Grid Down Comms

Preface

As we see the hundreds of thousands without power in California, the aftermath of each hurricane, or the devastation after the latest tornado, I still get the impression that everything we do on the channel, goes unheard. Grid down communications and power are no-brainers, yet we still see people begging others to get a message through, charge their mobile phone, … with even the “easiest” of grid down scenarios to overcome. Soplease, do your part by helping me spread the message. We need to hammer it in to our friends and family.

Recently the Canadian Prepper gave me an idea of doing a preparedness series from the perspective of the family, group, or individuals looking for reliable communications methodologies, leading up to, during, and after a disaster. The original idea was to do a series of interviews discussing this topic. Unfortunately I just can’t get comfortable in front of the camera. I’m far more effective at presenting information in the form of a video or presentation. That’s how this series got kicked off.

Unlike traditional amateur radio emergency communications, whose focus is generally on augmenting local state and federal emergency communications. Our focus here is ensuring reliable Communications, from a personal perspective. This means establishing Communications with your people.

  • There is no Reliance on infrastructure.
  • We make no assumptions.
  • We understand the weaknesses of Grid Communications.
  • We understand the strengths and weaknesses of traditional amateur radio communications.
  • We adapt to variations in the scenario.
  • We choose the best tools to accomplish our goals.

It’s really important to understand the survival or preparedness Communications videos on YouTube. 99% of the time, there’s some guy reading you the user manual from a baofeng radio, in a video. Survival, preparedness, or emcomm has practically nothing to do with how to program a channel or repeater in your radio. Moreover, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all strategy for shtf Comms. Survival, preparedness, and emergency Communications are all about understanding how to use the radio spectrum to your benefit, and putting together a toolbox, to help you achieve your comms goals. Anything else is total BS!

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 oh8stn.org.

Grid Down Emergency Communications for Preparedness

  • The first 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.

The second is episode Emergency Backup Power for Grid Down Communications. Naturally this episode talks about power for our communications gear, during a grid down scenario. It discusses power sources, batteries, and the need for an unshared renewable power strategy, designed specifically for your communications gear.

This episode will be followed up by a “Viewer questions” episode, the month following the initial release.

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.

Episodes from other channels

In addition to the episodes I’m publishing, there are also shared episodes from other YouTubers. YouTubers who are also sharing material related to this series.


Repeaters

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

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