Sunday, November 17, 2013

Volunteer Emergency Communications Programs

So you intend on getting your Ham License & a Ham Radio. But after you do, what are you going to do with it? If being in the loop after some disaster appeals to you, CommsPrepper has a very informative video that describes what's out there that you can be a part of.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Amateur Radio Go Box - Ham Radio ARES - RACES

Hats off to jokewallpaper for the fine video demo. That's a well put together & well thought out radio go box.
A bunch of good design tips here...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Seven Misconceptions about Amateur Radio.

Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, is an Extra Class amateur radio operator, author of the "No-Nonsense" series of amateur radio license study guides, "21 Things to Do After You Get Your Amateur Radio License," and a ham radio blogger.  He also published Seven Misconceptions about Amateur Radio. Every one a keeper!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ham Radio Tutorial: How to Call CQ

You can prepare for the day you get your Ham License, but when it comes to actually getting on the air, many hesitate because they feel they don't know what to say. This video shows the right way how to do made a general call for a contact & proper radio etiquette.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Survival Story: Living Through Florida's Hurricanes In 2004

By Don Jones
Originally published in Modern Survival Magazine, 2005

Hurricane Charlie left Punta Gorda FL devastated
"There are two certainties about being in the path of a hurricane: your home will be hit and destroyed or damaged, or it won't."

My friend Steve Blary and I had just gotten back from providing relief for ham radio operators in shelters at Punta Gorda, Florida during Hurricane Charley. What I saw there was enough to convince me to stay at a shelter if my community ever faced a storm. After getting home, I heard the news that another Hurricane named Frances was setting its cross hairs on Florida, but this time it was headed for my community.

Hurricane Frances pounds the Florida coast
My wife and I started to store and freeze water, purchase extra food, and close the storm shutters. Everything that could be blown from the yard was put in the garage. The American Red Cross Emergency Operations Center sent me to a school which served as a special needs shelter for the handicapped. I thought it was going to be easy duty since it was run by the health department. My wife would be about two miles from where I would be at the Red Cross office. My job was to report any messages to the Red Cross from our shelter, number of occupants, the number of meals, people sick and any who were sent to the hospital.

Frances came in like a lion with tropical storm force winds from 35 to 74 miles per hour at about 6 p.m. The winds would roar outside for several minutes, then they would slow down and get quiet. Just as we would think the storm was past, it started all over again. The shelter kept me busy with radio traffic all night. A friend at the shelter brought a mini color TV and we watched the weather all night between messages.
We became the information center for the shelter residents who kept checking on the storm. The storm started with hurricane force winds of 75 to over 110 miles per hour around 10 p.m. The storm was so large that the eye was estimated to be 75 mile across. Sometimes the building would shake and the roof would make popping sounds as it strained from the winds that sounded like a freight train at times About 10:30 p.m. we lost power and went on to generator power, which meant we lost the air-conditioning.

With 350 people in the shelter, the humidity rose rapidly. When Frances reached the coastal waters off Stuart, Florida, it just sat there for five long hours, before it moved on shore.
Stuart FL felt the brunt of the storm
Then she took another 12 hours to pass over us. Everyone thought she would pass quickly and was anxious to go home. It was the largest storm in 47 years. Because it sat in the ocean for five hours, it lost its sea surge, the dome of water that is sucked up by the storm and usually brings in flood water. It was expected to be 18 feet, but ended up being 6 feet. It still did damage, but not to the inland coast. At midnight I laid down on the floor for just a few minutes, for the first time in 48 hours. At that point, someone came running in to tell me to get on the radio because the school down the street, which was also a shelter, had just lost its roof and we would be taking in more victims. They were taking in rain, and wind was roaring. No one could go after them till the eye came over us.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Moving Up to Ham Radio

It's an old video, but still a goodie... What's cool is how most of the gear in the video is still around today, just as functional as ever. The video was made back in the days of the big CB radio craze and was intended to show CB'ers the bigger world of Ham Radio. While licensing requirements have eased up, (Morse Code is no longer a requirement), the capability of Amateur Radio has only grown wider & more sophisticated, yet still offers the capability of world-wide communications from your armchair.
So pop some popcorn, sit back and enjoy this Ham Radio Propaganda from 40 years ago...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We came, We Saw, We Communicated

It's not often when perfection occurs. often it's spontaneous, or the result of hard work and dedication, maybe simple good luck & good timing. "...the planets were all in alignment",  so often used to describe the fleeting moment of harmony,  may really only exist because a lot of pushing, pulling & heavy lifting was needed to line things up.

For Ham radio operators, "Field Day", the last weekend in June, is Christmas morning, the Super Bowl, and the day a new Workshop Tools Store opens nearby, all rolled into one. It's a day you count down to. For one group of Hams, it was the day perfection occurred, even when not everything planned for  Field Day was perfect.

For Grand Strand Amateur Radio Club's Field Day co-chairs, Randy Purcell WB5OXN & Tim Thompson W2SOC, Field Day was facing challenges head on and improvising solutions "under field conditions...".  The pay off is experience in problem solving on the fly.

Restoring a aging travel trailer into a functional broadcast center, gives us the ability to establish multiple communications networks & co-ordination. Ham operators can operate in shifts, reaching hundreds of stations nation-wide around the clock, in many different modes of communication.
  Having local media make a appearance is a plus! Like when Gerald Jerbaily from Myrtle Beach's ABC TV Station WPDE arrived in his storm tracker vehicle.
Seeing someone a experience their first continent-wide conversation with someone via radio is always a treat, seeing a TV News reporter experience it is priceless.

Most importantly, Ham Radio Field Day puts in practice that which many intend to be able to do to a remote location & establish communication on a continent-wide basis. Field Day tests gear and skills together so that capabilities may be maintained.
Hope everyone seeking to learn more, found a local Field Day event and experienced one first-hand. If you had been in Myrtle Beach SC, you could of experienced first-hand, what became a true moment of perfection.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Prepare for Field Day 2013

Wishing to learn more about Ham Radio? Make plans to seek out a local Ham Radio Clubs Field Day exercise that's coming up next weekend, Sat. June 22. Attend a field day event and meet some Ham Radio operators,  they'll be eager to show you how to get on the air... heck they'll likely set you down in front of a radio and let you communicate with Hams all over the nation! 

Experience Field Day once, and you'll know you'll be doing it again & again. It's Ham Radio's way of experiencing radio operations under emergency "field" conditions. From the very beginning, Ham Radio has risen to the call, responding to emergencies, providing vital communications. Over the years, the last Saturday in June has become "Field Day"... an occasion to test skills & equipment, preparing for when the need arises. Amateur Radio has been Prepper before there was Prepper! 
The capability to Bug Out, set up & operate effectively takes practice. That's why Field Day is important. It offers a way to test methods & equipment. It's also a lot of FUN! Don't be shy, don't pass up a great chance to meet local Hams, see Ham Radio gear in operation, experience first-hand how... "When everything else fails... HAM RADIO WORKS!"

Looking for a local Field Day event? Try the ARRL Field Day Locator!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

National Hurricane Awareness Week May 26 - June 1st.

Kicking off the 2014 Hurricane Season, the National Weather Service has designated May 26th through June 1st. Hurricane Awareness Week. If you go on their website, you'll find a week-long schedule of info & video's to help everyone be better prepared. Like they say on thier website,"History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster." Check out more HERE.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

Jimmy Buffet wrote a pretty song... about getting drunk and leaving town as the way to cope with a coming storm.  For most, the latter part has merit, the leaving town part. The getting drunk part... well not so much.

As Preppers, and especially as Ham Radio Operators, preparation is the key. Making a plan, and collecting the necessary resources to support your plan well in advance of any threat, then implementing your plan at the right time if the time comes, is the smartest way to reasoning with Hurricane Season. Nothing to write a song about for sure, but the only safe & sane way to prepare for one of Natures deadliest catastrophes.

It's smart to have many bases covered, multiple plans to cover multiple scenarios. Make Bug-out plans, and hunker-down plans. There are many factors to consider, and all will be determined by circumstances, some within, and some without your control. Smarter still is to recognize the time to prepare, (WHICH IS NOW)... not one week, one day, or one hour before landfall.

If you look upon your planning as having overlapping circumstances, you can better prepare. For example, if you live within a threat area, protecting your property with storm shutters, as well as securing loose outdoor outdoor items is smart whether you plan to hunker down or evacuate. Same with gathering important insurance papers, medicine, or securing sufficient cash to live on a few days, all are common sense steps in any plan.
KI4HEE Bug-Out: I can take my rig to a shelter, or on the road.

The other side of the coin is the specialized steps in your planning... dependent on specifically what you are planning to do. Will you be totally leaving the area? Or will you leave your home, but head to a Red Cross Shelter? There are big differences in what to plan for in each scenario, again depending on circumstances.

And while no plan can ever cover everything, that too can be anticipated and prepared for to some extent, by factoring in some flexibility in your planning.

So trying to reason with Hurricane Season may seem like something requiring a good stiff drink, but with some forethought and early preparations, the specter of a major storm heading your way may not be such a sobering event.
Need some motivation? Check out this video... it works for me, since it was shot less than 4 miles from my home. What strikes me most is the 13+ hours of constant roar of hurricane-force winds. GET PREPARED!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Amateur Radio in Hollywood

from Sparky's Blog

In an episode tentatively scheduled to air Friday, March 15, the hit ABC comedy Last Man Standing — starring Tim Allen as Mike Baxter, KA0XTT — will feature a secondary ham radio storyline. This is the first time that the show will highlight Amateur Radio in its plot, showing various cast members on the air and communicating via ham radio.

In Episode 217 — called “The Fight” — Mike’s daughter Mandy (played by Molly Ephraim), gets her cell phone taken away as punishment. She discovers Mike’s home shack in the basement and uses ham radio to make faraway friends. According to Last Man Standing Producer John Amodeo, NN6JA, the home shack is a brand new set built just for this episode. The ARRL provided many of the awards and certificates — including 5 Band DXCC, 5 Band Worked All States, 5 Band Worked All Continents, VUCC (for 50 MHz), the Diamond DXCC Challenge and the Morse Code Proficiency Certificate — seen on Mike Baxter’s home shack wall. READ MORE

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Free Repeater Directory for iPhone & Android, a fantastic source for Amateur Radio information, now has a FREE repeater directory app for Android & iPhone! Armed with a UHF/VHF/HF radio and this handy app, you'll have repeater communication all over North America! 

RepeaterbookPowered by the popular community database of and software of RepeaterBook enables you to easily find repeaters across the USA and Canada, for free and without a network connection.

• No network connection required.
• Use network, GPS or a grid square to find Repeaters.
• Displays your grid.
• Comprehensive selection and sorting options.
• Displays distance, heading and full repeater details.
• Fast and flexible, designed to help you use the repeater network.
• Easily submit updates from within the app.

All Ham Radio Repeaters listed on your Android, or iPhone!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cape Cod Field Day 2010 Demos many Ham Radio Modes

Burt Fisher K1OIK, shot a video back in 2010 of the Falmouth MA Ham Radio Club's Field Day. It has great examples of some of the many different modes of radio communication you can do with Ham Radio, as well as how each year, the last weekend in June is when Hams all over "take to the field" and do radio. What are your plans? Find out where a local Ham Radio Club near you will be doing field day & stop by. It's a great way to learn more about the hobby, meet local Hams, and even get a chance to get on the air yourself. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

This definition is as good as any...

 Albert Einstein, about the radio...

Albert Einstein, when asked to describe radio, replied: "You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat.
You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. 

The only difference is that there is no cat."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Primer on Faraday Cages

There is a great deal of confusion about Faraday cages. Not only about how to build them, but also what they actually protect against. In this article, I will answer a few basic questions and perhaps debunk a few myths. 
What is a Faraday cage?  
A Faraday cage (a.k.a. Faraday shield) is a sealed enclosure that has an electrically conductive outer layer. It can be in the shape of a box, cylinder, sphere, or any other closed shapeThe enclosure itself can be conductive, or it can be made of a non-conductive material (such as cardboard or wood) and then wrapped in a conductive material (such as aluminum foil). 
Figure 1: Building a homemade Faraday cage: (a) gather tape, box, and aluminum foil, 
(b) cover box and lid completely with foil, (c) line box with cardboard and store items, and 
(d) close Faraday cage
What does it do? 
The cage shields the contents from both electrostatic fields (i.e., fields that don’t change over time) and non-electrostatic fields (i.e., fields that do change over time). It is particularly useful for protecting against an electromagnetic pulse that may be the result of a nuclear detonation in the atmosphere (a.k.a. EMP attacks). Despite rumors to the contrary, a Faraday cage is not necessary to protect against solar coronal mass emissions because the frequency content of such disturbances is at much lower frequencies—they don’t couple enough energy into small-scale electronics. Solar emissions do however disrupt radio transmissions, damage satellites, and like an EMP attack, can potentially destroy the electrical power grid. 
How does the cage work? 
The free carriers in the conductive material rapidly realign themselves to oppose the incident electric field. If the cage is made from something non-conductive, the free carriers are not mobile enough to realign and cancel the incident field.  
How thick should the conducting layer be? 
The conductive layer can be very thin because of something known as the skin effect. That term describes the tendency of current to flow primarily on the skin of a conductor. As long as the conducting layer is greater than the skin depth, it will provide optimal shielding. The skin depth is a function of the frequency of the wave and the conductor material. As an example, consider that for a frequency of 200 MHz, the skin depth of aluminum is only about 21 microns. Therefore, wrapping a box in a couple of layers of heavy duty aluminum foil (typically about 24 microns thick) provides the necessary conductor thickness to protect against high-frequency radiated fields.  
Does it matter what type of conductor is used? 
Not much. The conductivity of nearly any metal is good enough to allow the carriers to easily realign to cancel external fields. For example, if silver (the best conductor) were used in place of aluminum, the skin depth at 200 MHz would be reduced to about 4.5 microns. Of course, the high cost of silver would prevent using it for such a purpose. 
Can a Faraday cage have holes? 
Yes, as long as the holes are small with respect to the wavelength of the incident electromagnetic wave. For example, a one GHz wave has a wavelength of 0.3 meters in free space. As long as the holes are significantly smaller than that dimension (i.e., a few millimeters), they won’t let in much of the incident wave. This is why fine conductive mesh can also be used for making a Faraday cage. In practice, the lid or door usually causes the most leakage. Taping the seam with conductive tape greatly reduces this leakage. 
Can you use existing conductive enclosures? 
Yes, there are many conductive enclosures that can be used, including ammo cans, metal garbage cans, anti-static bags, and even old microwave ovens. Each has its own level of effectiveness as covered in the book, Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms. 
Does the cage have to be grounded? 
There is a great deal of confusion regarding grounding of a Faraday cage. Grounding of the cage (i.e., connecting it to some Earth-referenced source of charge) has little effect on the field levels seen inside the box. Grounding primarily helps to keep the cage from becoming charged and perhaps re-radiating. 

Written by Dr. Arthur Bradley, author of the Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family, the Prepper’s Instruction Manual, and Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms. To sign up for his free “Practical Prepper” newsletter, send an email to 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pick up the beat of Morse Code

Here's a toe-tapper that teaches the code. Rock on!
And if you need help, here's some handy free software, and how to learn it in 1 minute.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What's in Your EDC?(Every Day Carry)

by Robert Hawkins
You remember how Mom's purse was a bottomless pit of supplies?  She could pull out Band-Aid's, bobbipins, handkerchief, roadmap, cash, coins, chewing gum, tennis shoes, on and ON! Any "emergency", she was ready.  She'd just reach in and pull out a remedy, diversion, or some day-saving device, just what was needed in the nick of time.  Kinda like having a hardware store in a handbag.
So all that "stuff" was her "EDC", her "Every Day Carry", all the regular, or not so regular, or "you-never-know-when-you-need" STUFF! ...all available in a moment. Yeah, that's what you'll find in a purse, handbag, or daybag... problem is, no self-respecting Prepper would want to tote a purse, so you get imaginative...

In my case, I got a VEST!
With a look like I kissed the wrong end of a baby, I face the day...

Outside of Wallet and Car Keys, what you carry as you walk out into the world can be as wide ranging as different grains of sand. As much as each person has individual needs, so too will be the inventory of "stuff" you may assemble. But there are common basics. A knife, or scissors, a band-aid or two, something to make fire, "pin money" ...there's more, but you get the idea. The items that make up YOUR EDC, are items YOU think you need... needed for "whenever." So here's my EDC... I always admired those professional photographer type Khaki vest's with bulging pockets ...LOTS of pockets. And so being such a clothes horse... NOT! I have no regrets leaving the house each morning looking like I'm heading off on Safari.
The vest holds quite a haul...
(clockwise) Shortwave AM/FM radio, sugar glucose tablets, Swiss Army Knife, checkbook, poncho, ID Cards, Firestarter kit (with matches, firesteel, lighter,& tinder),  keychain screwdriver & phillips, ink pen,  photo memory cards, oloclip lens kit, USB card reader, mechanical pencil.

There's considerable weight there... likely 15 lbs of gear all together. But looking at me, you can tell I'm accustomed to carrying some weight... With everything squirreled away in pockets all over, the biggest problem I have is beating myself up patting all around for whatever I'm looking for.

Just in case my porch roof leaks,(it HAS in the past), I'm PREPARED!
What you need while out and about, can be easily carried with you with planning, ingenuity, and creativity. Regardless if you use a vest, backpack, handbag or Uhaul trailer, make your EDC neat, tidy, compact and prepared!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Preparing for the next new thing...

As Ham Radio Operators, we are naturally attuned to computer technology.  Going forward, facing a world shaped even more in the use of personal computing and as Ham Radio Preppers, we particularly enjoy the features of a modern world in our communication hobby and strive to work on ways to make it suit our needs.
Today there's a sea change in thinking where the future of personal computing is heading, a world where natural resources becomes more & more costly. As Preppers, we strive for self-sustainability and independence from outside resource. So would it interest you if there was computer technology that scales back your energy needs in a major degree? Instead of a powerful desktop computer eating up 200 watts of electricity, how about one that only uses 40 watts, or 20 watts, or 15 watts? Or how about major desktop computing power in a portable format that only takes up the space of a coffee mug? Better yet, it's technology that's not a bank-breaker in itself. Imagine no more, the technology has arrived...
Modular computing addresses the form-factor limitations and planned obsolesce currently in personal computing. Xi3 Corporation is leading the pack, designing a personal computer that's not only super efficient, but scalable, adaptable and survivable as well. Here is the future of computing. Bank on it.

But don't that my word on it. Check it out for yourself, right here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ham Radio And The Chinese Market

by Don Gallauher

As I pull the small BaoFeng UV-5R dual band out of my shirt pocket i cant help but feel a sense of amazement at how tiny the radio is, and yet so capable. I flick the ON/OFF switch up to turn the radio on and tune to my favorite FM broadcast stations as the sounds of music fill the speaker. Good solid sounding audio without that tinny sound like so many other small portables. I then tune up into the UHF portions and listen to the local FRS operators chatting away. I know I can't use the radio here but it sure is tempting at times. I suppose that if it were an emergency situation and someones life were at stake that maybe the F.C.C would slap me on the wrist and tell me not to do it again without fining me some outrageous sum of money.  READ MORE

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