Growing A Prepper Group Through Teaching Radio Communications Part Two: Teaching Your First Course & Creating Follow-On Courses

by Prepper Doc

In Part One, (also read part three here) I discussed how you could use Radio Comm training as a way to locate potential allies who may soon share your prepper goals.  I went over how you could work to get your own ham radio license, and how to use the Baofeng UV-5R inexpensive handi-talkie for your initial ham radio VHF/UHF experience.

In this part, we’ll go over how you can hold your first Radio Comm training program.   While the Baofengs make very inexpensive VHF/UHF rigs, getting a shortwave (HF) station going that can have national/international communications in an emergency is a bit trickier.   So, In Part Three, I’ll delver farther into how you can put together an inexpensive HF station, hopefully one that is somewhat EMP protected.

GOALS:  You need to have a vision for what you are trying to accomplish.

  1. Teach people enough so that they have a good chance of passing the Technician license exam
  2. Make sure they have FUN, or they won’t be coming back to learn anything more from you, or to join up with you!
  3. Recruit selected students to additional training, developing them further into allies.

Elaboration on  #3:  Recruit:  You have to stay one or two steps ahead in your planning, just like the introduction to this article (Part II) explained what would be coming in Part III (a tease, to increase interest).    At the time of your Radio Comm training, you need to already have a fair set of plans in place for the next thing you are going to teach/involve them in, so that you can advertise it right then and there, and begin signing people up.   People’s time and attention are valuable:  while you have their attentiont, make the most of it!

You may want to next teach food storage techniques, or gardening, or marksmanship, or cartridge reloading, or backup electricity techniques — whatever is your next class, have an attractive flyer ready to pass out, and a signup available!   You may not even personally have the expertise — for example you may simply offer to coordinate getting a group transported to/from an Appleseed marksmanship training program [1] with the teaser that you have some rifles they can borrow for the day, or you may have a fellow prepper who can teach that next subject.

If so, have your dates, times, and specifics nailed down so you can hand out a flyer of what you’re offering, what is required, a compelling list of what the BENEFITS will be, and how to sign up.   That’s recruiting!


In order to make it fun, and successful, you need to be well prepared.   If you’re new to ham radio, you may settle for getting students ready for the Technician exam; if you’re more experienced, you may tantalize them with the possibility of also passing the General.  Get help if you can, and get as many ham rigs as possible to festoon your meeting location, for breakout demonstrations.  Have them on individual tables with adequate room for a group to gather around each; capable antennas on each so they can hear and possibly even transmit as part of your demonstrations.

I like the weekend-boot-camp idea.   It requires the simplest time commitment from your students.   You may be recruiting busy people whose schedules are quite full, so pick a weekend several months (3-6) into the future, and well away from any major holidays that sap peoples’ spare time.   If possible, schedule your class one or two weeks right before a local examination schedule, and point out that they can take the test right away.  Be sure to coordinate with the local volunteer examiners.

Interest more people by offering a wide-ranging, versatile course that will appeal to multiple sectors.   I suggest that you require a nominal charge (in advance!) and that you deliver (at the start of the course) to each student  a) their own pre-programmed Baofeng transceiver ($27), b) an inexpensive voltmeter ($6) [2], and a nice touch would be c)  to have them construct their own external 2 meter dipole at your class (with adapter to SMA, probably $8–see below).   You need to have mastered Baofeng programming to pull this part off….(see Part One)   Unless you have a chef at your disposal, do meals as order-out’s from a nearby fast food spot, and have each participant take care of themselves.  Remember some people have dairy-intolerance, some may have dietary allergies,  and others may be vegans — so don’t lock people into some food choices that may not work for them.  Allow people to bring their own sack-meals, of course!

good pics

Use the ARRL video [3] as the basis for your class.  You would never be able to match the props and illustrations they put into that one video!  Below, I have a timed breakdown of  the 6-1/2 hour video, with all the natural breaks listed, and suggestions for demonstrations to hold at each break.   Keep your crowd busy, engaged, and moving — don’t let them be lulled to sleep by the long video!  At each break, pepper them with some appropriate questions from the Question Pools, which you have pre-divided into stacks that fit with the different video segments.    You’re going to have to do some work to get all the demonstrations ready, but it will be worth it!   As much as possible, keep them on schedule!!


Once you have your course pretty well figured out, including as many demonstrations as you can put together, and your ability to program the radios, it is time to advertise like crazy!   Make up some sort of one page attractive flyer, including your phone number, the cost for your course, and a request for their name / phone number and a check.  My flyer is appended below.     Pass out your flyer at your church, club, community group;  at work, to your basketball buddies — everywhere you go, months in advance.

Send it or take it to local religious high schools.   Check out local vocational schools — a teacher there might see the advantage of what you are doing and be willing to promote it.   Have a strict limit based on your facilities (probably your own home?).   I have the advantage that I’m reasonably well known as somewhat of an expert in my area, so I filled by entire class to overflowing in less than three weeks of promoting.   You may have to work at it a bit, but after the success of your first class, things will get easier.


There is more than one school of thought on this.   Obviously by opening up part of your life/home to this class, you are going to be revealing some of your assets and capabilities.   Be wise exactly how much you reveal.  You may wish to keep some rooms discreetly closed off.  There are plenty of valid reasons to be involved in ham radio, to have solar backup power; to own generators and have a garden.   You don’t HAVE to blurt out to your class that you are prepared for the end of the world!

By contrast, you do want to pique a certain interest in your students in learning more and potentially becoming allies.   So, when you discuss ionospheric propagation (D-layer absorbtion, E and F layer bending, etc) it is a great time to just interject that an EMP attack would involve a nuclear bomb roughly in the F layers, and it would create such-and-such an electromagnetic signal that would fry any unprotected radio that had an antenna longer than a few feet, and also would destroy much of the nation’s electrical grid….

Be ready to give government statistics (that looks innocent, right?) that 90% of the population would die….SOME of your students are going to find you and ask more about this and now you have made the contacts that will result in future allies.


You’re going to do your dead level best to give your students the very best educational experience possible to get their Technician License.   So you’re going to rig up some great demonstrations, and have excellent handouts.   Let’s consider the demonstrations you could have.   NOTE:  If you are very new to radio, some of this is not going to make any sense right now.   Don’t let that scare you off.   As you learn more, it will start to make sense.  Just keep plugging; Rome was not built in a day!

  1. Receiver tuning: If you have an HF ham rig, let your students get a healthy dose of listening to CW, SSB, RTTY and any other signal you can find.  (If you don’t, see Part III when it comes out.)   Have the rig out on a table, connected to an antenna via an SWR meter, and going when they arrive.   Get them to spin the dial and realize it doesn’t have “channels” — let them tune through SSB and CW signals and get a “feel” for how the tone changes.   Have a map of the prefixes and regional numbers, and explain where each signal they hear is coming from.    If you have VHF/UHF, click through various repeaters, and possibly have a prearranged contact so they can get to hear the repeater in action, if yours is fairly “quiet”.
  1. HF transmitter tuning: some rigs don’t even need tuning, others have many different dials to adjust.   Connect up to a lightbulb dummy load  (appropriate wattage bulb for your output!) and let them watch how it works!   Show how the relative output power on the SWR meters goes with the lightbulb.   Demonstrate how to read SWR.
  1. Modulation Demonstration: using either a lightbulb or an oscilloscope, let them watch the difference between CW, SSB, AM and FM.   Watch how these signals show up on an SWR meter as well.   A really elegant touch, if you can send AM, would be to modify a simple crystal radio so it can pick up your ham signal!
  1. YAGI Demo: if you have built a VHF Yagi, [4]  show it to them and explain how the parasitic elements work.   You may be even able to show how it makes your signal stronger.  If you have no such radio, simply call attention to outside TV antennas, most of which are YAGI antennas also!
  1. Battery, resistor, Ohm’s Law Practice Using small pine boards as a basis, and 1/2″ sheet metal screws as terminals, have resistors, light bulbs, capacitors, diodes on boards where they can connect them up.   Using their newly acquired voltmeter, have them measure voltages and currents.  Make Ohms Law come alive!   Work it so they can rig resistors in series and parallel.   Demonstrate the effects of splitting voltages, or adding currents (parallel resistors).   Use a small 9volt battery as your power source, or a 6volt rechargeable lantern battery.    (Demo #9 involves building a small preamplifier on a board.)


  1. Basic power supply. A 12 volt transformer, diode, and a 100 microfarad electrolytic capacitor on a board will allow you to show how a simple power supply changes AC into DC.   If you have an oscilloscope you can even show the waveforms.   If not, a stereo headphone with a bit of resistance in line (try 1000 ohms) may allow them to hear the differences. [5]
  1. Auto Battery. Make it real by taking them out to a car and measuring battery voltage.   Connect up a car charger and see what happens.   Start the engine and see what happens.   Carefully run a small car charger through the current-measuring (usually 10A) scale of their voltmeter and let them see how it declines as the battery gets charged.   Explain how to tell a bad battery from a bad alternator (bad alternator can’t get the voltage above 12 VDC).
  1. Solar power: If you have any solar power system available at all — even one temporary panel — make power, voltage and current make more sense by measuring all of them everywhere in your system possible.
  1. Audio Amplifier: Below is a simple circuit for a one-stage audio amplifier.   You can use it to amplify an iPhone output or a microphone output.   Put several stages in series and see if you can power a headphone with it.


  1. Antenna/Circuit Analyzer If you can beg, borrow or buy an antenna analyzer [6] you can give them a huge treat by using it to show the impedance of your antenna at various frequencies. Otherwise, do much the same by using an SWR meter to show how the antenna has a resonant center frequency, and how the SWR gets worse away from that.
  1. Antenna Tuner: You can make your own (even with a homemade coil wound on PVC pipe and a homemade capacitor made of overlapping aluminum foil separated by cardboard) or buy a simple antenna tuner — show how you can tune up a long wire antenna with the system and match the SWR right down to 1:1  [7]


  1. Homemade Dipole. Have them build their very own 2-meter external antenna.  It is easy, here’s an example:  [8]  You can cut off one end of this coax assembly [9] and use this adapter to connect to the Baofeng:  [10]   This will give your students practice either soldering or crimping, and in using antenna analyzer or SWR bridge.
  1. AM Crystal radio kit. Will probably only work for broadcast AM if you live very near to a very strong station!  If you connect the output of this crystal radio into the input of your microphone preamp module– MUCH LOUDER audio!!  A great example to your group.  Also, if you have access to a ham rig that can send AM (some newer digital units surprisingly can do this) then you can short out half or 3/4 of the built in inductor on the crystal radio and get 80 or 40 meters and demonstrate an extremely simple receiver similar to what was used at the dawn of radio. (Start with very low power  or use a light bulb dummy load on the transmitter and work your way carefully up)    The LC circuit at the front end of the crystal radio is a parallel circuit, which peaks at a very high equivalent resistance at resonance, maximizing the signal going to the germanium diode; frequencies on either side are effectively “shorted out”.   You can use this to explain filters to your student.   If you have an antenna analyzer, connect to the LC circuit and demonstrate resonances.   [11]CRYSTAL RADIO
  1. On The Air. Make on the air contacts on as many bands as possible; if your class extends throughout the day as I suggest, demonstrate that the lower frequencies “come alive” as the sun goes down (during the day the D layer absorbs all the energy from 80 and often 40 meters), whereas 20 and above work well during the day.   If you can demonstrate tropospheric skip on 2 meters, all the better!    You can also have your students “call” each other across the room with 2 handi-talkies or with 2 HF rigs.   Keep all procedures correct so they learn proper procedures!


Emphasize to your students the tremendous advantage they can gain by going through the Question Pool for the test they wish to take.   [12]


  1. ARRL illustration of frequency privileges and bands [13]
  2. A “frequency line” going from AM Broadcast to beyond 2 meters, with the major “players” of each segment listed. If you like, go all the way past UHF TV into the cell phone frequencies.
  3. List of important internet links

Frequency Chart:

Question Pools:

Ionospheric bending:

Baofeng Programming:


4          Explanatory information for their Baofeng radios


You may need to purchase components both to pass around to your students, and to build some of the circuits described above.  Your circuits will have these students putting resistors in series and in parallel, and charging up and discharging capacitors, running current through or measuring diodes forward  and backward resistance — you’re going to want to have some components available.    I have found that digi-key ( is a great resource if you don’t have a working Radio Shack in your town.

Their inventory is expansive and their web interface designed to order millions of parts, but it also works to order just a few, as well.   Here are suggestions for parts to order.   In most cases, you get a price break if you buy 10 or more, and if you are in ham radio, you are likely to use a lot of these after TEOTWAWKI, so you might just want to buy 20 or so (or more!) of each anyway….  If you take the time to deal with their web interface, you can have an amazingly large component stash for $20.


You will probably want to make some posters to help demonstrate some concepts:

  1. Ionospheric Layers — also key to your “mentioning” of EMP.
  2. Large sized photocopy of the ARRL Frequency Privileges
  3. Drawing of modulation modes: CW, AM, SSB, FM


This is obviously a lot of work, a labor of love.  Don’t be discouraged by people dropping out.   There will always be a slow steady attrition as illness, other opportunities, and apathy take their toll, not only of this one-time class, but also of your prepper group, which is why you have to keep adding to your prepper group.    If you want to grow a strong prepper group,  you should expect to do a lot of work.   If you are the only person in your group right now who knows how to use radios, that is a problem, right?   So get started, pull off this class, recruit some people, and then move on to your NEXT educational/training class.   And in the meantime, invite over for dinner the most promising of the potential allies you met in your class, and carefully feel out where they are.   Suggest books & videos for them to read, and see how they respond.   That’s one good way to begin growing your group.


APPENDIX ONE:     Sample Flyer

Weekend Electronics/Radio Communications “BootCamp”

[your date/time here]

[your name, address, contact info here]

Come join us for an intensive 2-day blast of knowledge of all things radio & electronics, which will prepare you to take and pass your Technician/General Class Amateur Radio license the following weekend.   [NOTE I AM INCLUDING GENERAL CLASS TEASER]

We will start with an incredibly well-done teaching video, professionally created by the ARRL and world-famous instructors John & Martha King.   We’ll add hands-on at every possible chance – you’ll be on the radio (under my licensed supervision), you’ll be using a voltmeter, ammeter and ohmmeter like a pro, you’ll build, test and tune your very own 2-meter dipole antenna, and by the end of the weekend, Ohm’s Law will be your friend.   Cables, signals, FM, AM, Single Side Band – you’ll know it all.   CB, marine, weather – you’ll be ready for any radio or TV signal, having used all kinds of test equipment that normally only Electrical Engineers ever see.

Schedule:   Start at 0800 on Saturday, take frequent breaks, do lunch as a take-out (Dutch), power through the afternoon, more take-out for supper and break in the early evening.  Regroup after church at 1 PM on Sunday, and finish up by 7 PM Sunday evening.   The following weekend, you should be able to pass the multiple choice (no Morse Code!) ham radio tests with ease.  We might even finish early.

You’ll go home with the following:

  • A pre-programmed software-defined Baofeng VHF/UHF ham radio, marine, weather 4-watt actual handheld transceiver fully capable of simplex or repeater communications on the Gainesville repeaters (with which you’ll be very familiar!).
  • Your very own volt/am/ohmmeter (multimeter) – which you’ll know how to use to test batteries, circuits & more.
  • Your very own half-wave dipole 2-meter external ham radio antenna – that you yourself soldered, stripped, cut, and tuned. This will boost your 2-meter signal far more than the rubber duckie antenna standard on your transceiver.   You’ll also know how to make it work on other bands.
  • A head FULL of new-found knowledge.

COSTS:                      $35 each, plus you chip in for your take-out meals.

Advantages:   This will be a great way to solidify your electricity / electronics knowledge, and also a chance for teens to dip their toes in a possible career or avocation.

Restrictions:   Age 12 and up.   MAXIMUM OF 20 PARTICIPANTS.



Fill this out, mail or hand it to me, and enclose a check for $35 made out to [YOUR NAME]

Name ___________________________________                Age: ____________

Phone Number: ___________________________

Any previous radio/electronics experience? ____________________________________


APPENDIX TWO:  ARRL YouTube Technician Video Table of Contents / Course Integration

BOLD:         Clock Time Schedule for your Weekend Course

0:00                 You-Tube time for ARRL Video


0:00                 Introduction

0:03                 ARRL Course Info


0:11                 Spectrum, frequency, wavelength

0:21                 Metric system

0:26                 Modulation / FSIC, RTTY/ Phase, reactance modulator

0:38                 Propagation

0:42                             Sporadic E

0:46                             Satellite

0:53                             Line of Sight

0:54                             Signal Loss, tropo, beacon

0:57                 BREAK

HANDS ON:              #1        HF receiver tuning, calibration  (note no channelization)

#3        Oscilloscope modulation demos, CW SSB AM FM

#13      If you have an AM transmitter, you can transmit to a  modified crystal radio  (short out 1/2-2/3 of the inductor, and try 80 or 40 meters)

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools for Section 8:  Modulation modes; Signals & Emissions




1:00                 DIGITAL modes of communication:  TNC Digipeater, RTTY

1:19                 BREAK


HANDS ON:              #1        Try to find a RTTY signal

#14      Live repeater contact

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 8:   Modulation modes; Signals & Emissions



1:19                 ELECTRICITY

1:31                 Ohms Law Examples

1:35                 Series, parallel

1:36                 Power

1:40                 Inductors / Transformers

1:46                 Capacitors

1:53                 Tuned Circuits

1:55                 Transistor amplifier

1:56                 Analog to Digital

1:59                 BREAK




HANDS ON:              #5        Battery, resistor, light:  current & voltage




#13      Use Antenna Analyzer to study the LC circuit of the AM crystal radio

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 5:   Electrical Principles



2:05                 Diodes

2:08                 Transistors

2:10                 Vacuum Tubes

2:11                 Integrated Circuits, VOM

2:18                 Receiver Circuits

2:30                 BREAK


2:30                 Spurious Emission

2:40                 Test Equipment

2:55                 Crystal Calibrator

2:57                 BREAK


HANDS ON:              #9        Transistor amplifier

#7        Auto Battery Charging

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 6:  Circuit Components and Section 7:  Practical Circuits (General Class)



3:00                 ANTENNAS

SWR, Tuners, Transmission Lines, Dummy Antenna

3:50                 BREAK

HANDS ON               #2        SWR Measurement HF/ VHF/ Sensitivity adjustment

HF Transmitter tuning, plate dissipation

#10      Antenna analyzers, SWR on 80 meter antenna(s)

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 9 Antennas




3:50                 Planning for the Exam

Bring photo ID

Calculator, no formulas programmed


4:00                 BREAK



4:00                 REPEATERS

4:15                 VOIP


HANDS ON:              #4        YAGI demo, parasitic elements

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools 2 (Technician Operating Procedures)


1900:              END OF SATURDAY



SECOND DAY:                SUNDAY  1300


4:15                 SAFETY

4:22                 Soldering

4:27                 Antenna / Towers

4:32                 BREAK

HANDS ON:              #11      BUILD 2 meter antenna

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 0 Safety




4:32                 Radio Frequency Safety

Avoid low antennas with high power; height of great importance (separation)


Near / Far Frequencies  (1/r -squared)

4:56                 BREAK


HANDS ON:              #11      L Network Antenna

#14      Cross the room QSO

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 0 Safety



4:56                 FCC REGULATIONS

Purpose, basis:  personal radio service

Part 97 of “Title 47 CFR

Things not covered

Part 17:  Airport & Antennas; if >200 feet, more rules

5:03                 CSCE Element 1

5:11                 License data base

5:14                 Emergency

5:16                 Beacon

5:21                 License calls

5:24                 Vanity

NOTE:  since 2007 no further requirement for morse even on HF


HANDS ON:  #14      AM RADIO /  Parallel LC Circuits

QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 1 FCC Rules





5:33                 Telecommand

5:36                 Control operator / automatically controlled station

5:41                 home made versus certified equipment

5:42:                3rd Party:  phone patch, traffic nets, unlidensed 3rd party

Need agreement with foreign nation

Both calls on end of foreign 3rd party

5:47                 $  No pecuniary interests

5:49                 Broadcasting prohibited, no music exept space station

5:52                 No profanity

5:53                 False /deceptive

5:54                 Emergencies / distress situations

6:00                 Primary / Secondary,  “Line A”

6:03                 Interference



QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 1  FCC Rules



6:06                 FREQUENCIES

ITU Region 2


6:10                 HF Technician bands

6:13                 meter bands

6:15                 Detailed privileges

Note that the Morse Code requirement for HF has been removed in 2007

6:24                 Band Plans

6:27                 Bandwidth

Packet network use of 219-220 MHz, power limitation, pre notification

RTTY max symbol rate





QUESTIONS:                        Drawn from Question Pools Section 1  FCC Rules









This Chinese radio operates on two U.S. amateur bands, the 2meter band and the 70cm band, capable of  either narrow- or wide-band FM  (normally, we use WIDE band with this radio).  However, it is able to operate on many more frequencies:


U.S. Radio Service Programmed on your radio Comments
2 meter ham band Multiple local repeaters in several cities, plus “simplex” channels Completely legal, 1  & 4 watts
70 cm ham band One working [your city here] repeater plus “simplex” (walkie-talkie) channels Completely legal 1 & 4 watts
NOAA Weather Channels All seven channels Receive only — completely legal.
FM Broadcast Incrementally tuned Receive only — completely legal.
Marine VHF band Emergency Channel 16, plus other frequently used channels programmed You can always receive.  Transmission technically legal only in emergency.  Equipment is not certified for this service.
FRS/GMRS family walkie-talkie service 14 channels programmed You can always receive.   Transmission is technically legal only in emergency.   Lower power channels 8-14 unlikely to be detected at any significant distance. Equipment is not certificated for this service.
MURS license-free service 5 channels programmed You can always receive.   Transmission is technically legal only in emergency; equipment is not certificated for this service.



The only easy thing about this radio is that the top right hand knob is an on-off/volume knob that does exactly what you would think it would do.

There is NO tuning knob at all.   Instead you use the up-arrow and down-arrow button to increment either the memorized channels, or a variable frequency choice.   If you hold the buttons down, they keep incrementing.   Alternatively, if you can remember the 3-digit channel number, you can type it in and the radio will go right to it.

Antenna Connector:  On the far top left the rubber-duckie antenna (dual band!) can be unscrewed and an SMA connector can be used to connect an external antenna.   Try to keep the VSWR reasonably low, so you don’t damage the transmitter.


This radio is one of the new breed of computer-based radios that are called “software defined”.  Almost every feature of the radio can be changed with a software setting!  This is somewhat frightening at first — so just don’t CHANGE ANYTHING, and you’ll be fine.


There are several little “complexities” that once understood, make the radio a lot more user friendly.  Let’s take them one at a time:



First, there are TWO LINES OF DISPLAY.   It acts like you have two complete transceivers in one box.   We call the top line “A” and the bottom line “B”.   You can separately tune these as if they were two different transceivers.  There is an ARROW to the left that shows which one you are using.  You switch back and forth with the “ABß” key.   Most of the time we are going to use the top (“A”) display — so switch there right now if you aren’t already pointed there.

A photo of the Radio Display.  You can see the following:


The top display (A) has the arrow (see it on the left?) pointing to it, so the top (A) display is what is setting your frequency.  The A line is programmed to show the NAME of a memory channel , but it is showing you that you are on Channel 21, which is named “NOAA1”. 

The bottom display (B) has access to the exact same memorized channels, but it is programmed to display the FREQUENCY of the memorized channel.  



The entire transceiver (both A and B displays) can be in either of two modes:

MEMORY:   with access to the 50+  memorized channels that I have preprogrammed for you.   Each memorized channel consists of a CHANNEL NUMBER,  A NAME, and a FREQUENCY, as well as additional details such as power, bandwidth, transmitted offset, and other complicated things  already taken care of for you.

VFO:  Variable Frequency — where you use the up and down buttons to change the frequency yourself, similar to how you would tune a digital FM car radio.   If you are in this mode, I have preprogrammed it to have 0 transmitted frequency offset on the A display (you send and receive on the displayed frequency) and  negative 0.6 MHz offset on the B display — you send on a frequency 0.6 MHz lower…..remember this if you get near the lower legal end of the ham radio band…



When you are in the MR (memory) mode, you can independently program how you want the A and B displays to read:  choices are the CHANNEL number, the NAME assigned, or the FREQUENCY memorized.    I have preset A to display NAME, and B to display FREQUENCY.   The channel is visible in little numbers to the far right.    If you increment A and B to the same chanell, you can see the NAME in the A, and the FREQUENCY in the B.

Second, each display has 2 or 3 ways it can display what frequency is it set to:

In “CHANNEL” mode it is currently set to tell you the channel number in a very small number off to the left, and it is set to show you the NAME chosen for this frequency in larger print — up to 5 characters.  I have programmed in several very useful Channels on both the 2meter and 70cm bands.   We will usually leave the radio in CHANNEL mode.   You can change channels (all in the top or “A” display) by either of two methods:  turn the left-top knob clockwise or counterclockwise, OR by using the UP / DOWN arrow keys on the display.

If you want to go to FREQUENCY MODE (where the frequency is displayed) you hit the “VM/SCAN” button which has several functions — touching it switches between “VFO” (FREQUENCY) mode, and “MEMORY” (CHANNEL MODE).    Why the confusion of renaming the modes?  I dunno….guess the Chinese wanted to confuse us.   Most of the time we can leave the A display in Channel Mode.   The radio is set to come up with the top (A) display automatically in CHANNEL MODE, and the B (bottom) display in FREQUENCY MODE.

If you want, of course, you can just go hog wild and switch to the B display using the “AB<-” button, and then touch the VM key to switch the B display to CHANNEL MODE also, and even go back and forth if it suits your fancy.

On the left side of the radio the top large button is a Push To Talk button.  The two-dot button below that is one that “opens the squelch” and lets you hear even the weakest signals — or just the noise if there is no one on the frequency.  The bottom one-dot button actually does exactly nothing.


MOST OF THE TIME you can simply stay on the top display, and leave it in the default CHANNEL MODE, and choose any of the pre-programmed channels with either the up/down buttons, or the rotary tuning knob.  Press the PTT key to transmit, let go to receive, say your call sign often, and there is really not more to it!


Channels 1-10 are on the 2 meter ham band;  the first are local  [your city here] Repeaters (there are other cities’ repeaters scattered into other channels), the remainder (beginning with X for “simplex”) are direct walkie-talkie frequencies, where you can contact a nearby buddy and both of you send and receive on the same frequency.

Channels 11-15 are on the 70 cm ham band, including one local repeater that works,  and 3 simplex frequencies.

Channels 16-20 are VHF Marine frequencies, identified by the marine channel they represent.

Channels 21-27 are the NOAA weather stations — at least one will always be within range and continuously broadcasting weather information.

Channels 31-44 are the FRS/GMRS frequencies

Channels 45-59 are the MURS channels.


[1] Appleseed:

[2] Harbor Freight multimeter, $7:

[3] ARRL youtube video:

[4] An inexpensive 2 meter YAGI:

[5] This one even has a voltage regulator:

[6]  A nice antenna analyzer that includes 2 meters:

[7] ; also see for some photo’s and examples of how to build out of simple materials.

[8] 2 meter dipole:    If you will tape this to a pressure treated 1×2 furring strip from Home Depot or Lowes, it will be much more rugged.

[9] Coax Assembly:

[10]      Baofeng type SMA to UHF connectors:


[12] Question Pools:

[13] ARRL Frequency Chart:

Yes that was nearly 6,000 words…

Growing A Prepper Group Through Teaching Radio Communications : Getting Your Own License

by PrepperDoc

BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio

BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio

One of the more difficult parts of preparing is developing a group of like-minded people. Multiple writers have suggested that a solitary person is at a significant survival disadvantage compared to a group (everyone has to sleep, for a simple example).    Reading one text on the subject of “mutual assistance groups,” I found only a sparse list of suggestions, one of which was to attend local emergency response training sessions. As a variation of this, one can teach significantly useful skills–the people who choose to take the training represent a target-rich group of person who value resiliency more than the average.

Your best subject to teach may be something different, but may I suggest that radio communications skills is a great topic?  You can emphasize the ham radio advantages in emergencies, and the benefit of having more knowledge of electricity and electronics.   People don’t have to be outright “preppers” to be interested in ham radio!

So many “prepper” articles rehash similar information over and over about how to start campfires, or other admittedly important skills, but very few actually delve into deeper skills, such as getting an amateur radio license, repairing an EMP-damaged power supply or solar panel system, or tuning an EMP-resistant vacuum tube amplifier.   As the prepper community matures, these topics may be more often better addressed.

The students you attract depend somewhat on your own experience, your contacts, and your advertising, but the group of people who recognize the tremendous utility of radio communications often includes: pilots and boat captains (people who have used radios often and already know how vital it was to their safety),  military personnel (who have seen radio communications guide defense and attack), existing amateur operators who want more knowledge than just memorizing answers to test questions, and nascent preppers who recognize this as an easily-acquired preparation.  In other words:  you are going to attract a great group on which to build.

If you are going to teach radio communications, you are going to need to learn it yourself — i.e., get your own ham radio license!   With a license, you can legally build, adjust, measure, and repair your equipment and antennas.   The license gives you the capability to LEARN, by doing things yourself.   So you need to get the license.  Quit talking about it, let’s start getting the license.

FIRST  (right now)

This is not going to hurt–even financially. You can start with less than $50.   Few preparations are as inexpensive!  The cost is going to be in your TIME, but the benefit is in your knowledge, which will be stored in a free and readily available safe known as your brain.   The first thing to do, is to discover where you can take your ham radio license exam.   There will generally be a group of Volunteer Examiners somewhere near you, and will have a schedule of examinations.  You can find ARRL-sponsored exams here:   There are other Volunteer Examination Coordinators ( see: ) who also will provide exam sessions.    Find an exam scheduled for 4-5 weeks from now, assuming you have some free time for study, and make plans to pass at least the Technician exam (Element 2) at this exam.

The Technician exam will get you access to very useful VHF & UHF frequencies for local communications, and a bit of access to shortwave frequencies that offer national or international access.  You MIGHT be able to pass the General class exam (Element 3) at the same session, but that’s not so likely (unless you study a lot).

Taking it is your option.   However, within a month or two after passing your Technician, you could be ready for the General exam.   The General class license gives you superior access to a wide range of radio bands on which to learn, with virtually every mode of signal generation, transmission, propagation, and reception known to man.   You want to reach the General Class license as soon as possible.

While you can  begin to teach your radio communications class once you get your Technician License, it is going to be even easier for you to excite your students if you have the extra capabilities given by the General Class license.

SECOND (right now)

You’re going to get at least the Technician Class license, and you need to learn, so immediately order an inexpensive VHF/UHF walkie-talkie.   I recommend the Baofeng UV-5R (or similar, later version), which can be obtained for less than $30.   Part of your education is going to be understanding the parameters that make this software-defined radio actually connect to other stations or repeaters, so go ahead and order the programming USB cable ( its only $4).   There is a chance that some enterprising prepper will take up the sideline of programming these radios at a nominal fee, but until then, you’ll need to learn how to program them for your fledgling group by yourself. (Note:  all the information in this article is freely available for  an enterprising prepper to utilize.)

THIRD (over the next week)

You can use two primary educational tools to help you get your own license, and then to teach others how to get theirs:  1) a free youtube video of a (slightly dated) training film sponsored by the ARRL:, and a list of the current FCC question pool for the 35-question multiple choice (74% required to pass) test:   If you search a bit, you can find all kinds of educational opportunities on the Web, including practice tests.   There are published manuals with answers, etc.   But YOUR goal is to LEARN the material, not merely memorize the correct answers….or you won’t be effective at teaching others.  The main update to the youtube is that you no longer need ANY morse code proficiency proof to be allowed to use the (modest) Technician privileges on shortwave frequencies.

FOURTH (this week)

Once your Baofeng radio arrives, and you have watched some of the video, studied a bit and understand things like bands, frequencies, FM, tones, etc, it is time to program that transceiver.   You cannot TRANSMIT on ham radio frequencies until you get your license, but you can freely LISTEN and you will learn even more from that.

The radio can also pick up marine, NOAA weather, MURS, and FRS/GMRS.   It’s cheapness and lack of certifications means you can’t (legally) transmit on FRS/GMRS or MURS or marine frequencies except in an emergency.   But it does indeed work quite well on those bands. Attached as an Appendix is a set of memory channels that you can program into your Baofeng.

The first 15 channels include spots for local repeaters, 2meter and 70cm.   Do some internet searching to find the closest repeaters to you (there are all kinds of published directories), and insert the appropriate frequencies, offsets, and tones (if required) into the table before you program your own radio.   Read a bit about CHIRP before you use it  (  The first thing you should do is download an image of your radio’s programming as received from the factory….and keep that forever.   If you later program something that causes your radio to stop receiving (the most common problem), you can simply return it to the factory programming and it should work again.   (Sometimes the “main reset” feature on the radio doesn’t seem to be sufficient.)

I recommend that you use wordprocessing skills to “copy and paste” the entries in the Appendix to overwrite the download that you get off your own radio;   this is the safest way to set your memory channels.

The Baofeng radio is complicated because it is so incredibly versatile.   First, it has the option of operating on the frequency or channel displayed on the top line of the display (“A”) or alternatively on the bottom of the display (“B”) (and even more complicated, scanning both, but we’ll ignore that for now), chosen with the A/B button.   That is one level of “abstraction”.    Secondly, the A and B display lines can be independently pre-programmed to display their chosen frequency as either Frequency, Channel #, or an assigned Name, a  2nd level of “abstraction”.  Yet a 3rd level of “abstraction” is that the entire transceiver can be operated based on memorized (“MR”) channels (e.g., that you programmed in either manually or more easily with CHIRP), or it can be operated by manually entering in frequencies (“VFO” mode).  The VFO/MR button switches back and forth between these modes.    I prefer to operate mine as follows:

  1. Typically using the A display primarily.
  2. I have the A display pre-programmed to display the NAME I have assigned to each memorized channel.  (I have the B display set to display FREQUENCY, so if I need to know the frequency, I simply select the identical channel number on the B display and read the frequency.)
  3. Typically I leave the transceiver in Memory mode, since I have virtually every frequency I might need already programmed somewhere and memorized.

You use the UP/DOWN arrow buttons to select from your programmed channels.  The knob at the top is merely an on/off/volume control.

FIFTH (next week)

Get within range of a repeater (within 15 miles will usually work unless you are in very hilly or mountainous territory) and select the channel programmed for that repeater.   Since you aren’t licensed yet, you can’t transmit — but you can leave the radio tuned to receive while you go about your business.  (Don’t try transmitting–you’ll be caught by other hams!)   Try to listen to several conversations and get the feel of how it goes.   The repeater should identify itself every ten minutes or so, potentially in Morse Code.   If you hear absolutely nothing, try a different repeater, or find some local ham operator or ham radio club to help.

SIXTH (next week)

At this point it is time to get some electronics hands-on.   Go by Harbor Freight or some similar store, and buy yourself a $6 digital voltmeter. ( )  Better yet, buy 2, ’cause if you get mixed up and try to measure, say, the CURRENT that an automobile battery can produce (by accident), you’re going to smoke one of those voltmeters.   Measure some voltages with it:   on the AC higher voltage scale, measure your house wall voltage.   Get good at it, and don’t let your fingers touch the exposed probe tips!   On a lower DC voltage scale, measure all kinds of battery’s VOLTAGE (NOT current!) voltage.   AA cells, D cells, 9volts, car batteries.   If you can find some resistors, practice measuring their resistance.   Try measuring the resistance of some long copper wire — it should be very low.

On the subject of antennas, you could at least read, and maybe construct a simple external YAGI for your Baofeng:       Or you could Google “corner reflectors” and figure out how to make an ad-hoc one out of a cardboard box and aluminum foil and where to place your handi-talkie (it acts like the driving element)  to get the advantage of increased gain!  (    If you’re adventurous, you could try to put together a parabolic dish, with your handi-talkie as the exciting antenna.    With the gain you can create, previously weak repeaters should become stronger, perhaps static-free.

SEVENTH:  (3rd week)

Now it is time to get down to brass tacks and work your way at least through a good portion of the Technician question pool ( ) and look up any answers that you don’t already know from your work in the first two weeks.   You might skim through Part 97 of the FCC Regulations as well.  (

If you need additional help, you can purchase a training book that has the answers and explanations.    Be sure to spend some time examining the frequency privileges chart:

FINALLY:   Go take your Technician ham radio license exam, score far higher than 74%, wait until your new CALL SIGN shows up in the FCC database ( and then start TRANSMITTING with all your new found ham radio skills!    You may think that this was an enormous amount to learn, but within a few months you’ll be amazed at how simple it all seems, as you pass your General test and begin teaching others.

NEXT:   In Part Two,  I’ll discuss how you can move toward getting your General License, and begin getting ready to teach a Class on ham radio to start reeling in all those yet-to-be-discovered good-prepper-material people in your own area.



STRIKETHROUGH  means that even though this value may be stored, I don’t think it matters because of another entry.   For example,

TONE MODE= Tone  means your receiver does not require a received tone to break squelch

TONE MODE = None means you neither send nor require a tone

TONE MODE  not requireing DTCSS means their entries are meaningless

DUPLEX of None means there is no offset, so the entry is meaningless

OFFSET = Off prevents transmission on that memorized frequency (e.g., NOAA Weather frequencies in the table below)

MODE = “FM” is “wideband” FM, but it really isn’t really very wideband so it works for most repeaters.

(Replace the “example” entries with real repeaters in your area!)









Offset Mode PWR
1 146.790 Example of 2 meter repeater that requires tone activation Tone 123 123 0.600 FM Hi
2 146.805 Example of 2 meter repeater not using tones. None 88.5 88.5 0.600 FM Hi
3 (fill in) 2 meter repeater None 88.5 88.5 0.600 FM Hi
4 (fill in) 2 meter repeater Tone 123 123 0.600 FM Hi
5 146.430 X643


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
6 146.460 X646


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
7 146.490 X649


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
8 146.520 X652


Nat calling


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
9 (fill in) Spare None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM
10 440.000 Example 70 cm repeater None 88.5 88.5 + 5.000 FM Hi


(fill in) 70 cm repeater Tone 88.5 88.5 + 5.000 FM Hi


446.500 X4465


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi


447.000 X4470


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI


(fill in) Spare None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi


156.450 MARN09

Marina local comm. Freq

None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI
16 156.550 MARN11 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI
17 156.800 MARN16

National distress call

None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI
18 156.425 MARN68 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI
19 156.475 MARN69 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI
20 None 88.5 88.5 0.600 FM HI
21 162.400 NOAA1 None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi
22 162.425 NOAA2 None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi
23 162.450 NOAA3 None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi
24 162.475 NOAA4 None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi
25 162.500 NOAA5 None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi
26 162.525 NOAA6 None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi
27 162.550 NOAA7 None 88.5 88.5 Off 0.000 FM Hi
28 Tone 123 88.5 0.600 FM Hi
29 None 88.5 88.5 0.600 FM Hi
30 Tone 156.7 88.5 + 0.600 FM Hi
31 462.5625 FRS1


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
32 462.5875 FRS2


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
33 462.6125 FRS3


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
34 462.6375 FRS4


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
35 462.6625 FRS5


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI
36 462.6875 FRS6


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM HI
37 462.7125 FRS7


None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Hi
38 467.5625 FRS8 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
39 467.5875 FRS9 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
40 467.6125 FRS10 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
41 467.6375 FRS11 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
42 467.6625 FRS12 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
43 467.6875 FRS13 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
44 467.7125 FRS14 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
45 151.820 MURS1 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 Nfm Lo
46 151.880 MURS2 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 Nfm, Lo
47 151.940 MURS3 None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 Mfm Lo
48 154.570 BLU DOT None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo
49 154.600 GRN DOT None 88.5 88.5 None 0.000 FM Lo


Suggested Other Important Settings:

(You can change these through the menu or preprogram with CHIRP; most are OK to leave as the radio came; the ones I find very helpful are bolded.)

Carrier Squelch Level:   1

Battery Saver:             1:5

Backlight Timeout      5

Beep:                           Off  (it will drive you crazy otherwise)

Timeout Timer:            60 seconds

Display Mode A:        Name

Display Mode B:         Frequency

VOX Sensitivity:        OFF

Dual Watch                 Not enabled

Dual Watch Tx Prior:  Off

Voice:                          English

Broadcast FM:                        Enabled


VHF    Lower Limit:   130

VHF Upper Limit       176

VHF Tx:                      Enabled

UHF Lower Lim         400

UHF Upper Lim         520

UFH TX:                     Enabled


Dixplay:                      A selected

VFO/MR Mode:         Channel selected

MR A Channel:           1

MR B Channel            1

VFO A Freq:               146.52000  (this is the national simplex calling frequency, so putting it here makes it easy for you to get to simplex by simply hitting VFO)

VFO B Freq:               446.000

VFO A Shift:              Off

VFO B Shift:              –      (This will be correct for about half of the 2 meter repeaters)

VFO A Offset:                       0.000

VFO B Offset:                        0.6000  (National standard for 2 meter repeater offsets)

Growing A Prepper Group Through Teaching Radio Communications : Building an Inexpensive Shortwave (HF) Ham Radio Station With EMP Protection

radio article pic 1

Vacuum Tube Radios

by PrepperDoc

When you start building your prepper ham radio station, the VHF/UHF part is easy — Baofeng handi-talkies are cheap and work adequately, especially when combined with a simple YAGI antenna or a small amplifier.   You can even easily make a cross-band repeater using two of them.    But shortwave (HF) ham radio–really useful for longer-range communications– is more of a problem.  There simply isn’t any comparably cheap option.  This article will explore some available alternatives for your wallet.

While there are top-of-the-line HF ham rigs  on the market for multi-thousand dollars (some north of ten grand!), the typical solid state transceiver goes for $500-$700.  Given time and inflation, this isn’t out of line compared to what I paid for my vacuum tube Heathkit SB-102 while a high school student some 40+ years ago.

These current year solid state radios are great rigs that tune to an exact frequency and can do all kinds of filtering and modulation.   Popular examples include the ICOM 718 and Yaesu FT-450.  A disadvantage of these semiconductor-based rigs is their vulnerability to EMP as manufactured..

radio article pic 2This can be somewhat ameliorated by always disconnecting from antennas when not in use (or using a grounding antenna selector), and judicious usage of protection diodes (to protect the receiver front end)  and gas-discharge tubes (for overall protection, especially the transmitter portion). The cost for such protection will be less than $15.   See Ref [1] for background.  Recall that ham radio operators have the significant advantage that they can work on their own gear, legally; so you can add protection systems inside these transceivers.     Some rig-specific suggestions for popular current new  transceivers are:

ICOM 718:

This radio has a “filter unit” that connects the antenna (the E1 EMP entry point) to the receiver and transmitter portions of the radio. [2]   A relay separates the receiver from the transmitter, a huge advantage to adding EMP protection.   A very simple modification, adding two back-to-back 1N4007 1KV 1Amp diodes  in parallel with C16, right at the input to the pi network filter leading to the receiver,  will provide very significant protection for the receiver without appreciably affecting its performance.

Your receiver might survive even if in use during an attack.   The Chebyschev low-pass filters at the output of the transmitter (to prevent radiation of unwanted harmonics of the transmitted signal) will somewhat knock down the EMP signal conducted to the transmitter power amplifier if you are transmitting at the moment of an attack.

Energy at frequencies significantly ABOVE your operating frequency will be knocked down many dB and have a lesser effect on your transmitter (unclear exactly how protective this will be).   Judicious addition of gas discharge arresters on the antenna lead to chassis ground may provide enough protection to keep the transmitter from being destroyed (see below, and Ref [1] for more details).

Yaesu FT-450

Not that dissimilar to the ICOM 718, this radio has a relay separating transmitter and receiver. [3]   The receiver actually already has back to back diodes (D2001, D2002) that contribute to protecting the receiver from EMP.   I did not analyze the automated tuner (which would probably be destroyed by an EMP strike), but the transmitter power amplifier is separated from the antenna by tuned networks that would also reduce total power reaching the MOSFET power output transistors.  Again, judicious addition of gas discharge protection on the antenna lead might protect those MOSFETs. (See following.)

Designing gas discharge tube protection

Both the radios discussed above produce about 100 watts output.   If the output impedance is 50 ohms, at 100 watts one can expect the transmitter to produce 70V AC (radio frequency) RMS, or about 100V peak (200 V pk-to-pk) on the transmission line with a 1:1 SWR.  A gas discharge tube of slightly higher voltage may not flashover during normal transmission, but would with an EMP strike, potentially reducing the voltage reading the transmitter to a survivable voltage.   To avoid undesired flashover of a gas discharge tube during normal transmission, the breakdown voltage should probably be > 150-175 volts, and then the gas discharge observed during normal operation to detect any undesired flashover.  Flashover would dramatically change forward relative power and raise SWR by large amounts.    One chooses the lowest protection voltage that doesn’t flashover during normal operation.   Several potentially useful gas discharge arrester devices include:

Breakdown    Device                         Cost    Reference


150V               EPCOS GDT 150V    $1.76

200V               GTCA28-201M-R05  $0.50

250V               2027-5-BLF                $1.41

350V               A81-A350X                $2.18


If $500-$700 for a current design radio such as the above is outside of your capabilities, you still have two other major options.   (I did consider the unusual 3rd option of operating a USB-thumb drive digital signal processor receiver on a computer, with a companion transmitter — but it turns out that the prices of good systems is even higher than simply using one of the two options below.)

1)         Current manufacture solid state low-power CW or SSB transceivers, principally from well-regarded manufacturer MFJ,  in the $200-$300 price class;

2)         Used vacuum tube radios from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s that may need some repair, and are in the $100-$200 price range.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages:

1)  Low Power CW/SSB Transceivers.  MFJ (  has an expansive line of low-powered CW and SSB transceivers.   The 94XX series of 20-watt output SSB transceivers are in the $200 range, and operate on only one band (depending on which you purchased).   They have a companion line of 90XX CW only single-band transceivers in the $100 range.   These systems would offer acceptable performance in a TEOTWAWKI situation, in a tiny package that can easily be powered.

Their disadvantage is that they are solid state and therefore potentially very susceptible to EMP.   However, for getting started on HF, they would work fine!   I would be hard pressed to choose which (one) band — for NVIS communications (30-300 miles)  I favor either 80meters or 40meters.  Examining the schematic for the 94XX series reveals that a relay separates transmitter from receiver.   Back-to-back 1N4007 diodes could be added (to ground) at the receiver tap on relay RLY1A, or in parallel with C6.   This would likely protect the receiver.

For the transmitter, one would want to use a gas discharge tube on the antenna line to ground.   With an output power in the 20 watt range, the peak voltage is 50 volts with a 1:1 SWR, so a reasonable choice for a gas discharge system would be a breakdown voltage of 75-100 Volts.   One might try the  Bourns 75Volt breakdown gas discharge tube 2027-07-BLF  $1.41   (    If this flashes over, switch to the  TE Connectivity Raychem 100V breakdown gas discharge tube GTCA26-101M-RO5 $0.48  (

These protection efforts are extremely cheap and add significant protection, however, with solid state radios, no one can guarantee that they will be sufficiently protective.  However, at some point the radios have to come out of the Faraday shields and actually get used, and you’ll be much happier about it if you have these type protection systems installed.

2)  Used vacuum tube transceivers.   If you are able to repair circuits, you can get quite the bang for your buck here.  Drake, Swan, Collins,  and Heathkit systems are readily available on Ebay in varying conditions.   In testing, vacuum tube type ham rigs with gas discharge arresters installed were NOT damaged by simulated EMP.     I prefer Heathkit, principally because a)  I built several as a teen so I am very familiar with their construction, and b) because they were kits, you can generally repair them just as their builders were expected to do back then, and they are spacious enough for human hands and use parts that you are likely to be able to find if you are creative.   There are several levels of Heathkits you might want to choose from:

  1. a) The HW-16 multi-band Morse code only transceiver, is well under $100 if you use crystals to set the transmitter frequency, but you’ll want to find the HG-10 VFO so you have all the frequencies available to you.   It runs about 90 watts input, 50 watts output.   The power amplifier is a “sweep tube” — not the toughest tube out there, so be kind to it.   This rig runs on 80, 40, and 15 meters only.   If you’re willing to learn Morse code, this will be an extremely cheap way to get an HF rig going that is relatively resistant to EMP.   I would still put a 200 volt gas discharge arrester on my antenna lead to ground, and disconnect the antenna when not in use, of course.
  1. b) Heakthkit had a line of “single band SSB” — the vacuum tube equivalent of the 94XX MFJ series — but it was higher power. I have less familiarity with these rigs, but they should give you cheap SSB voice communications relatively immune to EMP if you have a gas discharge arrester on your antenna.
  1. c) The most popular and famous were the HW-100 / HW – 101 and the SB-100, 101, and 102. These were 5-band rigs (80, 40, 20, 15, 10) that produced 90+ watts output, could do SSB or CW, and had nice receivers and rugged transmitters using 6146 type transmitting tubes.   Astonishingly, they are often available for $125 or so on ebay in working condition — probably 1/10 their inflation adjusted original selling price.   You’ll need the HP-13 AC supply.   There are multiple little problems you will deal with in getting these rigs up to effortless working order, and there are many web sites that will give you pointers and assistance.

1) First, the rotary switch contracts (especially the MODE switch and the BAND switches) often have surface corrosion/oxidation (black rather than copper color), and the symptom will be greatly depressed transmitter power on one or more bands, or on one mode.   If you can get full power out of the rig on ANY band, you have proven the basic guts work, so the other bands are a switch problem.   A q-tip and some Brasso will do wonders to fix these contacts.   The MODE switch particularly switches a 300VDC signal between a couple of different oscillators (to switch between lower and upper sideband) and those contacts take a beating.   Clean them carefully with the qtip.

2) The electrolytic capacitors in the power supply (and even in the audio section of the receiver) may be “dried out” and need replacement.   These are not expensive, but be sure to replace with a unit of similar or higher voltage rating.   If you have “hum” on your transmitted signal, look into the medium DC (300 VDC) power supply’s capacitors.

3) The elegant dial tuning system of the SB-line is a joy to feel, but getting the friction working right can take some tedious work.   The HW-series has an inferior variable frequency oscillator system, but it is somewhat more bulletproof.  An external frequency counter with a simple 6-inch wire for a receiver will quickly tell you your exact frequency, so the simple display isn’t that much of a disadvantage.

4) The O-rings to the ganged capacitors in the “driver/preselector” stage usually break.   They can be replaced with new o-rings or even with string & some small springs.   Be creative.

5) The vertical small circuit boards that comprise the band-switch can have mechanical problems in soldering & mounting.   I’ve seen undesired shorts occur from mechanical issues.   Take a peek for any obvious poor builder’s choices.

Each of these options has the advantage of lower price, and various disadvantages.   I would avoid gear older than the 1950’s, such as large AM phone units, unless you really like CW and can’t find anything else working.   Lower-power (QRP) gear will not compete as effectively in crowded pre-TEOTWAWKI HF bands, but may serve your purpose adequately for survival post-TEOTWAWKI.  .   You can always buy or build your own “linear amplifier” for those systems,  as you gain experience.  Typical older ham radio amplifiers had a power gain of about 8-10X, so they will boost your 20watt QRP signal to a very respectable 200 Watts RF,  and loaf at that power level.  Used vacuum tube radios happen to be my personal choice, because I built one as a teen, am very familiar with their circuitry, and the Heathkit genre have available manuals that facilitate troubleshooting and repair, and were made with space and openness that are compatible with my size hands.   A huge additional bonus is that they are far more rugged with respect to EMP!   With a bit of added gas-discharge protection, these radios would likely survive an EMP attack even if in operation at the moment of the attack!   The third solution, the USB-based radio, gives you reception capability at a very modest price, and could be coupled with an inexpensive, low-powered stand-alone transmitter to make a complete station.

With these vacuum tube rigs producing 100 watts output, using a 250 – 350 volt gas discharge tube on the 50 ohm antenna line to ground should be sufficient.

Avoid attempting to use any shortwave receiver that doesn’t give you the ability to at least tune down to the kilohertz or fraction of a kilohertz, and offers easy demodulation of SSB signals.   As a teen I thought I could use a simple shortwave radio as my first receiver — this was a disaster.   The entire ham band of interest was maybe 5% of the dial excursion, so all the signals were completely jumbled right next to one another, and frequency calibration was non-existent.   In ham radio, you simply HAVE to know what frequency you are on, because of strict limits based on your licensing, so the typical short wave general purpose radio is better suited to receiving extremely high powered state-supported AM broadcast stations, than low-powered, crammed-together ham signals.


If this is going to be your first HF rig, then I suggest you put up a completely simple resonant 1/2 wavelength horizontal dipole, fed by RG-58 style coax as your first antenna.  As you gain expertise, an antenna tuner connected directly to a long wire, or with ladder-line to a non-resonant dipole, will give you great frequency liberty, and even provide a bit of EMP reduction.


Putting together an HF station is a significant step forward in your survival repertoire, enabling you to send and receive crucial information across large as well as small distances.  Good communications is one of the skills and abilities you want to have available to yourself or for your group.   This article has demonstrated multiple possible systems ranging from low to high cost, and provided suggestions for EMP impact-reduction on each.  Pick the solution that seems best for your unique needs and begin to get it going!


[1] Articles on protecting ham rigs from E1 EMP and

[2] Schematic diagram for IC-718:  Service manual including circuit description:

[3] FT450 Service Manual

Dirt Cheap Concealable High-Gain Indoor 2-Meter Ham Antenna Project For Beginners

Indoor Antenna

Indoor Antenna

Today we present another article inour non-fiction writing contest – by PrepperDoc

This is a fun, almost novice-level construction project for anyone who has a 2-meter ham radio walkie talkie (e.g., the $26 Baofeng UV-5) and would like more effective range without having to buy an amplifier.  If you are currently using a short rubber-duckie antenna, this high-gain yagi antenna may well make your radio appear to have 6-10 times its power on 2 meters, doubling or tripling your range in relatively open areas, for a total cost about $21.  [Dense high-rise central business city centers may not see as great an improvement, nor areas with impenetrable hills.]  That may just make it possible for you to reach useful repeaters or friends from inside your house.

Using thick multi-ply packing/shipping corrugated cardboard to simplify construction (see the accompanying photo of the completed antenna), this antenna is for indoor or very protected outdoor usage only; it has to stay dry.   This antenna can be “hung” like a large painting on any wall that “points” it in the right direction, as long as there isn’t a lot of metal in the wall, and the house doesn’t have metal siding (or buried rebars).

It can even be covered up with a large poster or a world map, and no one will even know it is there!   This project can help teach newer users quite a bit about radio antennas.   I came up with the idea after building several simple outdoor 2m/70cm yagi-style beam antennas (using a 1″x2″ wooden boom for support) and realized it could be adapted for indoor use.  While my discussion is for the common vertical polarization (elements are aligned vertically) on 2 meters,  it could also be set horizontally if your counterparty is using horizontal polarization.

It will also work on the 70cm band, but my results there are less satisfying.


This antenna was designed for center frequency  of 146 MHz and 440 MHz.  On 2 meters, this antenna will give you roughly 6dB gain over a full size dipole (6 “dBd”) , and probably 12 dB over the stubby “rubber duckie” antenna that probably accompanied your handheld transceiver.  This is because electrically “very-short-for-wavelength”  rubberduckie antennas have low “radiation resistance” and squander most of your transmitter’s power on 2 meters. [1]   Building an antenna like this one is like multiplying your power by 4-10 times!   If you have a favorite repeater, or a trusted ally you need to be able to reach, and a wall that “points” roughly in the correct direction (or even within 30 degrees of the correct direction) you’re in business.

2meter actual test results:   Mathematical patterns based on theory are great, but real-world results are what count.   I actually tested this antenna over a 1/4 mile range (>200 wavelengths, an excellent far field test).   Using uncalibrated signal strength markings on a scanner radio set to the correct frequency (this is the best field strength equipment I currently own), and the same Baofeng transmitter on the same frequency on 2 meters, I sequentially tested:  (1) the supplied rubber-duckie antenna, (2) a top-rated 15” whip antenna (Nagoya NA-771 15.6” dual band) , and (3) this homemade antenna, the results were 0 (zero)  signal strength units for both rubber-duckie & Nagoya whip antenna, and 8 signal units with the antenna pointed frontwards, and 6 signal units turned 180 degrees (“backwards”).   This suggests moderate front-to-back ratio and wonderful forward gain over a whip style antenna–a successful 2 meter high gain antenna..

70cm actual test results:  Unfortunately my current results on 70 cm are not impressive.  While the antenna also works on 70 cm, I can’t promise any significant gain there; it had the same signal strength as the whip & rubber duckie.   On the 70 cm band, the whip/rubber duckie are a more significant fraction of a wavelength, and therefore perform better.  Reception of a local repeater was somewhat better with the yagi than the other antennas, but again the difference was not impressive..  (Improvement may be tedious, but if I ever get it done, I’ll publish how to adjust for better 70cm performance.)

Preparation for Construction 

Construction should take only about 1 hour once you find the following four required items, understand the measurements,  and have your tools at the ready:

  1. 18 feet of 12-AWG solid copper house wire, insulated (THHN) $7   (You can buy this by the foot for about $.36/foot, or you can buy a very short package of 12/2 house wiring, and get the insulated white and black wires from that.   Color does not matter, but it has to have the insulation to use the dimensions below).   The dimensions of the wire DO make a difference, so please use exactly this wire.
  2. RG58A/U coax cable with PL-259 connectors, any length from 9 to 20 feet.                 $7   (You choose the length to suit your needs, can be purchased from Amazon or Radio Shack, I wouldn’t go over 20 feet as the losses in the cable add up.)
  3. If you don’t already have it, you will need an adapter (typically $6.50 on Amazon) from your radio’s antenna connector (often, an SMA) to SO-239 (which is the “female” that fits a PL-259 “male”).  ( If you have a Baofeng UV-5X type radio, the appropriate adapter can be bought from Amazon for $6.50 (see Ref [2] )    Other brands of radio may require the male SMA on the connector, which means they would use the adaptor in Ref [3], also $6.50  )   I like the pigtails to avoid stress on the fragile connections inside the walkie talkie.  Be aware that SOME one-piece adapters (not the ones I’m recommending) come with “metric” threads that do not properly mate with a standard PL-259.
  4. 2-4 layer flat shipping type corrugated cardboard, minimum height 32″, minimum width 41″. The internal corrugation “tunnels” have to be aligned “bottom to top” not sideways, in order to position the wire elements.  (Check out recycling pickup day in upsale neighborhoods and you’re likely to find plenty of this cardboard.)


Balun Center Connection

Balun Center Connection

You’ll need a knife, a way to strip insulation, some 5-minute epoxy glue, and some tape, preferably 2-3″ clear package sealing type tape.   A yardstick or tape measure, and a way to cut the wire.  A drill with a 1/4″ bit would be helpful but not required. You will need some way to secure the two required driven element connections to the coax feedline– this can be a soldering iron/solder, or crimp connectors/crimping tool, or even house-wiring pigtail spiral connectors.  A bit of electrical or any other tape to cover the resulting connections if soldered.

Background Information

Here’s where you get to learn a bit about antennas.   A “yagi” style directional antenna makes your signal (both transmitted and received) much stronger in the desired direction, by not wasting signal or effort on some of the “undesired” directions. [4]   It basically channels much of your transmission and reception into the “desired” sector.   There is a tradeoff:   the higher the gain, the narrower the “favored” region.

Energy is not “created”, its effects are just moved around smartly.   To do this, the yagi has a “driven” element that is connected to the transmission line and does the initial radiation of energy.   Several additional “parasitic” elements have lengths and positions that allow them to capture radiated energy and (in effect) re-radiate it with such a phase adjustment that it modifies the pattern to achieve the proper directivity.

Usually there is one “reflector” and one or more “directors”.   Energy is effectively moved away from the side of the “reflector” and repositioned into the direction of the “directors”.   More directors allow more gain, but there is a point of diminishing returns.

Dipole based antennas like this one usually “work” on their odd harmonics as well.   This antenna uses the same driven element both on its fundamental 1/2 wavelength 2-meter resonance, and on its 3rd harmonic (70 cm band) resonance.   Because of some complicated “end” effects, the point of resonance isn’t exactly 3.000 times the fundamental resonance.  The current pattern in the driven and parasitic elements on their 3rd harmonic theoretically leads to some odd trifurcated forward lobes.    In DK7ZB’s design, he improved the odd trifurcated pattern on the 3rd harmonic by adding additional 70cm-specific parasitic elements.


Cut the insulated wires to the proper lengths as follows.  Each cut should be fairly accurate, say, within about 1/16″ of the desired length.

Driven Element:   Cut two 17.5 inch sections, strip 1/4″ of insulation at one end of each, and bend 90 degrees so that there is a straight section of approximately 17 – 1/8″ and a bare tab at 90 degrees of 1/4″.   You will solder/crimp/connect to the bare tabs.  (See the closeup of the driven element photo.)

Remaining elements:  (Leave all their insulation on)

2m Reflector:  36-3/4″

2m Director #1:  33-5/8″

2m Director #2:  32-7/8″

70cm Reflector:  11-7/8″

70cm Director#1: 11-5/8″

70cm Director #2:  11-1/2″

70cm Director #3:  10-1/4″

70cm Director #4:  10-3/4″

Mark the center of each of those elements with a marker or bit of colored tape.

Cut your cardboard to approximately 41″ wide x 32″ high.  Corrugation slots on the “face” you will insert wires into must be oriented vertically, from “top” to “bottom”.  If you can only find “1-ply” cardboard, use white glue to glue 3 thicknesses together to make 3-ply.

Plan ahead which direction you need to be able to aim this antenna, and how you will hang it on the wall.  (You cannot use conductive WIRE to hang it, but non-conductive string or thin cord is OK.  I glued a yardstick on the back of my antenna,  partway down to allow reinforced holes to hold a hanging cord.)

Figure which sides will therefore be “top” and “bottom”, “front” and “rear”.   Draw a horizontal “antenna centerline”  19″ from the bottom, leaving 13″ to the top. This is so the elements will NOT stick out the bottom and get bent, when the cardboard rests on the floor, until you have it mounted; the 2 meter elements will stick out the top. (Again, see the accompanying photos.)     Plan to insert the 2 meter Reflector about 1″ away from the “rear” edge.   Mark that point, as 0 inches.     Then draw tick marks on your “centerline” at the following distances:

2m Reflector:              0″

70cm Reflector:          4-1/4″

Driven Element:          10-1/16″

70cm Director #1:       11-5/8″

70 cm Director #2:      17″

2m Director #1:           18-1/8″

70cm Director #3:       29″

70cm Director#4:        37-1/4″

2m Director #2:           38-1/16″

You should be able to locate the corrugation “slots” underneath the face of your cardboard surface.   Identify the slot that goes with each of your tick marks.  At the tick mark for the driven element, make two small slits 1/4″ above and below the centerline, and use these to slip the upper and lower portions in, leaving the “tabs” about 1/4″ apart. (See photo.)    Make a small window, about 1/4″ x 1/4″ at each of your other centerline tick marks so that you should be able to see the center mark that you placed on every other wire at the approximate center.   Measuring half the length upwards for every other element (you can use your center-marked elements as guides), make a nick and slide in the element (the 2 meter elements should be inserted from the top edge and will stick out on top).   Using a drop or 2 of glue into the center windows, secure the wire elements so they won’t inadvertently drop away from their correct position.

Using the included illustration, drill or cut 1/4″ holes on the rear side of the driven element, which will allow you to feed the transmission line into a “balun coil” of 4 turns of coax feedline just back from the connection to the driven element.   See the photo of the finished connection to better understand the construction.  Cut off the PL-259 connector at one end of your coax cable.   Starting from the “rear” end of your cardboard, feed the cable in along the centerline, and then run it through the “coil” holes to form the 4 turns of coax.   This forms a “common mode inductor”; this balun (stands for “balanced to unbalance” — the antenna is balanced (symmetrical) and the feedline is coaxial (unbalanced, non-symmetrical) )  and reduces interfering radiation from your feedline.

Now carefully strip off about 1/2″ of outer coax insulation, undo the braiding & twist the fine copper braid wires into one wire; cut off any aluminum foil shielding.   Carefully remove 1/4″ of center conductor insulation.   Wrap the braid wire around the “down” center element’s bare tab, and the center conductor around the “up” center element’s bare tab, and solder (or crimp, or even pigtail twist).   If you solder, insulate the result with a bit of electrical tape.   Use clear packing tape to secure the center connections about 1/4″ apart.

You’re finished; connect the distant PL-259 to the pigtail adapter to your handheld transceiver and have fun!


(Some heavy duty theory)

I got the original dimensions and spacings for this antenna from an open-air boom-based yagi design  published by DK7ZB. [5]   I adjusted the lengths and spacings and built it by sliding wires into the corrugations of cardboard — and it didn’t work!  Something was haywire.  SWR’s (standing wave ratio) were terrible.   Thankfully I have a wonderful measurement device (Ref [6]) that allows me to read resistance and reactance of the antenna on the 2m band (but won’t reach the 70 cm band).   Temporarily using a very short 2 foot transmission line allows the instrument to closely read the actual antenna (longer transmission lines can change the apparent resistance/reactance of the antenna, and create baffling results that remind you of high school questions about resonances of open and closed-end flute tubes).  Starting over with just the driven element showed the resonance was far below the calculated 2-meter band resonance– actually down at 131 MHz.   Additional experiments confirmed that the dielectric effects of both the THHN insulation and the cardboard were making the wire “appear” electrically to be 7% longer.  The resonances observed in a few experiments were as follows:

Resonance Effects Measurements

38.0″ dipole bare wire, free space:                  approx 142 MHz resonance (R = 76, X = 0) [close to expected]

38.4″ dipole insulated wire, free space:          approx 135.5 MHz resonance

(Although the wire was 1% longer, the resonance moved a full 5% lower;  4% lower resonance apparently due to insulation)

38.4″ dipole insulated wire, inside cardboard: approx 131.4 MHz resonance

(Additional 3% drop in resonance due to placement of insulated wire in cardboard.)

After this experiment, I  adjusted all the wire lengths (7% shorter than expected for 146 MHz or 440 MHz as appropriate), rebuilt the antenna (to the dimensions given here) and the 2-meter antenna worked perfectly with an acceptable SWR around 2:1, a good bandwidth, and great forward gain (measured experimentally as shown below).  Because of the influence of the parasitic elements, the resonant impedance of a yagi may not be 50 ohms, hence perfect SWRs do not always result.  The 70 cm antenna had a wonderful SWR but the gain is not impressive.   This can likely be  improved experimentally by adjusting the position of the director elements,  one by one,  with wooden tongs while measuring the far-field strength.   This will be  tedious and I don’t have the time to work on it right now.

If you want to measure SWR on these bands, consider purchasing the Workman 104 VHF/UHF swr bridge ($44) , which also give an approximation of power measurement.  [7]


[1]  For an example of just how much worse a short stubby “rubber duckie” antenna can be, compared to a properly sized antenna, see:   In  a quasi-professionally done measurement, he observed enormous losses in very short antennas at 2 meters.

[2] For Baofeng-style walkie talkies:   SMA Female to SO-239 Female 6″:   Available from at:

[3] Adapter for radios with SMA-female connector:


[5]   Author showed that even his 2meter yagi functioned reasonably well on 70cm; adding specific 70cm directors improved the forward pattern.


[7]  VHF/UHF swr bridge:

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.

The Prepper’s Disaster Communications Plan…

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest –Moira M

You are at home waiting on the cable guy on a drizzly Monday morning. You relax in the quiet house since your spouse is at work, older kid away at college and younger kid in school. You settle in with a nice cup of coffee and the paper, when suddenly the TV show is interrupted for a breaking news bulletin. There have been terrorist attacks in your state capital and two other cities nearby. You grab your cell phone and get a polite message that the system is experiencing technical difficulties and to please try your call again later.

Your home phone has the same problem because it uses Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and the internet is down. This means no emails either. What do you do? Do you try to pick up the child at the local school? Do you try to make the hour drive to the college to pick up your older child? What will your spouse do? Would you make it to the college only to find that your child had left for home or that your spouse had already picked her up? The best solution in this case would be to have a plan already in place for how to handle the situation and how to communicate when conventional methods fail.

In an emergency whether it is a deliberate act or act of nature, communications can be disrupted. Not only can an increased load on the system cause failures, but the emergency at hand could damage the infrastructure. Storms take out towers and lines all the time. Terrorists could intentionally target communications infrastructure. Not only does it cause a panic when people can’t contact loved ones, but it also prevents people from coordinating to resist them.

In the case of the famous and courageous resistance of the passengers of Flight 93 who tried to retake the plane on 9/11, crashing it in the process, but preventing it from being used against targets such as the White House and other occupied buildings communications played a major role. The people on the plane were able to talk to loved ones to say goodbye.

They were able to talk to emergency personnel and get news of the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Obviously we can’t speak for them, but if they had thought the plane would land somewhere safely in a ransom demand, the passengers may have reacted differently than they did knowing that it was highly likely the terrorists planned to crash the plane into a populated target. The next time, the terrorists may prevent such opportunities.

We live in the age of instant communication. At any given moment you can contact people by phone, text, email, video chat and instant messaging. You can get information on news, current events and any conceivable topic under the sun via the internet, from your wireless device that works almost everywhere. What if that changed?

I used to think it was a convenient plot hole when a movie character was out of cell service at an interstate rest area. That was based on my experience living in Florida. Since then, I’ve lived in Vermont and Tennessee. There are plenty of stretches of interstate highway in those two states without cell service, let alone the remote boondocks locations we would explore. If you have a car accident or breakdown in those places you either walk to find help or hope someone comes along. Your personal emergency may be affected by lack of communication. This can be avoided by letting someone know where you are going so that if you don’t arrive there or get back safely in a reasonable time, then they can search for and potentially rescue you.

In a short term emergency, such as a hurricane, ice storm, blizzard, or terrorist event, there may be more people trying to use cell phones and land lines than the available resources will allow. The nature of the emergency might also knock down transmission lines and towers that provide the services. Many people these days have VOIP phone service (via internet) which requires both electrical power and internet service to work. Long term emergencies, of an apocalyptic nature would likely be the end of these services forever. We would have to turn to other methods of communication.

In the scenario above you could have a plan where one spouse always collects the older child and the other spouse always collects the younger. You could have a plan where you establish which route (and backup route) would be taken so that you could go from the other direction and meet the person, whether it be the college child or the other spouse. You could establish a central crossroads type location where a message could be left that would let other family members know your plan before they go miles in another direction.

There are many alternative methods of communications that we don’t normally use because cell phones are easier to use. If you had a CB radio or long-range walkie talkie, then you could communicate with each other when you were close enough. For emergencies, we should consider setting up some of these methods and including a generator or solar powered method to run them and recharge batteries.

For short term emergencies, it is a good idea for all families to designate one or more people who live far away to be the communications hub. If an ice storm hits Tennessee, then my brother in Florida would be our hub. If my family was scattered when an emergency happened, instead of each of us trying repeatedly (and maybe unsuccessfully) to reach the others, we call my brother to let him know whether we are ok, where we are sheltering and/or how we plan to travel to the others.

He could prevent each of us from traveling to where we thought the others might be sheltering. That would help us to get back together more quickly. The hub person could also serve as a news center if the people in the disaster area had spotty access to news (such as road closures and storm paths), and let extended family know you were safe. Depending on what had happened, CB radios, long range walkie talkies, and ham radio sets could be useful. These radios don’t require the infrastructure as land lines and cell phones. Ham radios require a license and training to use legally.

For long term emergencies communication plans would be more difficult. By long term emergency, I’m referring to anything that disrupts society on a national or worldwide scale. This would include revolution or foreign invasion,  a massive EMP, anything that takes down the power grid, a pandemic or an apocalyptic event. Again, CB radios, long range walkie talkies, and ham radio sets could be useful.

These communications methods could allow you to talk to family and also to get information about what is going on in the disaster. However, the Ham radio license would mean that your name would be on a list. Depending on the emergency at hand, that could make you a target of any group wishing to control the flow of information. Any large antennas could make you the target of anyone looking for a prepared location to raid for food, weapons, and other supplies.

If you don’t have a way to communicate, you would need to have a prearranged plan to meet up. If you’ve ever separated at a Wal-Mart Supercenter and then tried to regroup without cell phones, you can imagine what it could be like. You take the front aisle from produce to pharmacy. Your spouse takes the left aisle from pharmacy to sporting goods. In this fashion, you could walk for miles inside the store without catching a glimpse of each other.

Imagine this on a statewide or multi-state scale with various difficulties in place caused by the disaster. Without a plan you may never see each other again. Depending on the distance, you may decide not to try. If you do want to try, consider setting up a system in advance to improve the odds that you’ll find each other. This is even a good plan to establish with family members living in the same area. If communication is down, but the disaster destroyed the entire neighborhood where the home was located, how would your family get together?

Family homes or other landmarks could be designated in a particular order as meeting points. Meet first at Grandpa’s house. If it is destroyed or in an unsafe area , go to the big tree by the Baptist church, then mom’s house and so forth until the group could meet. In each case, messages could be left in some agreed upon fashion, such as painted on the house or driveway, nailed to a tree, or hidden under a particular rock.

In disaster movies we often see people trying to get together with loved ones and don’t know if they are dead or alive. If your group gets separated at some point or if you have family members living in other areas, you could meet at a central location at a fixed time. An example could be to meet at the eastern end of the Trammell Bridge over the Apalachicola River in Florida at midday on the full moon every month. If that is too much travel, pick one specific time, such as December.

The system isn’t perfect because without a calendar, people may have trouble keeping up with months. Since December includes the winter solstice, hopefully people could keep track of when the days were shortest. In that part of Florida, December would mean colder weather and less chance of meeting up with a poisonous snake. In northern climes, a summer meeting time would be best. Any place or time would do as long as the area would be relatively safe and the date and time could be calculated without a calendar. It could also serve as a place to leave a message without meeting up. You or your relatives could leave a message in code or plain English that gave information or instructions for meeting up.

Talk to your family and set up a plan. Test it occasionally so everyone is familiar with it. Be prepared. Remember that communication is an important step in being prepared.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.

A Question for the Pack on Communications

We have all enjoyed this site. I have learned more than I could list. I have learned things here that are just part of me now.

My Multi- part Question to the Pack… What will you.. we.. do when this screen goes blank? In what way can the readers of this site communicate? What ‘hard line’.. ‘hard copy’.. method(s) have you… we.. set up to provide some continuity of communications? Yeah yeah…. Ham… CB… But what else is there unless you… we… have pre-set a system in place now? I ask as a result of the conversation on ‘Underground Railroading’ and ‘Net Works’ to provide help in a post SHTF event(s). Some of our listening audience(s) would call the very subject treasonous…… Any comments…. anyone… Beuller… anyone.. NSA… Beuller?

With regards… Tom The Tinker

Books and two way radios…

Question from a reader about medical books and two-way radios…

HI MD, love your site and am slowly based on money starting to become a prepper, Question how do you compare Survival MD to where there is no dr.? I would like to buy Survival MD but they no longer offer the $22 and they don’t respond to emails either. The cost now is $37 and I can get where there is no Doctor around $13. Do you think this is a good book compared to Survival MD? I value your opinion as I know little about this stuff other then what i read on your site and posts. Also is there a decently priced two way radio that will transmit a legitimate 5-10 miles in a mountainous area that you are aware of > thanks for you help and keep updating your site. Ron

M.D. Replies: Where there is no doctor (and Where there is no Dentist) is a great​ medical book for preppers, the difference between the two is that “Where there is no Doctor” offers more primitive type care and tips on staying healthy. The book was put together for missionaries to help villagers living in a primitive conditions, like a remote villages in Africa for example. This is very good info to have in a long-term grid down situation. Survival MD is geared to preppers who have limited medical training / skills but who have put back medical preps in advance.

Get “Where there is no Doctor” first and then just skip Survival MD because of the fact that they raised their price and won’t answer your emails, and get The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way. This book is just as good if not better and covers the same info.

As for handheld two way radios, they have a realistic reliable range of 1-2 miles in mountain areas, with the actual range depending heavily on where each unit is located. Mountain top to mountain top without obstruction range can be impressive at 5 miles or even more, but can be cut down drastically if say there is a hill between the units. This will decrease the range significantly.

I like the MURS radios because they are not used by most people and you’ll pretty much have the frequencies to yourself and that equals better privacy, than say using CB or GMRS type radios. But with any commonly available two-way radio communications privacy is not guaranteed.

Shortwave Ham Radio Communications with the Grid Down — Will Your Inverter Drown Out All Signals?

Today we present another article for this round in our non-fiction writing contest – by PrepperDoc

In a grid-down scenario, many will turn to radio for strategic information and advance warning of coming adversaries.  Hand-held VHF walkie-talkies will be quite range-limited if their usual repeaters go down also.   CB radio may allow 5-10 mile range, and marine radio slightly more, both depending on antenna height.

Short wave (high frequency, “HF”) ham radio will uniquely allow direct two-way communications both locally and over statewide and nationwide distances.    Many are planning on this as their primary long distance communications. Unfortunately, if they are relying on DC inverters for AC power, they may be stunned to find overwhelming hash interference coming from the high frequency switching Field Effect Transistors (FET) in their own inverter!   In that situation, they may have to temporarily turn off their inverter power source, and turn to battery-powered low-power (“QRP”) ham radio transceivers, or simply monitor battery-powered AM/FM/shortwave broadcast receivers.

I learned this the hard way.  Unaware of this problem, I had a very elaborate solar power system installed, using widely available robust and powerful equipment  (Out Back Power,   The first time I tested my setup on “emergency battery power,” I was surprised to have significant, wideband hash noise that was coming from my own power system.   Adding hefty inline EMI (electromagnetic interference) power line filters right inside the inverter AC panel boxes calmed down the interference to just above background level, very tolerable.  Not all inverters produce the same level of interference.  A friend who has a MagnaSine 4kW inverter (Magnum Energy, doesn’t seem to have the problem.

Now aware of the problem, and concerned for allies in my area (whom I want to be able to hear my signal!), I did experiments on a couple of different small inverters and some possible filtering solutions, measuring the received signal or interference at 3.7 MHz, in the middle of the 80-meter ham band that can be used for statewide or national communications after sundown.

I used a venerable Heathkit SB-102 vacuum tube transceiver as the test receiver, and to somewhat quantify the amount of interference versus typical signal strength, I measured the interference using the S-unit meter display of the receiver.  S-units are a relative and uncalibrated indication of how strong a received signal is, created by automated receiver circuitry that tries to automatically adjust the speaker volume despite widely varying signal strength.

Different receivers may grade the same signal quite differently. My receiver seems to grade signals rather conservatively (giving fairly low S-values).   However, each increase of 1 S-unit reflects a significantly easier to hear signal.   Background atmospheric noise randomly moved between S1 and S2, while black clouds and lighting ten miles away produced S6 lightning crashes.   Such nearby lightning will generally wipe out almost all signals.  Strong and easily readable voice single sideband signals were reading S3 or S4 on my receiver.

The Table below presents my results of interference signal-strength measurements:


Power Source: Household AC Modified Sine Wave Inverter [1] Pure Sinewave inverter [2]
No powerline filter Background S1-S2

Nearby lightning S6

S3 hash S6 hash
Schaffner EMI filter [3], ungrounded S1-S2 (barely noticeable) S3 hash
Schaffner EMI filter [3], grounded to household power ground S1-1/2, not discernible S2 hash, somewhat above background noise
Homemade jerry-rigged EMI Filter [4] No improvement at all (S3) No improvement at all (S6)

Surprisingly, the cheaper modified-sine wave inverter creates significantly less wideband (hash) interference than the low-power but higher quality sine wave inverter (which may have faster-switching FETs).   Both of these inverters are relatively small, portable, relatively low-priced inverters that can easily be stored in a small Faraday cage at home and might well be chosen as a grid-down backup device.   Both produce adequate power for a small vacuum tube ham radio (relatively EMP-resistant) with roughly 75-100 watts output.  The 2500-watt modified sinewave inverter can start and run a refrigerator compressor.  The interference from either would drown out most signals without power filtering. Both inverters were on a different floor from the receiver (which had a coax transmission line to an outside wire antenna) and a long extension cord went from inverters to the room with the ham radio.  Interestingly, the interference seemed to be conducted via plugging the receiver into the output AC power from the inverters — simply having the inverter-powered extension cord in the same room as the receiver did by itself not cause problems.

Interference from solar power inverters has been widely recognized and comes in two flavors, usually simultaneously:   differential mode (signal on hot and cold AC wires is 180 degrees out of phase) and common mode (signal on hot and cold AC wires is the same, and significant versus ground).  [5]
A jerry-rigged homemade attempt at a power line filter [4] was completely ineffective.   Apparently one needs higher inductance and capacitance values, and likely a split capacitor with the center tap grounded to reduce common-mode interference.

Placing an inexpensive 20-amp rated commercial EMI filter inline virtually eliminated the interference from the modified sine wave inverter, particularly when the ground tap on the filter was connected to my house wiring ground.   The same filter reduced the more potent interference from the sinewave inverter to an acceptable — but still noticeable — level when the ground connection was used.    Without the ground connection, such filters reduce only differential-mode interference; the ground connection increases the possibility of reducing common-mode interference.

This type of harmonic interference from the fast switching pulses of a DC-to-AC inverter will vary from brand to brand, and should become weaker at higher frequencies.  I did not test to see if it is troublesome at CB frequencies (27 MHz) but I would expect much less of a problem,  and I would doubt that it would be a great problem at 2-meter frequencies.   However, if you are depending on an inverter for your sound-signature-safe alternate power supply, and wish to have long-range ham radio communications, it would be wise to test your setup and/or purchase some form of EMI filtering and add it right at the output of your inverter before long power runs to portions of your house or your ham radio equipment.  It’s an easy, cheap and effective fix.


[1] Whistler PRO2500W  2500 watt power inverter, 12 volt car battery source. Inverter ungrounded.

[2] Morningstar SureSine300.   300watt (peak 600 watts 10 minutes).  12 volt car battery source. Inverter ungrounded.

[3] Schaffner FN2030A-20-06 Power Line Filter, rated 20A AC, purchased from Mouser Electronics,,   details at:

[4]  Homemade filter consisted of series open wire coils approximately 20 microhenries (40 turns, 1.5″ dia) and a homemade shunt capacitor on the load side made with 80 sq. inch aluminum foil plates separated by 20 pound copy paper, measured as approximately 2000 pF.


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