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Communications SOI – Part 1 – Local Comms

There are two pieces of information needed to arrange a conversation. All parties need to know when and where to meet.

Local radio communications is limited by line of sight, output power, and obstacles. This means effective comms is limited to a few kilometers, lending itself very well to homestead, prepper retreat, or neighborhood needs.

Given that local comms is meant for use by a closely knit group of people, the question of when is an easy one to answer. At all times. Any member of your group should be able to alert the others of concerns or situational awareness issues 24/7. Yes, that will mean a constant supply of batteries. For this reason, planning for a source of energy to recharge batteries on a regular basis is important. Changing batteries for fresh ones on a regular basis should be part of your comms SOI. Perhaps every 8 hours if usage is minimal or every 4 hours if your group is comms heavy. Make sure that an ample supply of batteries and charging solutions are part of the SOI.

The question of where becomes a little more involved. Frequencies (notice the use of the plural) need to be carefully considered. A set of pre determined frequencies needs to be determined and communicated to every member of the group. If you are using multi band radios, as most of us do, include frequencies from every band your radio is capable of.

Using a different set of frequencies for different uses is also a great idea. Any group monitoring your comms for nefarious reasons will be able to compile a list of what frequencies you use. Have a separate set of frequencies for “tactical” use so if you should be raided, aggressors will be monitoring comms that have gone silent and they won’t have time to figure out why or where you are communicating on the spectrum.

When choosing frequencies, avoid the ones close to local repeaters. While repeaters will likely go dead soon after a major disaster due to lack of power, many hams will go to these frequencies out of habit and hope. While anyone with a radio operating in the same band as yours can listen in, making it more difficult for them to find you is key.

Randomizing frequencies is also important. Having any sort of pattern to their use will quickly expose your comms and let anyone listening predict your frequency uses and therefor know your inner workings such as group size, activities, etc. A great way to do this is by rolling a set of d12 dice (12 sided dice) to determine the day’s frequency or channel. Simply compile a list of 24 frequencies, using some from all bands you have access to. Every morning, roll the dice to determine which one you will use. You will want to communicate that to your group members off air. Other ways to somewhat randomize them are by using a mathematical formula based on the day of the week, date of the month, or other reliable base value.

Monitoring communications from outside your group is also highly advised. To do this, a scanner is the best tool, as you won’t need the ability to actually interact with these folks under most scenarios. When choosing a scanner, look for a handheld unit with a changeable battery and rotate them the same way you would with your group radios. Make sure they are capable of monitoring the services in your are that you want to monitor such as trunked systems or P25 encryption for example.

Uniden also has scanners that include Close Call Technology. This feature will automatically tune to transmissions in your vicinity, no matter how far away on the spectrum your scanner is currently scanning those signals are. This greatly increases your chances of catching transmissions of interest. Off site monitoring should also be done on a 24/7 basis, so make sure a handful of people are trained in the scanner’s uses and features. Important communications can be relayed to other group members using your internal frequencies and radios.

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