Help needed with emergency communications!

Discussion in 'Communications' started by Sgt. Mike, Feb 10, 2010.

  1. Sgt. Mike

    Sgt. Mike Member

    We live in central Missouri. Tornado's are our biggest concern. We live in the middle of timber and out as far as "no-where". For our tornado shelter located in the basement under the stairway and re-inforced we need communications to the outside world, just in case.

    We do have a cell phone but with a big disaster who knows what could be down. I'm looking at a Midland XT-511 and two hand held radios. The problem with the XT-511 is that I do not believe it has a jack for an outside antenna which we would probably need.

    All suggestions and help would be appreciated. It's been a number of years since I was involved in communications and times have changed. Thank you in advance.
  2. WeSurviveIt

    WeSurviveIt New Member

    If a Tornado hits, an outside antenna would likely be gone. Keep some metal cord or wiring in your bag that you could fashion an antenna out of after the tornado. If you are trapped in the basement you may be able to run the cord to the outside through a gap and increase signal strength. Other than that, I would look for a radio with the highest possible wattage and forget about the antenna option..

  3. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    Nice radio! We have GMRS, CB, and Ham radios (2 meter) and a general purpose scanner. In an emergency a scanner set on local emergency channels (Forest Servic, Sheriff, Police, Fire Dept., etc.) is very valuable. We also have a scan setting on our 2 meter radios to keep us in touch on ham radio traffic.

    GMRS radios are somewhat limited in range. The listed range for them will only be obtained under optimum conditions. I don't know of any GMRS radio that accepts an external antenna.

    To make contact with the "outside world" in an emergency with a GMRS radio you're going to have to be pretty close. Do you have any neighbors nearby that also have GMRS radios that you could set up communication protocol with in an emergency? You might also ask your local emergency response people (fire, sheriff, etc.) if they monitor any GMRS frequencies.

    We went to Ham radio simply because it has the best range although in our neighborhood we have neighbors using both CB and GMRS radios. (One of the reasons we have all three.)
  4. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    How far will you need to communicate via radio communications? 5 miles or 50 miles or further. Who would be on the other end receiving the signal from you? For a cheap-n-easy setup with no licence required and no service contracts, look for CB-Radio base-stations with outdoor antenna. The range is pretty good and better if you have someone within range who can help relay a message that you are in trouble and require assistance.

    Having a couple sets of FRS radios (mini handheld CB-radios) will give you "line-of-sight" range of around 10 miles. If you are on a acreage, a combination of FRS and CB-Radio basestation will give you the ability to walk around and talk to the house. I have several of the FRS-units and when out hiking / 4-wheeling the best that I can get with the hills, trees, rocks and such in the way is about 5 kilometers (3 miles).

    The next level above CB-Radio and FRS would be AmatureRadio. We have a few members who can go into more detail about those systems (I am not certified), but, from what I have found out, it will cost you to get a licence to operate the radios (to talk to others) but you do not need a licence to listen on the conversations. The radios are around the same price as a good CB-Radio basestation, and, just like the basestation have the ability to run on both "shore-power" and "mobile-power" - meaning 120-volt-AC and 12-volt-DC. After you have your licence (you will need to contact your local amature radio groups) you will be able to talk to others and get on the repeaters which will automatically forward your signal further than what you can send locally.

    After that, combination cell-phone / satallite-phones, with contracts and per-minute charges would work. There is a new combo-phone that when in range of normal cell-towers will communicate via the cheaper cell contract. If there are no cell-towers, it will automatically search for satallite signal and allow you to communicate that way. I have looked into these phones, and, here in Canada, I can pay about $400 for the phone, contract in at $24/month for the sat-phone + air-time and then you contract to whichever cell-company that you want for the cell-tower access.
  5. Sgt. Mike

    Sgt. Mike Member

    Emergency Communications

    Neighbors are few and far between. At the very best the sheriff's office is 30 minutes away so we must prepare, and take care of ourselves. I seriously doubt if any of our neighbors, perhaps one if he's home, would have a CB. I think I will need to "reach out and touch someone".

    What kind of distances could a person expect from a ham radio. Thanks Michael
  6. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    I'm relatively new at ham radio so I hope some of those who know more about it will give some advice here. We have a 65 watt base (12 volt vehicle radio hooked up to an external antenna and powerd from our battery bank) that easily reaches about 70 miles. We have two handheld units (5 watt, max.) that easily communicate 20 miles if there are no mountains in the way. We regularly talk from Eureka (MT) to home (about 13 miles) on low power (1/2 watt) without using the repeater. You can have civilian radios modified so that you can cummunicate on emergency frequencies. This is legal IF it's a real emergency. (But it had better be a real emergency!!!!) Normally you can contact someone with a land line to forward emergency calls.

    Ham radio people tend to be very friendly and helpful. See if you can contact any local clubs to ask for advice. Our club gives free lessons every year to help people get their ham license. You have to buy the book and pay for the test but that isn't very much. Our family shared a book. Run a Google search for ham radio clubs in your city or state.
  7. Sgt. Mike

    Sgt. Mike Member

    Emergency Communications

    For those of you that use a CB radio can you recommend a top quality unit and an external antenna? HAM will probably be next year due to price. Thank you in advance, Michael
  8. 11D20

    11D20 Member

    emergency Communications

    SGT. Mike:

    I have the answer for you...First a compact radio to purchase is a Yaesu FT-817 portable radio...then learn how to build a portable antenna ....

    It is called an NVIS (near vertical incidence skywave antenna...It is two di-poles at 90 degrees to each other...You can use PVC pipe and connectors to put the antenna up at a moments notice....You will need an antenna tuner to tune the antenna to the radio....AES radio supply has the radio and tuners at reasonable prices.....The antenna is easy to build and they are a current military antenna....You'll also learn about antennas building them, also...

    You'll want a ham license to use this rig...The test is easy, since the code is dropped....It's priceless once the license is obtained...

    Hope this helps....If you have any questions feel free to ask...
  9. jontwork

    jontwork Active Member

    Your message seems to indicate that you want to have communications "FROM UNDER THE STAIRS" to the outside world.
    Am I correct on this?
    As has been commented on by others, if the tornado hits your immediate area it will most likely destroy almost any antenna you want to erect before hand.
    If that happens, you will NOT have any communcation to the outside world due to NOT having an external antenna with some height to it.
    The best solution that I can think of is to install a section of 3" PVC pipe from the ceiling area of your hideyhole up through the roof of your home. You would do this like they probably did your septic/toilet vent pipe(s). It would have a cap on it to prevent rain or vermin from gaining access.
    You would purchase 4-5 foot sections of military antenna tower (available at most Ham Swaps) enough to go up to the roof and additionally extend 20' or more into the air.
    You would purchase a good fibreglass or metal 2 meter/440 antenna and the hardware to mount the antenna in line with the extendable sections.
    If you get hit with a tornado and can not get out of the basement, you could initially assemble the mast sections and insert them one at a time up the vent hole until you could knock of the sealing cap (use no cement) for antenna access.
    You would then lower the sections and install the antenna and coax within each section and then raise it to the maximum height you have planned. Hook up coax and get on the air. Hopefully, you have a full charged bank of batteries to keep you on the air until help arrives. If, nobody comes or sees your perdicament, you could as a last chance, lower your antenna and tie a hand made "HELP" banner on the antenna and re-erect the system which will now display the alarming request for help.
    I hope you install the system and NEVER need it.
    Called the cost of doing business and surviving.
  10. Rourke

    Rourke Human

    Excellant information here -thanks.

    I have been interested in a similar "emergency communications" set up and had thought of using CB. I doubt it will have the range - 6-10 miles max that I would need. I think a hand held HAM radio might work.

    With 2 hand-held units - what kind of range can you get so they can communicate?

    Thanks - Rourke
  11. ZoomZoom

    ZoomZoom Rookie Prepper

    OK, I'll toss another option out there.

    How about a personal locator beacon/messenger?

    Something like these.

    IIRC, the radio is about $150 and the plan is about $100/year.
  12. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    The plane that just went down in Alaska had dead batteries in it's Emergency Positioning Device,
    (Pilots call it an EPRB = Emergency Positioning Radio Beacon).

    Funny, they can afford a million dollar air plane, but can't afford enough maintenance to change the battery in the beacon!

    I've seen the 'SPOT' type beacons, and they are pretty cool, not a bad idea at all.

    The climbing group (with a local member of the bunch) to stranded on a big old mountain a little while back.
    Didn't make the news much, they didn't DIE!

    One guy had a Satellite Phone, two or three had 'SPOT' locators,
    They had food, water, emergency blankets, rain ponchos, ect.
    They were just stuck on the mountain for 3 or 4 days until the fog/weather lifted enough to get them out.

    Almost a Non-Event... The rescue team had to wait until the fog/weather lifted, and if they would have waited another 12 hours so it cleared further up the mountain, the hikers/climbers would have just hiked back out!
    The only reason they were stranded was zero visibility!

    Just goes to show you that the RIGHT equipment, even if it's 99¢ emergency blankets and rain ponchos from Wally-World and some extra beef jerky...
    Nothing beats being prepared for the 'Worst'.

    The guys in the military used to make fun of me when I would put rice or beans and some jerky in pouches, makes VERY small, light meals...
    They would issue for 4 or 5 days, and our 'observation' missions often ran twice that!

    They stopped laughing and giving me a hard time after the first time a '5 Day' mission turned into 14 days!
    Can't plan for floods!
    I was warm, dry, and eating pretty well!

    So when you see that guy with the extra ammo pouch, or extra canteen cover, don't laugh too hard at him,
    He might just be the ticket to your next meal!
  13. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    Go low budget,
    Get a regular CB at the local electronics store,
    Then get a 'Booster' or what people used to all a 'Leiner' years back.
    Some regular pre-made cables, a magnetic mount for antenna and a good antenna..

    Cheap antennas won't survive a booster. Make sure you get a reasonable antenna and you are off the races with a portable, transportable package that runs off 12 volts, like vehicle batteries.

    Wilson electronics used to make VERY GOOD cables and antennas, but since Barjan bought them out, I have no idea if they are any good anymore...

    With a regular CB, Booster and reasonable antenna, along with cell phone and maybe your home phone or internet, you should be covered...

    I have a 40 channel CB, 250 Watt booster and antenna that all fits in a tall (120mm Motor) ammo can and it move from vehicle to vehicle with me,
    Great for off roading, and I've got it hooked up where a lawn mower battery will fit in the bottom, and it provides ports for 'Cigar Lighter' type plug in sockets.
    Recharge my AA, AAA batteries for the little digital radios, flashlights, ect. from that can and it keeps the stuff out of the rain when you snap the lid on.

    Just an idea from a hillbilly off roader.
  14. jontwork

    jontwork Active Member

    We need more information on what you intend to do with the radio system.
    Who is going to be on the other end that you will talk to with the radio.
    What is your terrain like where you are located?
    Do you have a lot of rain and overcast in your area?
    I doubt that you could get the mileage you want unless there are no trees.
  15. 101airborne

    101airborne Well-Known Member

    Mike, although frowned on in everyday situations, a linear amplifier for a CB will give you extremly more range. I have one that is a 750 watt one and with a 102" steel "whip" antenna on my jeep I have talked world wide in excellent conditions and in not so great conditions 70-80 miles. With a CB generally someone is monitoring channel 9 the official emergency channel at least during and disaster/emergency. Many state police/ hwy patrol depts. monitor it 24/7/365. You can usually pick up a good linear for a couple hundred bucks and up. As for ham anywhere from 10 miles up.
  16. 101airborne

    101airborne Well-Known Member

    Mike, if you have any pilot truck stops in your area you can get a cobra 129 LTD classic 40 channel mobile CB which is a very good radio( I drive a truck and use one in mine) for around $75. A good antenna with a magnet mount will cost you around $50. Also a galaxy Cb ( which is what I have in my jeep) also has side band channels will cost a couple hundred BUT has more power than a normal CB. You can also find a radio shop that will do whats called a "peak adn tune" that will add power to your radio as well locally something like that which adds another 75-100 watts of power will cost you around $50 to $75. Personally as for an antenna I recommend a wilson 5000 antenna thats what I have on my truck at work it has a magnet mount so I can move it. Or if you want something permenant I have a 102" steel whip on my jeep that works great especially if I use the linear for long distance coms
  17. hardrock

    hardrock Well-Known Member

    Mike my situation is almost the same as yours. I started to study for the technican amateur license about the middle of july and passed the test on aug.5.(

    Went to the hamfest at Rich mt. Ar.(near Mena) last w/e and bought an Icom 706mkIIg that can be a mobile or a base station. Also got a good antenna wire and just finished today. a 2 meter/70cm Jpole antenna.

    Should have it going tomorrow and am looking forward to a lot of short and long distance communications with 12vdc or 120/60cycle.

    Will also get a good moble antenna for the p/u.
  18. worldengineer

    worldengineer Well-Known Member

    CB's are sweet and long range especially with a booster, but if the amp doesn't get enough air circulation you could fry the thing. Base CB's are also a good cheap and realiable option.
  19. markalacy

    markalacy W5TXR

    This is our communications for "If the day ever comes"
    As an amateur radio operator (wife also) and an electronic engineer, We purchased (4) Alinco DR-235 220Mhz Radios with the optional voice digital boards. Did the MARS/CAP mod which opened the TX range of the radio up. and basically gives us secure encrypted communications during emergencies-disasters. Because during a national emergency "Anything Goes" Communications wise" also living in Texas, Our very well equipped bug out building is our hunting cabin in Wyoming a (The draw back is the 18-20 hour drive)
    We discovered a long secure distance communications system We purchased (3) Icom IC-718 HF transceivers and installed a Midian Electronics VS-1200 Frequency Domain Scrambler and made the MARS/CAP mod for TX 0060-30.00 Mhz TX The scrambler works very well and its very high security and keeps the gubbment from listening in or your neighbor! Want info on how I did this?
  20. Jerry D Young

    Jerry D Young Well-Known Member

    Consider MURS handhelds and base radios. The base can use an external antenna. I'd keep a couple of spares as they aren't that expensive.

    Dakota Alert has both the base and a variety of mobiles.

    Just my opinion.