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CB radio or HAM for mobile communications in a SHTF

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by 19 Adam, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. 19 Adam

    19 Adam rural Clackamas County, Oregon Active Member

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    I have read several of the threads ab out HAM and CB.

    We are looking for the right systems to be able to communicate with several friends around Clackamas county a SHTF situation. Not really interested in cross country but it needs to be more than line-of-sight since there are many hills and mountains.

    Major power outages is a concern as is the ability to communicate with minimal training for all family members.

    I was going to by several CB systems for several vehicles but a buddy is pushing very hard to get me into HAM.

    The guys at D&R Communications are great but they seem to miss the mark with me.

    Lets discuss the pro's and con's of each so guys like me can learn.
     
  2. DieselScout

    DieselScout S Clackamas County Well-Known Member

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    All radios work off line of site, so if you don't have line of site or a repeater the radio is just as useless. You may get better bounce with a higher powered radio or a different size wave. My second thought is way more people have CB's and they require no training to access. Anyone can grab a CB and start yammering away in it monopolizing the channel or monitoring what your saying. When SHTF access and licensing may go out the window, but less people have the equipment and access to it.
     
  3. Satchel Page

    Satchel Page Seattle Area New Member

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    CB's will be much more common, which will give you a much better chance of communicating with others in emergency situations. HAM radios are great, but very few people have them due to the equipment needed and current licensing ect.

    As DieselScout said, all radios will start to lose their effectiveness over terrain types, loss of line of sight ect. If you are quite a ways from other people, you'll need some sort of repeater tower to get the radio signals outside your area.
     
  4. coyoteman5

    coyoteman5 North south east west Active Member

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    You can also Increase your distance by adding more wattage but on CB radio you're only allowed Legally (Wink wink)4 Watts on am and 12 W on sideband with a ham license you're allowed 1500 W
    If you use more wattage you need to make sure you have a good antenna and good coax to handle it or you'll blow your radio altitude also helps because It gives you better line of site
     
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  5. Mark W.

    Mark W. Silverton, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I drive Dump truck for a living I work with CB's all over the Willamette Valley up into the Cascades and into the Coast mountains. And a std 5 watt radio with decent antennas. Is good for local communications some averages would be.

    In town with tall buildings 10 blocks
    out on the freeway basically straight line 2 miles if you can get a clean enough channel to turn the squelch down.
    On a forest service road in the mountains maybe 1/4 to 1/2 mile again with a clean channel
    out on country roads in basically flat country 1-3 miles

    The problem with CB is the raft of high power bubblegums beaming 2000 watts of illegal power from one end of the country to the other that sit on a channel all day and rattle off the most moronic crap you can imagine. in order to work around them you have to turn your squelch way up which in turn ruins your range.

    Without all the skip and the linear amps the mobile CB's would be good for 3-4 miles on level ground.

    I been using CB's since the early 60's when my dad built a 6 volt heathkit set for the Willys Jeep. And back then you could expect to range 4-5 miles with a decent set.

    Now days they are just a couple sets above a CB walkie talkie and in many cases not as good as the family radio frequencies.
     
  6. CoastRange57

    CoastRange57 Western Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Pretty simple electronics principles involved in comparing CB versus ham. That is what you learn in the first phase of the licensing process.

    Ham simplex not repeaters, most units 45 to 75 watts VHF on a mobile or base station. Good for up to 50 miles depending on location, antenna and terrain.

    Using repeaters that expands greatly up to 100 miles, more if using linked repeaters. If I want a good reliable communication in a local radius, I am going ham. As pointed out, the overflow interference on Cb is horrible and will kill any communications beyond about 5 miles.

    The 1500 watt number tossed out is for HF long range comms. Not to worried about those, I want good local communications.

    Second advantage of ham over CB is the people you meet and contact. People that take the time to license and learn a process are good people to know. Most share similar values and outlooks. Don't depend on some retailer to give you advice and direction. Do your own research and learning and make your own decisions based upon your situation and needs.

    The days of people getting a CB with 2 - 102 inch whip antennas, a 150 watt bilateral linear amplifier, and going up on some logging deck overlooking the valley, getting completely drunk and stoned out of their minds and raising hell on the radio are pretty much over with.

    Once you learn the electronics and radio methodology behind ham vs chicky band, that is the way you will go. And I do own a CB, I need to use it on logging roads and rock pits for work.
     
  7. hermannr

    hermannr Okanogan Highlands Well-Known Member

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    Maybe you might want to consider a couple other things here. First is power...not power out, but power consumption. In a true emergency situation you will probably be "off-Grid" if you like it or not. How much of you locally stored/generated power resources do you want to dedicate to communications?

    Another consideration is: do you want to work with FEMA, or would you rather be independent? If you are a HAM operator and get in with the ARRL, FEMA will want you to assist them as part of the emergency communications network. That is actually one of the big things when it comes to allocating spectrum to the HAM operators.

    Lower frequencies (HF and VHF) do not mind hills, UHF does. CB radio is right at the top of the VHF spectrum and hills will effect it, but not totally block it. The biggest problem with CB radio is "skip" noise. I remember years ago we were driving through an ice storm in Okalohoma and called for a weather and road condition check (this was back in the 60's when CB was not as popular) We received a good clear response that the road was clear and dry, the sky was clear, and the weather mild, from another CB' in Southern California. Totally unintentional, but that is what skip does. As we are at a solar maximum, skip is going to be bad for the next couple years.

    If I were you, and I wanted to reliably communicate with someone realitivaly close, I would get a small HAM setup and plan on using something in the 20 meter band, with a 2 meter backup. Problem with teh 2 meter radio is you will have to rely on repeaters, that in a true disaster situation, may not be working. Just remember, unless you are using an encoded tty protocal (through your computer), it will be a public transmission, and not secure in any way. The government doesn't need a warrent to listen in on a radio trasmission.
     
  8. oknow

    oknow amboy wa. Well-Known Member

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    maybe right out of the box, but if you have just a little work done to it by a competent radio tec. you can get 10 or so miles with a decent radio.
     
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  9. DeadEyeMcGoo

    DeadEyeMcGoo Seattle Active Member

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  10. Oathkeeper1775

    Oathkeeper1775 Coast Range Well-Known Member

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    That is a good link; me "hmmming" too. Looks like a good back up & stocking stuffer for family & friends.
     
  11. CoastRange57

    CoastRange57 Western Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I would read the reviews I think. Enough there to make me think I want to spend a few more bucks. I am more inclined to lead towards American type products, Kenwood, Realastic, Icom, Alinco and spend the extra dollars to avoid having some Chinese made hunk of stuff not work on me.
     
  12. armedandsafe

    armedandsafe Moses Lake, WA Active Member

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  13. simpleguy

    simpleguy Clackamas Active Member

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    I know exactly where you are coming from on this. Let me give you a bit of background on me.
    I am on Happy Valley's CERT Team and recently got my HAM license(I did 'technician' and 'extra' at the same time), here's how I came to the conclusion to get my HAM license. To start with I grew up in rural Linn county Oregon and CB's were all the rage in the 1980's, but gave pretty insufficient range so needless to say we ceased using CB's as cell phones became more common.

    Problem: Fast forward 20yrs… Our CERT Team has FRS radios and a radio protocol for this in the event of a disaster.........then we chose to test them.........MISERABLE FAILURE if you are trying to go more than 3/4 of a mile. Honestly we didn't expect them to be much more effective than they were.

    Solution: Our CERT Team is composed of 2 geographically arranged groups at this time. So, the solution was to have HAM's within our CERT Teams coordinate/disseminate info. between the 2 groups.

    Studying for the HAM test: Once we decided to get some folks get HAM licensed, I started studying. I studied the tests available at Callsign Database by QRZ.COM and enlisted the help of a family member who is HIGHLY experienced, not only as a HAM, but also in electronics, wireless tech, and antenna building. I studied for 3weeks about every 2-3days for 20-60min. per night before passing the test.

    About the HAM test: Here's what I learned. The tests/study info. on Callsign Database by QRZ.COM teach you how to pass the test, as most books I’ve seen do, and they don't teach you about electronic theory. I wanted to KNOW IT while other HAM's told me just to study for and pass the test and not worry about the theory stuff.........I'm stubborn, which is why I enlisted help from my family member, but it quickly became apparent, though I could learn all the theory pretty quickly, it didn’t have too much to do with running the radio and once I had my license, I had all the help available to me I could ever want, if I chose to get it.

    Buying my radio: Before I took my test I went down to HRO(Ham Radio Outlet in Tigard) and let them guide me. I chose Yaesu ahead of time, partly because other CERT members use it and commonality is important to me, partly because of the research I had done. HRO did a great job of leading me to the VX-6R radio and the associated accessories.

    What I’ve learned: I’ve now had my HAM license for about 1month. I’ve only made 2 contacts and they were people I know(one of them a fellow CERT member and the other my relative). I may work on contacting others, but for me, this is about emergency communications and getting to know my radio and it’s limitations better.

    I’ve gotten to know my radio pretty well and here’s what I’ve got so far:
    Yaesu VX-6R, software package for programming, extra Lithium Ion battery, battery pack that takes AA batteries, car charger, base station charger for home, 70cm antenna, “mag mount” antenna(magnetic antenna for the car).

    To do/make: We are going to make 2 antennas at this time. One is a “J-Pole” antenna which we will mount in a tree on our property. The other will be a tripod mounted breakdown/portable Yagi directional antenna that can be used in a mobile fashion. You will learn quickly that a good antenna overcomes power almost anyday........Having a bad antenna and lots of power is akin to having 1000hp at the Daytona 500 but having the aerodynamics like pushing a barn door around the track.

    What I want for the future: Yaesu FT897 mobile transceiver.

    What’s cool: My Yaesu VX-6R can monitor(listen) from xxMHZ to xxxMHZ, which covers Short wave, marine bands, AM radio, FM radio, FRS/GMRS and so much more that I don’t even know yet. I can communicate on 2m(144MHZ range), 1.25m(220MHZ range) and 70cm(440MHZ range).

    I still have to have lots of notes and printouts around so I know what frequencies I can and cannot be on(but honestly my relative does the same), but that’s OK to me.
     
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  14. PolishedBrass

    PolishedBrass Gresham, Oregon Active Member

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    One needs several options in SHTF

    Ham:
    The UV-5R Baofeng is the best Ham for the money out there.
    Be sure to get the extra db gain extendable antenna. (Spare batteries too.)

    Secure Encrypted Radio Comms:
    Motorola i355 - Best deal for line of sight private channel comms. Used Ebay - Get low use item. (Milspec Unit)
    Be sure to get the Car Top and Extendable antennas. 14 Mile Line of Sight encrypted plus many other groups using them.

    FRS radios

    Handheld CB radios with sideside band crystals.

    World and Weather band radios.

    Police scanners

    Radar detectors. (Warns of roadblocks)
     
  15. 19 Adam

    19 Adam rural Clackamas County, Oregon Active Member

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    Great, now I have one more radio to consider. Actually two more radios to consider. What is the down side of getting an Export CB radio that has much more power and features than a typical CB. Is a marine better than an Export?

    Thanks for all the good information.
     
  16. 19 Adam

    19 Adam rural Clackamas County, Oregon Active Member

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    If all the bubblegummers were off the air due to a SHTF and you had a "2000 watt" or an Export CB with more power would it work to talk to like minded neighbors in a 30 mile radius? We are not looking to join a community of Hams, not that this is a bad thing, we just want to be able to communicate in a variety of situations like grid power down so no HAM repeaters after their generators run out.

    I may still get licensed and have a Ham setup at home but this main question is for multiple vehicles in a 30 + mile radius with possibly no gird power.
     
  17. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Bit of background about myself... I picked up my ham ticket back in '06 after a local earthquake and the fact that nearly every communications medium went down (cell phones, landlines, etc, were jammed). Since then I've gone on to get both my general and then my extra class license. For 90% of people, the tech is a fine license to get (general and extra get you more and more HF privs, but HF radios are expensive and require more skill to use).

    I have more than a few radios... I use my baofeng UV5R the most, it's a great utility radio, to most people, it's the equivalent of a GMRS/FRS radio (put on channel, push button to talk, anyone can figure that part out) except you can put better antennas on it (I highly recommend buying a replacement 3db antenna when you order.. they're <$10). However when I'm in the vehicle, I have an Icom IC2200H (65W mobile 2m) and a IC2340. I use the 2200 for most of my talking, it's a very clear and powerful radio unlike many mobiles, it does support narrow band FM, as well as airband AM (wanna listen to airplanes?) It receives 136-174mhz and I've seen some where people had a soldering station accident and it can transmit on those frequencies also. But that would be illegal!

    However, I've been sitting on mountain tops at over 7000ft, and talked to stations over 100 miles away and the other station responded "you sound like you're right next door". The three most important things about how far you can talk... The power of the radio, the size and characteristics of the antenna, and the elevation above ground.

    I would not recommend CB as a plan for SHTF comms, because they won't. Amateur is the only way to go, and the baofeng is a good place to start. If you want to have CB on top of your amateur, by all means... I have both mounted in my jeep, however my CB is usually used only for driving my PA speaker. If you do have a CB, look around for a used one that has SSB, if you go with a 10M 1/2 wave whip, and tie it down in the front you can run NVIS, which will get you some good skywave bounce, other than that... pretty useless.

    Also, no one makes a voice echo module for amateur radios :)
     
  18. oknow

    oknow amboy wa. Well-Known Member

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    that is a good enough reason to go that route right there
     
  19. CharonPDX

    CharonPDX Portland, OR Active Member

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    More (and more local) people have CBs, so that would be good for pure-local communication. But HAM can do longer distance, so it is more useful for getting information from (and to) outside the local area.

    So for the Northwest, if we have the huge earthquake and it knocks out all local utilities, CB would be good for figuring out what is going on locally, staging, alerting police, etc. But HAM would be good to find out from outside the area if the national news says the National Guard is on its way, etc. (And to find out how far areas were affected, so you can head away if you want. If you're in the I-5 corridor, and the East side of the Cascades is fine, and you have a buddy over there, might be best to just go there than to stick around - if the power outages cover the East side, too, may want to just bunker down.)

    I have a high-ish powered handheld CB, and am going to get my HAM sometime in March or April. Best to have both bases covered.
     
  20. Oathkeeper1775

    Oathkeeper1775 Coast Range Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't take much to be able to be productive; there was a story in the news about 8 years ago (or so) detailing how a couple of my young neighbors (ages 7 & 8 or so) were playing with their walkies-talkies and picked up a transmission from a couple of injured/stranded climbers on MT Hood; (while we do have line of sight with MT Hood, it is a long way across the valley from the S/W Trask Unit), they told their parents, their parents called the authorities, the hikers survived.

    "To not have some kind of comms (situational awareness) is to have a head in the sand".

    Nearly anyone can sign up for the info-flash alerts; sure you get a lot of incidents that occur in remote areas, but its nice to have that info coming to your phone or computer automatically.

    Other than that; it is unrealistic to depend on the government. When Fukushima Daiichi blew, I was tapped into all the west coast air monitoring stations, meteorological stations, and air currents predictions; not wanting to depend on the government to tell me when to start downing potassium iodide..... nobody else in my family/friends has a ham license or radios, so I couldn't have contacted them if the government had taken over the phones/internet (as they have to power to do now with this emperor).

    IMO; we are left with the two remaining and most reliable modes of communication and that is HAM: HF (CW & DX), and 2 meter APRS.