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Ham Radio Comms Plan For SHTF – Part III

Now that we’ve been over what frequencies we can listen to for information on a local and long distance basis, let’s try to put together a plan that will work.

Since we spent so much time on listening, let’s start there. If at all possible, you should be monitoring local comms on a 24 hour basis. Most likely, a good quality scanner will do this for you. The reason being is that these are the people or groups closest to you and able to make the most impact on your family or group. While a typical scanner will listen in on police and other emergency services as well as the 144 mhz and 440 mhz bands, you should consider other, less popular ham bands such as the 50, 220, 432, 902, 1240, 2300, and microwave bands. The more local comms you can listen in on, the more prepared you can be.

For your internal comms, the plan you will use to communicate with your household or retreat, look back at the chart I posted in the last article regarding emergency frequencies. Take some time listening to the airwaves and pick some seldom used frequencies. Assign these frequencies “tactical designations” such as Alpha, Beta, etc. or some other designation that everyone in your group will know, but be secret to outsiders. Sure, they could scan for your conversations, but it will take some time for them to figure it out, especially if you switch bands and not just frequencies. Again, don’t overlook the less popular ham bands. Not everyone out there has equipment that is capable on the 902 mhz band as an example. Changing your frequencies often and randomly can give you a lot more privacy. Having 2 or 3 sets of frequencies is also a great idea.


Having local comms covered is a definite advantage for many reasons, but you may also want to keep in touch with other preppers or groups that are somewhat close, but out of range for typical ground wave bands. This is where HF bands in combination with an NVIS antenna come in really handy.

NVIS propagation has the advantages of several hundred miles of range and extreme difficulty when it comes to direction finding. NVIS works best on 40 and 80 meters. Here again, having a set or several sets of predefined frequencies and tactical designations is ideal. Also, having preset times to attempt contact is crucial as you may not be able to run equipment on a 24 hour basis.

Don’t be afraid to keep a laptop or tablet handy to enable the use of digital modes. Most folks won’t be monitoring these and a lot of information can be passed quickly when using a mode that supports file transfer. Even if someone hears the signal, most likely you will be done doing whatever it was that you were attempting by the time someone identifies the specific mode and sets up to intercept it.

To summarize:

Internal Comms

  • use uncommon or seldom used bands
  • create a list of frequencies to use and assign tactical designations to allow for quick change while keeping specific frequencies private

Local Comms

  • monitor as many bands as possible
  • monitor 24 hour a day if possible
  • never reply to someone you don’t know

Regional Comms

  • Use HF bands with NVIS antennas to confuse direction finding
  • Preplan your frequencies, modes, and times. Rotate these as randomly as possible and use tactical designations

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