working overtime on surveillance and arrests.   The other night a massive task force went after the street racers.  Then there was some drug surveillance involving DEA and their aircraft.  Today it was auto theft and armed robbery.    They followed the bad guys and grabbed them as soon as it started to go down.  Had the helo up in case the guys ran.   Some other thing was running too, involving ATF as one of the partner agencies.

The interesting thing for me is that the bad guys still manage to lose the good guys  lot of the time.  Or they spot some of the surveillance and avoid doing any crimes in front of those units, but they can’t help themselves and still commit crimes in front of the others.  Often, the good guys will use a marked unit to make the stop, almost always after establishing probable cause so the target never even knows they were being watched.  I can’t believe how many crooks have broken tail lights, or do really stupid stuff in traffic.   I’d say that 99% of the stuff the local PD and the task forces do never even gets noticed by the press.  Get a scanner and start listening.  It’s enlightening and well worth just having it on while you’re doing other things.

So much to do, I better get busy.   Keep getting ready, keep stacking.

 

nick

Fri. Oct. 16, 2020 -busy day

Hot and humid?  Or the cold front gets here and it’s cool and humid.  Either way, humid.

 

edit–  cold.  61F and misty drizzle at 7am.

Thursday was mostly nice, with some nasty moments of humidity.   I got all of my antennas back up, which meant I was up on the roof.   Even in the shade, with dead calm the humidity had me dripping sweat off my nose.

I cleared some shelves and moved several bins of auction stuff out of the house and onto the shelves.  I can’t have it just sit there while waiting to go to auction.  I’ll take the cleaning supplies and paper goods back to my secondary location.    It helped.   There are 4 bins that aren’t sitting in the foyer…

I did some small things in the garage.  Had to make some adjustments to the roll up door.  Somehow the cables got off their guide grooves on one side and the door wasn’t closing parallel to the ground.  It only took a half hour, but it’s always nerve wracking working around that spring.  Slow and steady, carefully considered- that’s the way to do it.

One advantage of working on stuff is getting a much clearer idea how it really works.  The first time working on the door had a bunch of discovery.  This time, I saw what was wrong very quickly and just fixed it.

I had to do a bit of repair on my discone scanner antenna.  Somehow during handling it I broke off two of the ‘cone’ elements.  They are hollow tubes with a threaded stud inserted into one end.  The stud pulled out of the tube.  I couldn’t re-crimp the tube, so I silver soldered them back together.  Worked well, and that’s another thing I bought far in advance of need.  I have no idea where or when I got the silver solder and flux, but I knew it was exactly what would be needed to fix something.  The antenna probably would still be 90% without the two elements, but it didn’t take long to fix them, and I had the stuff ready.  I’ll screw them back into the antenna today or tomorrow.  I’m listening to the scanner now, so some degradation didn’t make too much difference.

I finally got the feed line attached for my UHF antenna that I intend to use to D/L weather maps from the satellites.  (That’s the plan anyway.)  All the talk of using the SDR dongle for other things motivated me (since I was up on the roof anyway) to complete that antenna install.  Now I just have to get a PC set up with the software and get the dongle running again.

I got my Instacart grocery deliveries today too.  I found some cuts of beef on sale, although not the killer deal of the last couple of times.  More food in the freezer makes me feel better.  I added frozen fruit and vegetable mix as well as more bread.   My wife is making smoothies for breakfast and likes the frozen fruit for that.  Now that I have the additional freezer space, I can accommodate her.  (frozen fruit is a definite  luxury in prepping terms, if push comes to shove, I’ll reclaim the freezer space for meat or other protein.)

Today I’ll be doing some auction pickups.  I got a bunch of household stuff, and what I believe to be an RV sized battery charger/inverter.  It was $3 so worth the gamble.  I also got a small Dometic camping toilet, suitable for in vehicle use and at least part of a Dakota Alert driveway monitor.  There was a lot of camping stuff in the auctions this week, but I’m full up.  I’m actually looking to sell several coleman lanterns and maybe a stove or two.  I’m a whole lot less interested in keeping them in my “here you go, here’s a disaster kitchen” boxes than I was.  My teats are running dry of the milk of human kindness at the moment.

I’ll leave you with that unfortunate image burning in your brain, and suggest that you take what time and resources you have, and keep improving your position.  The easiest way is to keep stacking!

 

nick

Sat. Mar. 7, 2020 – Hamfest today, also regional convention…

Cool, sunny, and probably windy.

Yesterday was gorgeous. Cool, breezy and sunny. I’ve got a bit of sunburn or wind burn from being out all afternoon. I’ll probably have worse by the end of today.

Spent the morning getting ready, taking calls, and having the roof looked at. Spent the afternoon hitting two storage units and my secondary location to get a bunch of stuff together for the hamfest. I’ll spend today standing in a parking lot selling a bunch (hopefully) and trying not to get sick.

Speaking of getting sick… get prepped. It doesn’t matter whether you think this is nothing or the end of the world. YOUR NEIGHBOR can get sick, and then you are confined to your home with no warning. Get some food etc in and be ready. Make your last run to the store and then step back from the edge.

Lots of people are getting sick. Telling me that it’s just every adult in my life and the kids’ grandparents who are the only ones seriously at risk ISN’T comforting BTW. It smacks of the arrogance of youth. Just saying.

And with that, I’m headed out. Wife and second daughter are at away camp. First daughter is with friends. I’m gonna go hang with one of my tribes.

n

And KEEP STACKING.

added- Divemedic has a disturbing anecdote — http://street-pharmacy.blogspot.com/2020/03/flash-we-are-being-misled.html Ask yourself how many others like that are in FL. Where they have a HUGE incentive to keep the numbers down.

Also this- St Cecilia’s Church is about 3.5 miles away. We have one friend that attends there but not on Ash Wednesday.

“Important Message from St. Cecilia Regarding Coronavirus:

Today, late in the afternoon, Harris County Public Health made us aware that an individual who tested positive for the coronavirus, attended the 5:30 pm Ash Wednesday Mass on February 26th here at St. Cecilia. Harris County Public Health also told us this individual received ashes and had communion in the hand; the person did not receive communion from the cup. We were informed that the individual sat in the last pew on the left side of the Church at this service. If you sat in the last 3 rows on the left side of the Church at the 5:30 p.m. Ash Wednesday Mass, you are asked to contact Harris County Public Health at 713-439-6000. We also urge anyone experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus to seek medical attention immediately.

St. Cecilia has taken the following to help protect its parishioners:
• We drained and sanitized the baptismal fonts; it will not be filled for the remainder of the Lenten season
• We sanitized pews, door handles, and bathrooms
• We are providing hand sanitizers at all the church entrances

If you are unwell or uncomfortable coming to mass or in crowded places, please stay home and join us in prayer. In addition, please keep those who have been affected by the coronavirus in your prayers.”

Fri. Mar. 6, 2020 – mad scramble today

Cool and clear. [65F]

Yesterday ended up beautiful and clear with a nice breeze to dry everything out and cool everything off.

I ended up not getting as much done as I wanted to. I was hoping to get at least one load of stuff for the hamfest to my house for loading. I’ll have to go get all of it today, and load up. Something will be slipping and I’m pretty sure it will be watching the news develop.

The hamfest is in Ft Bend county at the Rosenberg fairgrounds. I was very glad to hear that the cases there were travel related. UNhappy to think about all the people I’m going to interact with tomorrow. It’s outside which will help, I’ll keep my distance, and I’m not going to be shaking hands much. Since ebay killed my listing, I’ll probably bring at least a box or two of masks. I’ll ask less than my ebay price.

Another thing that will slip is putting a piece of test gear back together for sale. I’m the king of taking stuff apart, not so much putting it back together. It will sell well on ebay, so I’ll do that.

Tried to drop off 17 3m Breathe easy turbo PAPR forced air respirator units, only slightly moldy, at my local auction. Spent over 2 hours trying to do so, only to discover they won’t take anything that someone might breathe through. Sucks. I really wanted to quickly sell the lot and not ship anything. Maybe one of the other local auctions will take it. They are NOT ready to use, needing cleaning, batteries, and filters.

Between my unscheduled shopping trip, my unsuccessful auction trip, and checking on my truck, I am behind where I hoped to be getting ready for my swapmeet.

So, I’m gonna be off line most of today, once I get out of the house.

KEEP STACKING.

nick

Thur. Mar. 5, 2020 – getting set for wuflu, and hamfest

Cool and damp. Windy too.

Yesterday was off and on rain in the morning which limited my outdoor work. As y’all know, I spent the time indoors on the computer. It finally dried out enough for me to get out in the driveway around noon.

I managed to get some stuff done. I got some shelves set up where I took a pallet of stuff apart, moved recent food there, and wrapped the whole thing in plastic to keep it dry. It’s less than ideal, but better than nothing. (I didn’t get the batteries replaced in my weather station. It’s not even waking up in the daylight. Today for sure.)

I found and went through the portable forced air respirators. Unfortunately due to moisture intrusion, they got moldy in storage. It sucks because there are spare canisters, and bunny suit hoods. No actual face masks, but I have a couple that would work, if I didn’t want to use the paper hoods. I even got the correct battery packs in another auction. Despite that I’m going to put them in the auction. I don’t have time or desire to clean them, and I can use the money for other things. I figure they should sell, given the state of things. Since there are about 20 I may keep two and two of the batteries just in case. They are awesome for woodworking at the lathe if things go back to normal.

This is not the first time moisture and mold got me. The Rubbermaid Cargo containers, black rotomolded tubs with grey lids and red latches, are absolutely NOT water tight. Every one I’ve had, in any size, had water inside after long enough. Even under a tarp, both big chest sized tubs were damp, and one had 1/2″ of water in it. FWIW, the black tubs from Costco or homedepot with the snap on yellow lids aren’t water tight either. Taping over the padlock holes helps, but if water gets on the lid it will get inside eventually. It’s possible that it is some sort of thermal pumping drawing in humid air which then condenses and can’t dry out, but I’m pretty sure there is direct intrusion through capillary action.

Hamfest is Saturday, and I’ll be in the parking lot swap meet selling a truck load of stuff. It’s a long but fun day, and I usually make good money and clear out a bunch of stuff. There are people I only see at the hamfest, once a year. Nice to touch base.

I’m a bit concerned about being around all the people, but it is outdoors and I won’t be closeted with anyone. I will be using hand wipes a lot more than in the past. I don’t think I’ll wear a mask, but I’m bringing some. Forecast says clear weather, which will be a nice change.

That gives me today and tomorrow to get all the stuff out of storage, unburied, organized, priced, and loaded on the truck. AND continue to monitor the Wuflu and get myself squared away here.

No rest for the wicked.

Keep stacking, it’s here and it will be doubling every 3-5 days. People will be losing their minds by next week.

Take this time as a gift, and get ready.

nick

Fri. Jan. 26th, 2018 Finally Friday

It has been a long week. Busy weekend of work and family ahead too, but at least the weather should be a bit better.

53F and mostly clear in Houston today. I took a look at my citrus trees and they don’t look good. Between the cold and being covered, all the leaves are pretty much shrunken and dried. I guess I’ll see if they recover in a few more weeks. I certainly hope so. The grapefruit I got this year is delicious.

It feels like we’re wrapping up winter, and getting ready for spring. I got the last of the Christmas stuff down and put away (didn’t want to do it wet). It’s unlikely we’ll have more sub-freezing temperatures. The yard and garden are brown and a mess, but we’ll soon see what we can get started on. I might just throw down some native wildflowers in the front yard flower beds.

This definitely feels like a time of transition… both in the natural world, in society, and personally. Transitional times are tricky. They are a time when the smallest influences can lead to big changes. I think they call for conservatism, balance, a ‘centeredness’, and being prepared to move in any direction either defensively or to take advantage of opportunity.

This is a good time to take a step back from daily strife, and re-evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and your plan for getting there. If there ever was a time to position yourself to move freely in any direction, this is certainly it.

nick

Guest post, some thoughts on radios, and why it’s hard to get a straight answer from a ham…

In response to this question-

“@nick

You seem well-informed on the subject, so what are YOUR recommendations for someone looking to just get a few radios?”

I’ve consolidated some of yesterday’s discussion in one place.

 

—————————————————————————————

The important question to start with is ‘what do you want to do?’ With that info, you can narrow the list.

 

The first separation is listen vs talk. No license required to listen. To listen, get a scanner. Most transceivers will scan, but they are much slower. To talk, see below.

If you want to monitor your local area, (and it’s fun but you aren’t necessarily gonna get the inside scoop), you need a couple of scanners. I like analog because they’re cheap. They work well for scanning ham bands, or the analog FEMA interop freqs.  Analog scanners will also cover the GMRS and FRS bands, weather bands, marine (almost everyone in the US is near a coast or navigable waterway), air, etc.  If you are rural, you may have more traffic on analog than other areas. If your area has gone digital, you need a digital capable trunk tracker scanner. The Uniden Home Patrol II is a bit long in the tooth, but is widely recommended. I like mine, but it needs a bunch of tweaking to the internal channel list. Setting up scanners takes a bit of thinking about what you want to monitor too. I shut off all the dispatch channels because they run constantly here.  You may be in a slower area, and want to hear the dispatches, but even in a rural area, I think you’ll be surprised how much work your cops and EMS people do.  For other sources of good intel, your highway motorist aid guys probably still use analog and they’re a good source for high water and road debris info. Same for the ‘talkback’ channel for your local news teams to talk to their ‘in the field’ guys. There is a lot of interesting stuff even during normal times.  Radio Reference is the definitive web site for frequency info.

The other type pure listening radio for preppers is Shortwave. After trying dozens of radios and listening at least a couple of nights a week for the last year, I’ve concluded that there’s not a lot of info actually on SW. By definition, the state broadcasters are running propaganda stations. Most of the other stations are religious.  The airwaves are NOT awash in alternative news stations.  But even so there are things to listen to, and post SHTF, there might be other broadcasters or other content. It’s definitely overblown in the prepping world though.  Other than music, I listen to a ham focused show out of Havana, a ham focused show on one of the religious broadcasters in Tennessee, and everyone’s favorite conspiracy guy broadcast by a station in Florida.  Shortwave is also a fun, quick way to check band conditions without firing up your HF ham rig.

For SW, I like older “communications receivers” like the Kenwood R-1000 or the Yaesu FRG-7700. They have continuous coverage from the low lows to their highs at 50mhz. They are usually used on AC power but also may have battery inputs. For off grid, I love my Panasonic RF-2200. Over a year of checking thru the dial a couple of times a week, on one set of D batteries.  Like the AC models, it is a larger model.  Larger models will generally give you much more sensitive tuning and bigger dials, which is GOOD.  For pocket or on the go, I’m really liking the little Sony ICF 7600 I took to the Virgin Islands. It’s got digital tuning but you can comfortably just tune thru the bands. LOTS of other radios with digital tuning will “chuff” or take a second to tune every single time you push the UP or Down button. For scanning around that is REALLY tedious. The Sony is very smooth tuning up and down.

You’ll notice that this stuff is all older. Yup, it is, but the designs stood the test of time.  And it’s non-critical or covered by spares, and is cheap compared to current gear with the same capability.

I’ve decided the little pocket analogs are almost completely useless and the pocket digitals are pretty useless for just tuning around.  Also, don’t worry about single side band or having a Beat Frequency Oscillator on your SW radio so you can listen to hams. They are almost impossible to tune in given the smaller dials, and across a dozen portable radios, I couldn’t consistently hear SSB conversations. If you want to listen to hams, get a ham radio.  [there are other factors too, like where the band pass filters start and stop that can make SW listening on a ham radio, or ham listening on a SW radio problematic.]

 

When it comes to talking on the radio:

If you are thinking about getting a ham license, and want to get started cheaply, the baofengs are a great entry point for a tech or general license. DON’T buy a used radio unless you can get some guarantee that it works. You want to get on the air, not work on radios. If you want something better than the chinese radios, any of the big three, Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu, that have the features you want, will be great. ALWAYS check the reviews at eHam.com before buying. They will address any reliability or useability issues, esp for something that’s been out for a while. I’d buy cheaper, and fewer features unless you’ve decided you like ham radio as a hobby or decided that you need a digital mode. Buy a dual band radio that has 2 meter (144mhz or VHF) and 70cm (440mhz or UHF). Don’t buy a single band radio unless it’s very cheap or you are planning for a dedicated use like data or APRS.

For HF (getting more than a mile or two away, or for HF data modes) I’m gonna say, there are great values in 20-25 year old gear. My Yaesu FT 847 works great.  There are many classic models from the time period that are well regarded, still run well, and are cheaper than comparable new models.  Any voice work on HF requires a General or Amateur Extra License.

There are multiband mobile radios that include HF but due to power and antenna limitations, they aren’t the best choice if you are gonna do a lot of HF.

Mobile radios make decent home stations too, if the power limits are ok for you.

Antennas are critical to your success talking on the air.  Some of the radios (like FRS) are intentionally crippled by requiring attached (and crappy) antennas.  There are lots of books about antennas, making your own, or buying, and the classics are available used for very low prices.  The web is full of antenna projects too.

Some people recommend tube radios for EMP survivability but they are harder to use, need more power, and are physically bigger. Probably better to get another modern radio and put it in a metal box if that worries you.

Moving to radios that don’t require a license, the most common are the ‘blister pack’ small form factor walkie talkies.

I have buckets full of FRS/GMRS radios (blister pack) that I buy when I see them cheap ($1-3). I don’t trust them for anything critical though. I use them when I’d rather not yell but don’t trust them for anything farther than that.

I’ve also bought motorola business radios when I see them cheap. They are bulletproof unless the batteries leaked, but anything will be destroyed by leaking batteries. After years of using moto radios in the field, I may be biased, but they just keep working.  A blister pack Motorola business radio is a good compromise between a $10 FRS and a $1000 ham or commercial high end walkie.

There are real differences between a $1200 moto walkie and a $30 one. Those differences might not be important to you, but don’t discount them. Sure, you can easily replace your $30 radio with a spare if you are where the spare is. It’s NOT so easy to replace if you are out USING it and the spares are at home. If it’s critical gear, buy quality.

I’ve mentioned before that I think CBs are worth having. There is still a lot of CB use in more rural areas, and among the Off Road crowd. There are also some people in the prep/liberty/militia/patriot movements that advocate a super set of CB known as “freebanding.” They use modified radios or ‘export only’ models that include access to freqs outside the Citizen’s Bands. They are illegal for most people, are NOT obscure, ARE easily monitored, and get you very little for the additional cost/risk/complication and learning curve.

A side note on licensing. Many of the freqs and radios are restricted to various licensed individuals/businesses/or classes of people. Some are enforced, some are not. FRS doesn’t need a license, but is supposed to be restricted to non-business use. GMRS requires a license, which covers your whole family for a number of years, and is a ‘fee only’ license. CB dropped the individual license requirement, but there are still restrictions on power output, antenna heights, and even attempting to reach beyond certain distances. Ham frequencies and modes and power output are all subject to different license requirements. Technician and General ham licenses are not difficult to get with study, and will give you almost all the privileges that the very hard Amateur Extra license does. MURS describes frequencies for business use and does not require individual licenses. Most of the blister pack ‘business’ radios use MURS freqs. There are some other freqs and modes available (baby monitors, dakota alert, Moto 900mhz walkies, that don’t require individual licensing).  Some preppers advocate one of the more obscure frequencies and modes but you won’t be hiding when you press the transmit button, and there are ways for anyone motivated to eavesdrop.  BTW, it’s illegal to encrypt or otherwise attempt to hide the content of your communication on the ham bands, and also illegal to use them for business (with one specific exception for used ham gear) or to be compensated for your use of the bands.

Some online preppers have recommended getting marine radios and using them on land. This is a really bad idea, with very little upside.  It’s specifically prohibited by law. The Coast Guard takes a very dim view of this abuse, and they are set up to direction find transmissions. Just don’t do it.

Every month, the magazine of the ARRL (QST) lists enforcement actions the FCC has taken. The vast majority are for CB violations, followed by willful interference violations on ham bands. Hams will report you if you are on their bands without a license. Just don’t do it. There are guys that LIVE to direction find you, record you, challenge you, and they will remember you if you later get a license. Given that, there are WAY more violators than there are people prosecuted. But if you do get prosecuted the fines are not small, and the FCC tacks on “respect my authority!” fees too.  Get properly licensed and get on the air to practice.  It’s no different than the recommendation to gun owners to get training and practice.  You’ll learn to use the gear you have, be able to judge its usefulness and appropriateness for YOU, and to make changes if needed.

One of the biggest frustrations for new hams is getting a definitive gear recommendation. Experienced hams will almost always say “it depends” and “what do you want to do?” For preppers, it’s a lot easier. Start with the baofengs. Add a dual band mobile (in the car or on your desk) from the big 3. A good basic walkie or HT as hams say, is the Yaesu FT-60r.  Most will consider that an upgrade from the baofeng HTs.  Stay away from re-purposed public safety commercial radios until you’ve gotten farther along in the hobby, or unless someone local can set it up for you (and keep it up.)

In general, look for radios that can be programmed by pc with a cable. That will be WAY easier than doing it by hand. That said, I’ve got about 4 freqs programmed in my HT. How many more can you keep track of?

I hope that helped some, I’ve written 10’s of thousands of words on the subject here and in other blog comments.

n

 

(opinions are my own, correct me if I’m wrong, ask any questions you might have.)

Monday, 7 November 2016- guest post –some thoughts on ham radio

In response to H Combs question the other day, I said I would post links to my previous comments about getting started in ham radio, from a prepper point of view.

Here is the full text of one comment I wrote for another site.  The poster’s question was about the using the Baofang UV5 handy talkie for communicating with his parents in another state, and what would be involved in making that happen.  Following the text is a link to the original comment, and all the other replies.  Many of the replies have a lot of good info too.  [I’ve added comments in square brackets today.]

 

nick flandrey says:

I own this radio too [Baofang UV-5Rplus+], and like it for an entry level radio. It will give you access to local repeaters, (which will increase your effective range) and let you practice radio use with the entry level license- the Technician Class.

Getting that first license is straightforward and (relatively) easy depending on your knowledge of basic electronics. REALLY basic. Many of the exam questions are things like “what is the symbol for a resister?”

The quickest route to passing the exam is to use one of the online practice exams (free) and just keep taking it until you can consistently pass. You can see the correct answer to the questions and you can just learn those. All of the questions on the exam come from the exact same pool of questions as the practice, so this is a good, fast, way to prepare to pass the exam. While you are practicing, once you can pass the Technician test, start learning the questions for the General test. Depending on your starting knowledge, you can learn the questions and answers in a few days of study. DON’T spend money on this. There are several free services online.

Once you are passing the practice tests consistently, go online and find a local time and place to take the actual test. Most cities have them frequently. There is a small fee for the test. The ARRL website has links to training and testing. When you get to the test site, tell the volunteer examiner that you will be taking the Technician class test, and if you pass, you would also like to take the General class test. It doesn’t cost any more to take the second test after you pass the first, and it will give you a lot of additional frequencies and modes to use that will let you communicate longer distances directly. [this is important!  You will need the General Class to use voice on HF, which is the only way to get out of your immediate area if the grid, and UHF/VHF repeaters are down.]

Please note that this is NOT the traditional route to a license! There are many in the ham “community” that really frown on this approach. It is the quickest way to get on the air and use your radio legally (and you should not use it illegally, unless WROL conditions are likely to exist for a long time.) MANY folks in the prepper and emergency response community take this route because they just want to be able to use their radios and communicate with their teams, and have no interest in joining the larger ham community. I was this way when I started, and I used this method.

The traditional method, and a better way to actually LEARN about radios, ham, and the ham community, is to join a local club and get guidance and help from them. There is a long tradition of mentorship (having a mentor, traditionally called an “Elmer” to help train you and answer your questions, as well as indoctrinate you into the language, techniques, and culture of the amateur community). They would recommend starting with one of the ARRL test prep books, and learning the material vs. just learning the questions so you can pass. The books are well written, easy to follow, FULL of useful information, and can be had cheaply if you can find them second hand. The questions don’t change that often, so the books are good for a while. The info in the books is good even if they are older, just use an online prep site for the actual questions.

I chose to quickly pass the test, get on the air, and then go back and read the books to fill in the HUGE gaps in my knowledge. I’ve found that I like many aspects of the ham hobby and am slowly joining in the hobby, not just using my radio as practice for TEOTWAWKI. The hobby is MASSIVE with an enormous amount of different areas to focus on or learn about. (You can talk to the space station for example.) There is also a long history of public service (it’s one of the reasons amateurs are given use of the otherwise very valuable spectrum for free.) Many in the prepper and emergency response communities will find a lot of crossover with ARES or RACES which are ham organizations that provide communications support in the event of an emergency. There are others as well- Red Cross, Salvation Army, LDS, NOAA all have amateur supported groups.

Also, don’t get frustrated! Like any culture, amateur radio has an established language, history, and procedures. It can take a while to learn those things, and to feel comfortable. A local club will help tremendously with those things. One note, it can be very hard to get a “straight answer” to some questions. The hobby is large, the participants all have their own focuses, and most are reluctant to give limiting, definitive answers without knowing a lot about your particular situation. Some examples are “what radio should I buy? What antenna works best for (this specific thing) I want to do? How do I talk with my aunt in Idaho?” This is another area where having locals who know you can be hugely helpful.

Finally, I found some accessories will really help you use your radio. You will want a better antenna. They are cheap on ebay, less than $10, and will help. Also, a battery eliminator is a good bet, and the extended battery pack is highly recommended. I’d also suggest a mid-price dual band antenna on a magnet mount for your vehicle ($40) Using a handheld inside a vehicle is problematic. If you are worried about stealth use, a headset/earphone will help keep you quiet.

Get your license, get on the air on a local repeater, and practice! Most folks in the community are friendly, welcoming and responsive. When you find someone who is not, just ignore them and move on. You might find that you have added not just a prep, but a new hobby.

good luck,

nick

oh, and to answer your original question. If you and your parents are in states covered by a repeater system, tied to other states, like the Saltgrass Network, or Winsystem, you may be able to use that radio to talk them during normal times when the repeaters and the internet are up. To talk state to state directly you will need radios capable of HF frequencies, a General class license, antennas, and some other stuff. Even buying used gear, you could spend $500 – $1000 at each end. The key in either case, is practice ahead of time.

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link

 

Nick