Communication Part 3

LET’S TALK CB & HAM (Shortwave) RADIOS

By Teri Simpson

05.21.11

So we’ve gone over creating a neighborhood network of like-minded people, using telephones and email. A great example of using email to disseminate important information happened just this afternoon. Around 5pm today 2 vehicles, each with a man and a woman in them, trespassed onto private property to case the place so they could come back later and steal things. The quick thinking person at that property just happened to have his camera, and took photos of both cars showing their license plates clearly, plus he got a shot of one of the men driving. 10 minutes later the sheriff had copies of the photos and arrested one of the men who had a warrant out for him. Within the hour, hundreds had the email with the photos, alerting everyone to be alert, with a description of how these people operated.
So how do we get information out to a large, wide spread group of people once cell phones, land lines and computers don’t function? This is when we move into the realm of CB and shortwave radios.
For how to communicate once the power grid is out and there are no phones or internet, the CB or Ham radio is it. To most people, a CB is a CB is a CB—the only difference is the price. NOT SO. Kind of like all sleeping bags are the same as long as they all have zippers, right? So why not get the $19.95 model from Fred Meyers? Because you’ll freeze your bippy off sleeping outside in one of those! This we understand.
So let’s look at some of the basics (and we won’t get too technical here).

THE BASIC EQUIPMENT
  • There’s a plain ol’ CB Radio – 40 channels and 4 watts of power
  • There’s the Single Side Band CB Radio – 80 channels and 12 watts of power
  • There’s the 10-meter radio, also called a Shortwave or Ham radio, with 50-400 watts of power

They all need antennas, and there are better antennas that’ll let you talk/listen farther, and there are antenna’s that don’t let you talk/listen as far away.

THE RADIO part of the Equation (these come in the car mountable, hand-held or Base Station models)

Plain ol’ CB Radio:
Has 4 WATTS of power to send out your voice. Has 40 channels you can talk on (you can find these at Radio Shack new or pawn shops used) All you can listen to or talk on is 40 CB channels. $30-$100

Single Side Band CB Radio:
Has 12 WATTS of power to send out your voice. Has the 40 channels of a regular, plus another 40 channels that you can use with less traffic. All you can listen to is the regular 40 channels, plus the extra 40 CB channels. $70-150

10-Meter Radio (that have the capability to access CB Bands. Not all do):
Has 15-400 WATTS of power to send out your voice (and can allow you to contact people far far away) Has the 40 regular CB channels, the extra 40 channels of the Single Side Band radio PLUS you can use it as a Scanner to listen to EMT/Police/Fire Department/Sheriff communications, You can listen to the Army at Ft. Lewis, and other military stuff And you can use it to listen to Shortwave/ham radio transmissions (while society remains intact, you can’t talk on this band right now unless you have a Ham Operators license, but you can listen—when society falls apart, you’ll also be able to talk on this band without a license without making licensed users upset. It is free and fairly easy to take the class and then take the test to get your license) $250-$600

Something you need to be aware of when buying a 10 meter radio: out of the box, the radio will not be able to be used as a CB or SSB radio. That is because, in the United States, a CB is supposed to be used at 4-12 watts. You are not supposed to use a CB that can punch out 350 watts of power because you would drown out all the other truckers on the road using a 12 watt radio. But that is not our intent – we want to be able to communicate out in the rural areas of the county. So what the manufacturers do is they put a little jumper thingie inside the radios that will be sold in the US so that the SSB option isn’t available out of the box. The manufacturers put the jumper in a different position for the 10 meter radios being sold outside of the US so they can use the radios as powerful CBs.

So you might think, well, let’s get the biggest baddest 10 meter ham radio there is. The thing is, the more watts the radio has, the bigger the power supply you have to have to convert electricity to 12 volt power. Or, if you live off the grid and have a 12 volt system (solar panels, batteries, etc) you’re all set. If you don’t, then you will need to get some sort of system, from the very simple to a larger system.

For a great simple solution, Costco has a $300 setup that includes 60 watts of solar panels, the charge controller, a bunch of cables so you can connect a variety of items to the systems, a 200 watt inverter to turn the 12 volt power to AC power – the only thing it doesn’t include is the deep cycle battery or batteries (don’t get car batteries – you need deep cycle batteries, which can be gotten from Costco or places like Interstate Batteries). Check out the system here Sunforce 60 Watt Solar Panel Back Up Power Kit . Now this isn’t some magic kit that will run your whole house – this is a small simple setup that will allow you to use a radio, or to have a couple of lights or use a laptop.

The cool thing about a 10-meter radio (that can access SSB CB bands) is that you don’t have to buy a Police Scanner or a Shortwave radio if you don’t want, because YOU ALREADY HAVE THEM!

ANTENNAS
Hand held CBs and 10-meter radios come with little antennas that attach to the radio. You can get bigger, better, longer antennas to attach that will let you transmit (talk) farther and pick up from farther away.

CB’s that are made to go in cars, and Base Station CBs (just bigger more powerful ones than the regular car ones) and 10-meter radios generally use either an antenna that magnetically mounts to the roof of your car or mounts on your bumper, or that mounts permanently on a pole or tree or roof.

MAGNETIC MOUNT CAR ANTENNAS
There are little ones and big ones. The big ones usually let you talk/listen farther away. (Imagine that!) These generally run from $30-$60.

PERMANENT MOUNTING ANTENNAS
There are a lot of different mounted antennas. The 2 that really stand out are the 18’-21’ antennas that will allow you to receive from the greatest distances (in the category of antennas that don’t involve metal towers and guy wires and cost lots). The other one is a portable one that can be set up in your living room or tent, and could be carried in a backpack if needed. These antennas will run you around $70-$150.

IN SUMMARY
Anybody can buy and use the CB and the SSB CB radios. No license needed. And you can get used CB’s cheap at pawn shops. But at 4 watts and only the main 40 channels, you will be much better served getting the SSB CB with 80 channels rather than a plain CB radio (you’ll have more options, and have more private channels to communicate on) and 12 watts of power (you can send and receive a further distance).

The ham radio (i.e. 10 meter or shortwave radio) can pick up many more types of radio communications, and can communicate over much further distances. You will be able to pick up broadcasts from all over the world (with a little bit of self education – these aren’t magic radios, they are a tool that will require reading some directions) which will give you information about what is going on all over this country and others after television and regular radio broadcasts have all gone down.

How do people in the Rainier area communicate with those out in the Bald Hills area? Or those around 4 Corners? Or in Yelm or Olympia? Is there a way that we can have a network that can pass important information to a very large number of people in a very short period of time? Can people here in western Washington communicate with people in Mexico? South Africa or Australia or in Germany/Bavaria/Austria?

I say it is possible. And we have a year and a half to iron out the details.

Now that we’ve gone over the hardware part of the CB/shortwave for communications after phones/computers are down. Next we need to look at How Do We Use Our Radios In A Cohesive and Efficient Manner Once They Are the Only Form of Communicating (other than sending and receiving, remote viewing and the Walk Over To The Neighbors method of communication).

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