An Action Plan for an Extended Communications Failure

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Suppose you knew that the entire grid, electricity, cell service, internet, would fail in the near future. What could you do now to increase your survivability during and after such an event? Here are some tested and proven techniques to guide your actions.

Click on the link at the beginning of each section below to jump to the subject described.  The highlighted links are active sections, the remainder are in process.

Introduction: This manual is about Communications after a GRID DOWN event. We are not talking about RACES, ARES Traffic Handling or typical Ham Radio Emergency Services. It is about using communications to help yourself, your family and your community during a disaster.

Disaster Environment:
To understand disaster communications, you need to understand what it is like to be in a disaster.

Communications Plan: Here is help for formulating a plan. What are you trying to to? What type of communications do you need? How to design your own communications plan for your family or your group.

Communications Conditions (ComCon): When things start to go bad, it is very helpful to have a planned course of action with trigger points established. It reduces the chances of overlooking something important. You will have lots of things on your mind. Establish formal criteria for actions.

ComCon 5: No Event Likely.

ComCon 4: Event Probable. First indication of potential situation.

ComCon 3: Stand By: High probability of situation in near future.

ComCon 2: Situation Imminent.

ComCon 1: Activate.

Hand Held Radios:  The most versatile and convenient type of radio. But with so many models, how do you choose the one that best suits your needs? Here is a guide to the features and functionality that are so important to a grid down situation.

Mobile/Base Radios:  More power means more battery drain. What are the features you really need and which do you want to avoid?

Equipment Storage: Storing your gear correctly means it will be ready when you need it. Shopping bags don't cut it when the "baggage gorilla" gets his paws on it. Here are tried and true methods. This is more important than you think it is.

Techniques: Just because you have read about a technique does not mean you can do it. Practice, practice, practice. Here are some practical exercises to test both you and your equipment. Pre-configure and test the techniques you anticipate using.

Notebook: After 50 or so years of Search &Rescue, Disaster work and similar stuff, I have worked out a "Notebook Protocol" which I pass on for whatever it is worth.

Range and Line of Sight: We have all seen the advertisement for the 30 mile range handhelds. So what can we really expect from which radio with which antenna under what conditions?  You really need to know this.

Everyone does not have an amateur license. Here are some other radio services that can be put to good use for your group or your community.

Programming and Operation Guide (POG):
After a few weeks of Katrina response my brain went dead and I could not remember how to do even simple programming on my (much to complex) handheld. So I created a simple programming language called POGlish and devised a single sheet guide to help in the "brain dead" times. Simple but very effective.

DTMF Paging: You really don't want to have to listen to your radio all the time. Here are a several common techniques to enable selective calling.  DTMFuses simple touch tones. Many radios have this built in.

Simple Selective Calling: This system uses sub-audible tones to create a selective calling system.

Multi-group Selective Calling: Need to monitor for selective calls from several groups? Here is how to do it.

Individual Selective Calling:
Selective calling for each member of your group.

Special Selective Calling Techniques:
Selective calling for unusual applications.

Remote Base: Using a cross band repeater as a remote base.

Portable Mast:
Good engineering practices result in safe and useful operation. How tall is tall enough?

Using multiple Remote Base Cross-band repeaters for large areas: Build a large interconnected repeater system.

Simplex Range of various radio/antenna combinations: How far will various combinations of radios, antennas and power talk reliably.

Phonetic Alphabet: There are good reasons for the particular words used in the ICAO Phonetic Alphabet and good reasons for you to know and use those words.

Echolink/IRLP: Linking computers, repeaters and other radios via the internet makes for a very useful system.

Antennas: General antenna guidelines.

Magnetic Mount: Tricks to using a magnetic mount antenna in places besides on your vehicle.

Coax Antenna: Need a field expedient antenna? Whack off the end of a piece of coax and build one.

Ground Plane: A simple vertical antenna.

Half Wave: Not just for HF use. How to construct one for the higher frequencies.

J-pole: A simple to build antenna, but most are built wrong. Here is why.

Frequencies: What to use and what NOT to use.

HF Operation: Under some situations, HF is the goto band. Here are some examples.

NVIS: How to do solid HF coverage out to 300 miles with no "donut hole".

QRP: Very low power HF operation can be very useful. Here are some examples.

Digital Modes: Not just for HF. Useful for VHF as well.

Mesh Network:
High speed, wide bandwidth, Mesh Networks will change Ham Radio. Here is how you might use them.

NEXT: Introduction

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