Episode 155 – Family Communications Plan, Part 1






This is part 1 of discussing a Family Communications Plan.  The main question people have is how they can communicate with their family during a disaster or time when the phone lines aren’t working.  This podcast was broken into two parts for convenience and not based on subject matter.  They should be listened to together, as they are a complete topic.

Part 1

  1. Why you should have a Family Communications Plan (FCP)
  2. Communication options
    • cell phone
      • voice
      • texting
      • email
  3. How to communicate in a crisis?
    • Typically, when there’s an disaster or other crisis event, people jump on the phone and try to call someone.  This quickly ties up all the circuits.
      • Most people will try cell phones first, so if you have access to a landline phone, you can try that.  Though it’s likely to be jammed up quickly, as well.
      • Texting with your cell phone goes over a different circuit than the phone lines.  Text messages are actually transmitted over the admin channels on the cell carriers network.  These are much more likely to get through, even when phone service is choked with thousands of cell phones trying to access the same cell network.
      • If your phone has a data plan, try sending an email.  You’ll have a better chance of it getting through if it’s short and contains no attachments.
    • When none of the above are working any longer, there’s only one option left, and that’s to use radio.  However, despite what you see in the movies and read in novels, having a radio isn’t a magical form of communication.  There are many aspects of communicating to someone, ESPECIALLY to someone in particular, with a radio.
    • Radio
      • Cover the different types available to citizens, along with their pros and cons.
      • HTs
      • Mobiles
      • Desktop units.
    • Radio details
      • HF, VHF, UHF
        • There are, generally, three different radio bands you need to know.  I’m not going to get into the details of them, as knowing them really doesn’t give us any more information than knowing the basics.
        • HF – Stands for High Frequency.  This is a low frequency band, from 3 to 30 MHz, and allows you to talk long distances, including around the world.
          • It’s limitations include needing very long antennas and an unpredictable range.  Fairly reliable from 1 to 25 miles.  These frequencies bounce off the ionosphere and return to earth.  Because of this, there is a area between 25 miles and 300 miles (in general) that HF wave propagation isn’t good for.  This is called the Skip Zone.
          • Notice that 25 miles is just beyond the horizon.  Keep in mind that electromagnetic energy, like light and radio waves, are mostly line of sight (LOS).  But because HF frequencies bounce off the ionosphere and return to earth, it has the illusion of bending beyond the horizon.  This is one of the reasons it’s unreliable beyond 25 miles.  Where that HF wave comes back down to earth is highly dependent on how high the wave is redirected back to earth, which is dependent on the time of day and sun spot activity.
          • However, there is a method in which you can get more reliable communications using HF between 25 and 300 miles.  It’s called NVIS, or Near Vertical Incidence Sky Wave.
          • This is where you direct the HF wave nearly straight up and when it bounces back, the wave is much closer to you.
          • Another issue with HF is that the time of day, more or less, dictates what frequencies you can use, as at what point in the frequency spectrum will bounce back instead of pinching through the ionosphere, depends on the time of day.  Thus, using HF will require you to coordinate which frequency to use and monitor.
          • A good list of what is in the HF band is located here: http://www.dxing.com/tuning.htm.  Please note that the frequencies are listed in kHz.  Simply divide by 1000 to find the MHz.
        • VHF – The next range up from HF is VHF, which is Very High Frequency.  This range is from 30 MHz to 300 MHz.
          • UHF – Stands for Ultra High Frequency and spans 300 MHz and 3 GHz (3,000 MHz).
          • The Ham radio portion of this spectrum is extremely small, occupying only a few thin slices.
          • These bands are very popular and in high use across the country.  There is a some simplex use in this band, but most of it uses repeaters.
          • Simplex is where you are talking directly radio to radio, and has a range that’s limited, based on the radio, transmit power and antennas.  Using a repeater can greatly extend the range, especially for hand held radios, commonly called HT’s, which stands for Handie Talkie.
          • A repeater takes the low power signal from your radio and repeats it out at a higher power, on a slightly offset frequency.  The advantages include a greater talking distance, and many repeaters have something called an auto-patch, that allows you to make a phone call through the repeater.  Limitations are that repeaters are often in use, and not all of them are connected to emergency power.  So if the grid power is interrupted, the repeater goes down.  A good number of them do have emergency power and can run for a day or two.
          • VHF is slightly better at longer ranges than UHF, as the higher frequencies of UHF tend to become attenuated due to the environment.  This means that UHF signals tend to be absorbed more than VHF signals.  Not enough to discount its use, just something to be aware of.
          • A good list for VHF and UHF bands and what’s on them is here: http://www.dxing.com/above30.htm.



This podcast was sponsored by:
Flying Eagle Gold
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