Radio Preparedness & Grid Down Comms


As we see the hundreds of thousands without power, the aftermath of massive storms, or the devastation after the latest tornado, I still get the impression that regardless of what’s presented on the channel, the message goes unheard. Survival Radio isn’t a joke! We can use ham radio HF communications for survival scenarios, but only if we put in the work! It isn’t a competition against anyone but ourselves.

bA bit of advice. Before anything else, define your goals, decide what you want ham radio to do for you, then set off on your own journey!

Survival Radio isn’t a new topic, but is one which is gaining in popularity. My journey into “survival radio” began in the 80’s with the survivalist community. It wasn’t a hard sale, since I was already hooked on radio by that time.

Where traditional amateur radio emergency communications focuses on disaster relief, Survival Radio for Grid Down comms focuses on communications for the people we would actually like to get in touch with. This is our family, friends, group members, … The primary goal is coordination before, during and after a disaster. Naturally, doing so without dependence on grid infrastructure is desired.

It’s important to understand the difference between education and entertainment in the survival communications space on YouTube. Be warned!

In addition to everything you see on this page and the Associated videos, there’s also a lot of related articles on this website. Take a look at all the other articles related to emergency communications on

Grid Down Emergency Communications for Preparedness

The episode is Grid Down Emergency Communications for Preparedness. This episode talks about the differences between EMCOMM for public service, and EMCOMM in regards to communications with your friends, your family, your group, … It also opens the discussion about misconceptions we have all had,  about what comms gear, and comms resources will actually be effective, during a grid down scenario.

Decentralized Communications SHTF

This video focuses on a type of SHTF scenario seen in Ukraine at the beginning of the war. The video will definitely trigger those weak-minded, “the government will save me” types, but it is done with only good intensions.

Choosing an HF Radio for off-grid survival

This episode goes through my thought process for choosing an off-grid survival radio for HF. Most presentations focus on VHF/UHF short range communications. This video goes into detail about implementing an Survival Radio HF stragety, augmented by other radio services. It also goes through the procs and cons of various radios seen on the channel.

Antenna strategy

This video outlines the importance of an effective antenna strategy, one which will maximize your potential for success, in the least accommodating operating conditions. It is easy yo buy into rugged, military, … or other buzzwords used to get your attention. The only thing which really mater is if you are able to communicate with your people or not. Even if yu have no interest in antennas, watch this video!

Off Grid & Portable power

These videos focus on off-grid power. The topics cover strategy, efficiency, battery building, solar power, …

The pocket portable solar generator is literally a pocket sized power supply to power any radio for a short time, in the field.

Supporting Episodes

In addition to the main episodes of the series, there are also supporting episodes an topics, mentioned throughout the series. Some of these have been published already, others will come along in time.

Learning the NATO Phonetic Alphabet for Emergency Communications

The first of the supporting episodes is Learning the NATO Alphabet for Emergency Communications. Whenever we speak about less than perfect conditions, weak signal work, or interference between stations, we need a way of projecting an expected response to the receiving station or operator. The importance of good phonetics during weak signal communications, is an often overlooked topic. We all have different accents, unique ways of speaking, which don’t always translate well over the radio. Sticking to a fixed set of phonetics allows the receiving operator to anticipate what you’re trying to transmit, even when your signal is coming in at or below the noise. This is true for voice adn data communications.

NVIS Communications with JS8Call

NVIS Communications is a very misunderstood topic. NVIS Communications combined with narrow bandwidth digital modes, gets even more people scratching thier heads. In this episode three stations all within 90km/56miles use JS8Call for effective NVIS communications. For two of the stations, the ranges are typical of VHF/UHF communications through a repeater, but beyond simplex range. For the others, this exchange demonstrates effective local communications, and comms beyond typical VHF/UHF simplex range. This is all done without the internet, and without any intermediate infrastructure.

It is important to point out, JS8Call is not just for HF communications. It is equally adapted to both local comms, and over the horizon communications on 50mhz, 144mhz, or 70cm.

Off grid power is another critical aspect of emergency communications, often overlooked by the traditional EMCOMM community. The 45 amp hour solar generator build is in the series playlist, but there’s much more information on the channel about off grid & emergency power for communications.

The relationship between grid down Communications and operating off grid is another overlooked aspect of grid down communications for preparedness. To properly understand our Communications requirements and capabilities, we need to get out in the field. There is no better instructor than the School of Hard Knocks. Therefore I spend as much time as I can off-grid and in the field, to enhance my understanding of off grid Communications, and to understand the capabilities or deficiencies of my own Communications plan.


One of the mistakes we most often make, is relying on infrastructure for our emergency communications needs. The repeater is one of the most relied upon tools in the tool box. Repeaters are excellent when they’re working, and when they’re not congested. In a grid down scenario, we don’t know if that repeater has emergency backup power, or if it does, how long that power is going to last. We are also not sure if if the repeater is going to be locked down, for a specific agency.

Our use of radios like the baofengs, DMR, … any handheld HT, is made possible because of repeaters. It’s like anything else in a grid down scenario, repeaters are a resource. When the sun is shining, the stars are in the right order, and everybody’s happy, repeaters are very much underutilized. Add grid down scenario or some other type of disaster to the mix, and if it remains up and running, people will be fighting for access to that resource. We need to keep this in mind when we’re putting our Communications strategy together.

Testing our gear

There is often this idea of packing all of our equipment into some backpack, putting it in a corner or in a closet, then waiting until we need it. This is a ridiculous strategy! We need to use our gear when it’s ok to fail! We need to take our gear out to the field, testing it as if it’s a real scenario. If your idea is to bug in, then you need to flip that main circuit breaker for your house, and test your emergency preparedness like that.

73, Julian oh8stn

1 Comment

  1. Hi,

    So just also saw your video of the ic705 with a surface go 2 which I thought was great. I started thinking about messaging using weak signal digital modes, like JS8Call to get ahold of family in a real emergency situation. But that requires a gateway… what happens if there are no gateways available at my location or my family’s location. Can one do JT8 without gateways…in other words point to point. If we can, then can the message be customized instead of being an auto send and response by the software to let then know we are ok and at this location etc?
    The weak signaling mode would go out further and handled by the software… in other words the family does not have to know something like CW to communicate a long distance.


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