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Plan-B Communications

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Our reliance on the Internet and Mobile networks is often overlooked.

What would you do if the suddenly stopped working? How would you contact your loved ones, friends and family?

If mobile services stopped working suddenly, it would most likely be due to some event, and usually if some event happens, you would want to be in contact with your loved ones, to make sure they are okay.

Some Possible causes of outages:

These include natural and man made events

  • Floods
  • Fires
  • Earthquakes
  • Tornadoes
  • Solar Flares
  • War
  • Cyber Attack
  • Political Attack

Basically the list is endless.

radio communication options

Of all these Options CB Radio is about the best

Hand held radios
With Free Family Radio Service channels (usually about 8 to 12 channels) and they have a very limited range, you could probably speak to your neighbors.
They are usually quite cheep, and they are an “All-In-One” option, meaning
They have a battery and a built in antenna, so you don’t need anything else to use them.

Hand held VHF/UHF radios
These have slightly longer range (about a block) but require a license to use a specific frequency (Or range of frequencies if you have a HAM license).
They are affordable, and again they are an “All-In-One” device.

HF Radios
A HAM or Amateur Radio license opens up a bunch of frequencies on the HF band.
Depending on conditions (atmospheric and time of day etc), you get ranges from a few hundred kilometers to thousands of kilometers! This is Radio Super Power!
The downside is you have to have a license and know how to operate the radios.
They require a power supply, and an antenna.
These radios are relatively expensive, and without your antenna being properly set up and tuned, you will not get much range or even fry your expensive radio.

If you want to be a Radio Super Power, look into getting an Amateur Radio license.

Citizen Band CB Radios (my personal favorite)
These radios transmit on 27MHz.
They were very popular in the 70’s and 80’s and many of the radios made at that time are still in use today! Almost globally, they no longer require any sort of licensing (ask locally to confirm), so completely legal to have and operate.
They are fun to use, sometimes referred to as “Facebook of the 70’s”


They are not All-In-One, so remember you will need an antenna and a power supply.
There are some cheaper CB Radios that have only AM and FM mode and they work well for shorter distances (few Kilometers).
Better radios have Single Side Band (SSB) Mode (usually they also have AM or FM modes available), and they are able to legally transmit up to 12 watts of power, and give you much better range.

Standard legal power is 4 watts on AM and 12 Watts on Side Band, but people are able to buy and use amplifiers to boost the range. Depending on where you live, these amplifiers are usually illegal to operate, and in some places to even possess, so check in with local CB “Buddies” as to what is possible in your area.


How to tell if a radio has SSB:
When you look at a CB Radio, look for a switch that allows you to select USB (Upper Side Band) and LSB (Lower Side Band)

How to get a CB Radio
Ask people with CB radios, they usually know where to get radios from or they can even ask over the air if there are any radios for sale. Look in your local classified adds, and look on eBay. The Anytone AT6666 is a very popular model.

How to power a CB Radio
CB Radios usually work on 12 Volts. This makes it easy to install in your car, or if you are using off-grid solar panel, power solution that works with 12V batteries.
For use on the mains power, you will need a 12Volt Power Supply, that can handle the power required by the radio (your 2pin wall charger for your smart speaker won’t cut it). It should be rated at at lease 5 amps or more. You may need help from someone experienced when it comes to choosing the correct power supply for your radio.

WARNING
The radio works on 12V DC. This means that you must get the Positive and Negative connections right. usually (like the Anytone in the picture above) the Positive connector is Red and the Negative Black. Check the labels on your battery very carefully, and then check them again! Be sure, if you connect it the wrong way round, you fry your radio!!!

What about Antennas?
When it comes to CB Antennas, size does matter, the longer the antenna generally the better the signal. It is also Important to note that the Antenna must be tuned to the 27Mhz band, so it must be a CB Antenna (there are other antennas that look the same but they operate on completely different frequencies, these will blow your radio).
You can get mobile antennas (antennas that you put on your car) and Base Station Antennas (antennas that you can mount at home or in a field.

  • Never transmit if your antenna is not connected or if it or the cable is damaged.
  • Make sure it is a 27Mhz CB Antenna
  • Never cut or make joins in the antenna cable
  • Unplug your antenna if there is a thunderstorm near by
  • Never feed them after midnight!


Car Antennas
The longer the antenna the better the signal.
By this I mean that you get CB Antennas that are like 2m long, and you get other models that are 500cm long. They are factory tuned to work at that length, so you can’t get the 500cm one and then attach a piece of wire at the end to make it longer, as that will mess with the tuning.

So when you buy your CB antenna get the longest one that you can afford, but is also practical. Don’t get a 2m Antenna to put on your car if you park in undercover parking where you will hit the roof lights every time you go to work! It is best to mount the Antennas properly, although you can use Magnet Mounted antennas. I don’t like Magnet Mounted antennas as they often have weaker signal, they scratch the roof of the car if dust gets under them, and the cable has to go though a door, and eventually gets damaged.

You can see my CB antenna mounted on the back bumper, it’s about 2m long and during Skip Conditions, I have spoken to South Africa from Cyprus! The antenna on the front is a VHF antenna for Ham Radio.

Base Station Antennas
These often perform better than mobile antennas, but they do require some work to set up. you need a pole or tower (the higher the better), but then you also need to take into account things like weather and wind, so they need to be properly supported.
They are usually very large antennas. for best results you need to mount them away from trees and buildings. There are smaller “balcony antennas” available, but they don’t perform as well as the proper ones, however if you don’t have space for a big antenna they could be a usable option. You could also make the setup “portable” so you could set up the large antenna in the field, but let’s save that for another day, right now, lets just focus on getting Plan-B comms.

Range
The biggest factor when it comes to range is your antenna. A better antenna setup will give you better range.
There are 2 main ways signal is transmitted from a CB, the immediate signal is known as the ground wave, which travels along the ground in all directions around the antenna for a few Kilometers. This is affected by buildings, hills and mountains, etc. Then there is a Skip Wave, which transmits to an ionized layer in the atmosphere then bounces back down to earth (if there is no interference from clouds and humidity). The height of this layer changes with solar conditions, so sometimes you get no “Skip conditions”, but then sometimes it’s open for a few hundred Kilometers, known as “Local Skip” (Cyprus to Greece or Johannesburg to Cape Town) , and then sometimes it opens for thousands of Kilometers (like Cyprus to South Africa, or Italy or the UK etc). For our “Plan-B” use, Ground Wave is usually all we need, but Skip Conditions is just a bonus!

Conclusion

Communication is possible the single most important thing in your life today. With proper communication you can find Friends and Family, Food and supplies and Emergency assistance. You can also use it to avoid danger. Make sure you have a Plan-B in place.

The stuff I have put here is by no means complete, and it is also a very simplified overview of Radio Communication. If you want to learn about Radio Communications, I highly recommend getting an Amateur Radio license. If you just need that Plan-B, then CB radio is the way to go. Ask Questions, CB Radio people are very willing to help new “Buddies” get on the air.

If you find this post interesting, feel free to share it or post it to Groups and Pages. All the best with your Plan-B and I hope to hear you on the air sometime.
I hang out on Channel 27 in Lamassol, Cyprus.

73 – ZS6RAT

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