Episode 156 – Family Communications Plan, Part 2






This is part 2 of continuing to talk about a Family Communications Plan.  In this podcast, we continue covering the various types of radios that are available, using dead drops and other aspects of putting a plan together.  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 2

  1. Continuing with radio types
    • FRS – Family Radio Service
      • Is in the UHF band, and is limited to one-half watt.  Also, you can only used a fixed, non-removable antenna.
      • It’s part of the GMRS band, but at a reduced transmit power.
      • No license is needed.
      • These are only good for very short communications, like around a house of small building.  You could also use them for caravanning, up to possible a half-mile.
      • http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/family-radio-service-frs
    • MURS – Multi-Use Radio Service
      • MURS is in the VHF band.  You’re allowed 2 watts of power, but can use an external antenna.  There’s only 5 channels available.
      • Because it’s VHF, you’re likely to see a greater distance with those 2 watts, especially if you used a decent external antenna.
      • No license needed.
      • There are some repeaters on the MURS band.
      • http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/multi-use-radio-service-murs-0
    • GMRS – General Mobile Radio Service
    • CB (AM, SSB)
      • Popular in the 70s and 80s, the CB, or Citizen Band, radio is still in frequent use.
      • There are 40 CB channels found from 26.965 – 27.405 MHz, which is sometimes called the 11 meter band.
      • If you noticed, the CB band is actually in the upper end of the HF spectrum.  This means that you will get skip on CB frequencies from time to time.
      • In the AM mode, CB is limited to 4 watts.  Aftermarket booster amplifiers are illegal.  This 4 watts, an AM mode, is good for about 3 – 5 miles of reliable communications.
      • The big advantage to CB is when you use it in Single Side-Band, or SSB, mode.  Skipping the technical explanation for what SSB is, just think of it as only half of an AM signal, with the carrier wave removed.  AM signals require what’s called a carrier wave and the information is embedded on the carrier wave.  In SSB, removing this carrier wave and only transmitting half of the signal, makes the radio more efficient.  In SSB, you can use up to 12 watts or power.  The effect is that you can transmit farther, probably getting around 10 to 20 miles of reliable communication.
      • Just to clarify, reliable communication doesn’t mean that you can talk to the other radio, no matter what.  It means, that given a nominal set of environmental parameters, this is the type of performance you can expect.  Using radios in an urban downtown area with large, tall buildings is going to have different results than if your in a forest, on a lake, or on the prairie.
    • Amateur Radio (UHF, VHF, HF, digital comm)
      • After looking at all the different radio communication options that are out there, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion that most people make, and that is that Ham radio makes the most sense.
      • I strongly recommend that you take a Ham class, as it will teach you about radio operation and wave propagation theory, as well as a fundamental knowledge about electricity and electronics.
      • If you’re looking for an extremely reliable form of comms, Digital HF is probably the best.  This is where you use computers to transmit and receive on an HF frequency.  Computers are far better at picking out a signal than we are, and can often communicate in band conditions that even Morse code would fail in – because Morse relies on the ability to hear it.
  2. dead drops (messages or flags left in specific areas)
    • Dead drops are useful for leaving a message for someone, but don’t want to make it obvious.  Using a hidden area is good, but a cryptic message in the open is probably better.
    • For example, if your spouse tied a red scarf on your door as your family evacuated, you would know that they left and where they went, simply by looking at the door from the street.  If you have 4 different rally points, you could have four different colors, each color meaning a different location where they are headed.
    • Actually, instead of a scarf or other fabric, I suggest using engineering tape. It comes in various colors and is highly useful for this sort of communication marking.
    • These types of markers could also be used along the route.  IOW, along your preselected routes, you should have identified locations where you can safely stop.  If the party that’s ahead of you decides to change it’s destination to another rally point, all they would need to do is tie a color marker to something where it would be obviously seen.
    • When leaving a mark or flag like this, the person leaving it should write the date and time, along with their identifying code.  This is a simple form of comms that instantly tells you where your people are headed, and when inspected closer, you know when they were there and who it was.  And, all without giving up ANY OpSec on who you are or where you’re going.  The only thing someone looking at the marker would know is the date and time written.
  3. A Plan
    • The most important aspect of your plan is knowing who will do what in an emergency and where they are going to be.  ESPECIALLY important when you can’t talk to one another.
    • If you have kids in school, know what the school’s emergency plan is. Knowing this gives you an idea of how long you have to pick up your children, and what the school will be doing in response to a disaster.
    • You’ll need an emergency plan for picking up kids from school.  Kids need to know that if they are released for whatever reason, what they are supposed to do.  Either wait at a prearranged rally point near school, or start walking home along a predesignated route.  Put this emergency information into a special pocket in their backpack.
    • Make sure your kids know how to call 911.
    • Also includes knowing where people will be.  Either at home or designated meet up or rally points, in case family need to evacuate the home.
    • Everyone also needs to have a list of work and school addresses, along with phone numbers.  Subscribing to whatever emergency comms that they offer is a good idea, like Twitter or text alerts.
    • You need an out of state contact that you will use as a message board.  It’s often easier to call out of an affected area and if everyone calls this contact number, they can leave information about their state and what they plan to do next.
    • Also list any medical information about your family, including doctors, pharmacists, and anyone that may need to be contacted regarding a medical condition.
    • Have a way to charge your phones from alternate sources.  Best three methods to include are: Wall charger, car charger, USB charger.



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