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Crisis Communication: What To Do When Cell Phones Fail

Survival Communication In A Crisis

Image source: LivingReadyOnline

Communicating during an emergency may be essential not only for survival, but to help locate loved ones and garner news about an unfolding scenario.

Cell phone signals and Internet access are typically the first “services” to cease operating during either a natural or man-made disaster, and landlines may not be far behind. The GPS gadgets so many people rely upon to get to point B from point A will not be helpful if they are built into your vehicle and roads are clogged or something like an EMP attack has rendered the big hunks of metal useless.

Here are some alternative forms of electronic communication. (Keep in mind that building a Faraday cage may be necessary to protect what you own.)

1. Citizens Band Radios

CB radios can allow you to contact folks living many miles away, depending upon the quality of the device. Despite all the modern technology now available at our fingertips, the vast majority of truck drivers still have CB radios in their tractor-trailers – just like in the cult classic Smokey and the Bandit. Using a Citizens Band radio to find out what is going on not only in the extended region, but on the road you travel home, will help you avoid getting mired down in any traffic that is still moving and to avoid problem areas.

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Never used a CB radio? Here are some tips from TruckerCountry.com:

The squelch is the control gate for incoming signals. This control cuts off or eliminates receiver background noise [white noise] when you’re not receiving an incoming signal. You can either set the squelch so that you receive all signals within your range, or so that you can only receive the strongest signals, usually those signals closest to you. Turn the squelch control clockwise to close the gate and only allow the strongest signals to enter. Turn the control counterclockwise to open the gate and allow all signals to enter. The desired squelch setting [DSS] is achieved by turning the control counterclockwise until you hear background noise, then turn the control clockwise just until the noise disappears. This is a good listening level.

2. 2-Meter and 10-Meter Radios

The 2-meter radios offer the ability to contact local law enforcement authorities and first responders. Monitoring rescue and recovery efforts, and any evolving unrest, will likely also be beneficial to the family’s survival. Some claim that 10-meter radios have allowed them to speak to others living several hundred miles away, but such ability would likely vary dependent upon location and terrain around the home.

3. FRS and GMRS Radios

The Family Radio Service (FRS) was enacted in 1996. During the past decade or so multiple businesses have also begun using the radio frequencies for communications throughout the workday. FRS radios were an improvement on standard walkie-talkie and allowed frequencies to be “channelized.” Both FRS and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios utilize ultra-high frequencies, or UHF. Most versions of the radio come with squelch codes known as DCS CTCSS. This attribute permits users to squelch out most unwanted transmissions from transmitting radio traffic, which conserves the life of the battery. FRS radios must have a permanent antenna to function and are restricted to 500-milliwatts. The typical range for such a radio is about one-fourth to one and a half miles – depending upon the surrounding terrain. GMRS radios can have an extended transmission range, also still dependent upon the geographic area.

FRS/GMRS Channels

Channels 1 through 7 are shared between FRS and GMRS usage.

Channels 8 -14 are designed for FRS only.

Channels 15-22 are reserved solely for GMRS and require a license by the FCC to use.

4. HAM radios.

The HAM radio has played an integral role in every disaster this nation has faced for over 100 years. HAM will remain functional even when modern communication devices become worthless. The seemingly old-fashioned devices are extremely reliable and allow users to connect with the outside world when Internet access, cell towers, and phone land lines are no longer functional.

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HAM radio codes

QRL – The frequency is busy, do not interfere. Also used to ask if the frequency is busy.
QRM – An abbreviation for interference from other radio signals.
QRN – An abbreviation for interference from either man-made or natural static.
QRO – A request or alert to increase power.
QRP – A request or alert to decrease power.
QRQ – A request or question to send information faster.
QRS – A request or question to send information more slowly.
QRT – A question or request to stop sending information.
QRU – A response or question about the availability of sending more information.
QRV – Either, I am ready, or are you ready?
QRX – Standby.
QRZ – A request for identification of information sender.
QSL – Received and understood.
QSB – Signal is fading.
QST – All call before a message to all amateur HAM radio operators.
QSX – I am listening on “insert kHz frequency.
QSY – Change to “inset kHz frequency.
QTH – Use to request a location or as an alert prior to giving a location.

5. Weather Radios

NOAA weather radios are also an important item to consider. The broadcasts by the agency share weather and related emergency information designed for specific listening areas. There are approximately 425 NOAA transmitters currently active in America, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and Guam. Canada has its own version of the weather alert system, one which can be reached via the Internet.

Each NOAA transmitter covers roughly 40 miles from the device site. About 80 percent of the United States is included in the NOAA transmitter area. Typically, the weather alert agency’s broadcasts are on air 24-hours a day and updated when special warnings or hazards become apparent. During times of severe weather, amateur HAM radio operators contact the NOAA weather system on specific radio frequencies to offer local updates. NOAA operates on seven different frequencies outside of the typical AM/FM radio bands:

162.4000 MHz

162.4250 MHz

162.4500 MHz

162.4750 MHz

162.5000 MHz

162.5250 MHz

162.550 MHz

Citizens Band Frequencies

CB Channel    Frequency       Details

Channel 1        26.965 MHz

Channel 2        26.975 MHz

Channel 3        26.985 MHz    Prepper CB Network (AM)

Channel 4        27.005 MHz    The American Pepper’s Network

Channel 5        27.015 MHz

Channel 6        27.025 MHz

Channel 7        27.035 MHz

Channel 8        27.055 MHz

Channel 9        27.065 MHz    REACT Channel – Emergency CB radio use

Channel 10      27.075 MHz

Channel 11      27.085 MHz

Channel 12      27.105 MHz

Channel 13      27.115 MHz    Popular with campers, RV drivers, and boaters

Channel 14      27.125 MHz    Federal Motor Coach Association

Channel 15      27.135 MHz    Popular with California truck drivers

Channel 16      27.155 MHz    Popular with ATV clubs

Channel 17      27.165 MHz    Also popular with California tractor-trailer drivers

Channel 18      27.175 MHz

Channel 19      27.185 MHz    Primary truck driver chat channel

Channel 20      27.205 MHz

Channel 21      27.215 MHz

Channel 22      27.225 MHz

Channel 23      27.255 MHz

Channel 24      27.235 MHz

Channel 25      27.245 MHz

Channel 26      27.265 MHz

Channel 27      27.275 MHz

Channel 28      27.285 MHz

Channel 29      27.295 MHz

Channel 30      27.305 MHz

Channel 31      27.315 MHz

Channel 32      27.325 MHz

Channel 33      27.335 MHz

Channel 34      27.345 MHz

Channel 35      27.355 MHz    Australian channel

Channel 36      27.365 MHz

Channel 37      27.375 MHz    Prepper 37 channel

Channel 38      27.385 MHz

Channel 39      27.395 MHz

Channel 40      27.405 MHz

Prepper Freeband and CB Radio Frequencies

CB 3 (AM) 26.9850MHz Prepper Channel

CB 36(USB) 27.3650MHz Survivalist Channel

CB 37 (USB) 27.3750MHz    Prepper CB Network – AM

Freeband(USB) 27.3680MHz Survivalist Network

Freeband(USB) 27.3780MHz Prepper Channel

Freeband(USB) 27.4250MHz Survivalist Network

HAM Emergency Frequencies

FREQ MODE LOCATION

03808.0 LSB   Caribbean Wx

03845.0 LSB   Gulf Coast West Hurricane

03862.5 LSB   Mississippi Section Traffic

03865.0 LSB   West Virginia Emergency

03872.5 LSB   Mercury Amateur Radio Association – hurricane emergency

03873.0 LSB   West Gulf ARES Emergency (night)

03873.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana ARES Emergency, Mississippi ARES Emergency

03910.0 LSB   Central Texas Emergency, Mississippi ARES, Louisiana Traffic

03915.0 LSB   South Carolina SSB NTS

03923.0 LSB   Mississippi ARES, North Carolina ARES Emergency

03925.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana Emergency

03927.0 LSB   North Carolina ARES

03935.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana ARES, Texas ARES, Mississippi ARES and Alabama Emergency

03940.0 LSB   Southern Florida Emergency

03944.0 LSB   West Gulf Emergency

03950.0 LSB   Hurricane Watch (Amateur-to-National Hurricane Center), Northern Florida Emer.

03955.0 LSB   South Texas Emergency

03960.0 LSB   North East Coast Hurricane

03965.0 LSB   Alabama Emergency

03967.0 LSB   Gulf Coast – outgoing only

03975.0 LSB   Georgia ARES, Texas RACES

03993.5 LSB   Gulf Coast Health and Welfare

03993.5 LSB   South Carolina ARES and RACES Emergency

03995.0 LSB   Gulf Coast Wx

07145.0 LSB   Bermuda

07165.0 LSB   Antigua/Antilles Emergency and Weather, Inter-island 40-meter (continuous watch)

07225.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane

07232.0 LSB   North Carolina ARES Emergency

07235.0 LSB   Louisiana Emergency, Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Louisiana Emergency

07240.0 LSB   American Red Cross US Gulf Coast Disaster, Texas Emergency

07242.0 LSB   Southern Florida ARES Emergency

07243.0 LSB   Alabama Emergency, South Carolina Emergency

07245.0 LSB   Southern Louisiana

07247.5 LSB   Northern Florida ARES Emergency

07248.0 LSB   Texas RACES

07250.0 LSB   Texas Emergency

07254.0 LSB   Northern Florida Emergency

07260.0 LSB   Gulf Coast West Hurricane

07264.0 LSB   Gulf Coast Health and Welfare

07265.0 LSB   Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio

07268.0 LSB   Bermuda

07273.0 LSB   Texas ARES

07275.0 LSB   Georgia ARES

07280.0 LSB   NTS Region 5, Louisiana Emergency

07283.0 LSB   Gulf Coast – outgoing only

07285.0 LSB   West Gulf ARES Emergency and Louisiana ARES Emergency

07285.0 LSB   Mississippi ARES Emergency, Texas ARES Emergency

07290.0 LSB   Central Gulf Coast Hurricane, Gulf Coast Wx, Louisiana ARES, Texas ARES and Mississippi ARES

14185.0 USB Caribbean Emergency

14222.0 USB Health and Welfare

14245.0 USB Health and Welfare

14265.0 USB Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio

14268.0 USB Amateur Radio Readiness Group

14275.0 USB Bermuda and International HAM Radio

14300.0 USB Intercontinental Traffic

14303.0 USB International Assistance

14313.0 USB Intercontinental Traffic and Maritime

14316.0 USB Health and Welfare

14320.0 USB Health and Welfare

14325.0 USB Hurricane Watch – both amateur and official reorts

14340.0 USB Louisiana

21310.0 USB Health & Welfare in Spanish

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