Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Prepper Communications and the antenna system

Choosing the right antenna system

As communications become more important to the prepper survivalist, one area that is often neglected is the antenna system. There are a lot of options when it comes to the antenna system for your specific needs. Whether you are doing VHF/UHF of HF communications, the antenna is the most important part of the system.
Keep in mind that you are better off spending more time and money on your antenna system and purchasing an adequate radio, than spending all your money on a 10K radio and some crummy antenna.

What do you mean VHF/UHF and HF.

When you start to put your radio communications system together you will have to decide what range you will need to talk with other preppers/ survivalist groups. Of the three types of systems, VHF and UHF radio's offer clean FM communications for your local group using FRS radios or GMRS. When used between a good base station and mobile units, you can expect a range of 25 to 50 miles. This would be with high power (50 to 75W) mobile gear. And although it is always nice to have a fancy state of the art radio, without a decent antenna system you might as well turn the radios off and send smoke signals.
VHF and UHF communications are line of sight from antenna to antenna. Any obstacles will decrease and sometimes block the signal entirely. This can be hills and trees if you live in a wooded area, or tall buildings and structures in an urban environment.
VHF: Very High Frequency (really, it does). 30MHZ to 300 MHZ
UHF: Ultra High frequency. 300MHZ to 3000MHZ (3Ghz)

HF: High Frequency. 3MHZ to 30MHZ CB and Amateur radio
VHF/UHF Amateur and FRS/GMRS

Which type of radio is right for me.

Of the FRS (Family Radio Service) radios that make false claims of power output and distance, you can realistically expect 1 to 2 miles with these. You are limited to ½ Watt (500 MW) and no external antenna. You are stuck with that little nub sticking out of the top of the radio.
GMRS radios have a higher output power and no antenna limitations but require a license. These can be obtained per household making them a bit more expensive but more practical for longer range communications. FRS and GMRS work in the UHF range.
Amateur radio is another option if you need local, regional and international communications. Amateur radio requires a test and a call sign from the F.C.C. (Federal Communications Commission). On the bands that are allocated to ham radio, you have a wide choice of frequencies to choose from, different modes that you can operate and higher power output (up to 1500W). There are also no limits on antenna systems, other than what the HOA may decides.
CB radio is a good choice for local AND regional communications. You are limited to AM (Amplitude Modulation) of SSB (Single Sideband). The CB band is also somewhat sporadic. At times you will hear stations from all over the country when signals start bouncing off the atmosphere (Some refer to this as “skip”). When this happens local communications can be lost in the noise.
One other consideration for CB radio in the HF spectrum is antenna size. As you go down in frequencies the antennas get larger.
Antenna systems like the Diamond V2000A are a good compromise antenna that offers good performance, tri-band operation and decent gain. It works from 50MHZ up into the VHF/UHF range. It is designed for ham radio operators but can be used for GMRS. At just 8ft tall it provides a lot of punch.

Which antenna system should I get.

When using FRS/GMRS you should decide on what range you will need to maintain communications with everyone involved in your group. If you go with FRS/GMRS radios, you have smaller antenna systems that are available but the range is shorter. It is really worthwhile to put more money into your antenna and purchase radio equipment that may be used, than to buy a 10K radio and put up a crummy antenna. Some antenna's work on more than one band, but they are a bit of a compromise on the performance. The benefit of these types are that you only need one antenna up in the air. There are many choices for VHF/UHF multi band antenna's, and even some for HF/VHF/UHF.
Even if you are not a Survivalist or hardcore prepper, it is always a good idea to be prepared. DO not neglect the antenna system in your radio communications gear. Find out what your needs are, what ranges you require as well as mode, and put together the best antenna system you can. You will have much more effective communications that way.

73 es see you on the air.

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