There has been a lot of noise concerning our grid going down due to terrorism attacks. With the recent attack on the Saudi Arabian oil fields by drones and other means, I am surprised that this has not happened here in the United States as yet. Just think what would happen if a squadron of Semtex loaded drones made an attack on an electrical substation in your AO.
Putting aside a squadron of drones attacking your electrical substation down the street what would happen to your power grid if mother nature throws something at your electrical substation. Texas and Puerto Rico found out post Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria respectively. As a matter of fact, with no communications possible post those two hurricanes amateur radio operators went to the scene of the drama to help with communication between first responders and offering the ability to pass on traffic (Messages) to family outside the affected area.
Once your electrical substation goes down communication along with other things that electricity provides will be gone too. What is your plan to generate enough electricity to keep your furnace going, freezers freezing, and communications happening? Certainly, if you have a generator and plenty of fuel you and your family can survive but, all the power in the world at your home will not allow you to communicate blocks away let away states away if the cell towers have no power. What is your communication plan post a grid down situation and the backup generators at the cell towers run out of fuel?
Communication can take two forms; active and passive. Active would allow you to transmit (TX) and receive (RX) communications and passive just RX. Let’s look at both ways to collect and in some cases TX information in a grid down event.
Short-wave radios are a great source of information during a grid down situation. Many radio’s like the SSB CCrane Skyway radio can receive broadcasts on AM/FM shortwave, and SSB (Single Side Band) shortwave. There are several great radios out there, but they need to be SSB capable. To not have SSB is fine however you will only hear one side of a SSB conversation. Most amateur radio operators TX and RX on SSB because the signal uses transmitter power and bandwidth more efficiently. If you do not have the SSB function on your passive radio, no big deal other than you will only be able to RX one side of the conversation between two or more hams using SSB.
Even though most short-wave receivers come with a telescoping antenna those antennas are poor. You will need to invest some money in a better antenna. I don’t want to get into the weeds here, but I will direct you to what is called a ground wave antenna if you are frugal like me and want to build one rather than buying one.
Take 70-feet of 14 to 18 gauge insulated single strand wire (You could use double speaker wire too) and put it up on the ceiling using thumb tacks in the room your radio is located using a square or circular format, 16-feet a side with the ends hanging down which are then attached to the radio. Attach the ends of the wire to the back of your radio where directed in your instructions. Voila! You have a great RXing antenna.
An active radio is a transceiver. It will send TX and receive RX signals typically from frequency’s anywhere from 10 to 80-meters. Some transceivers will go from UHF (450-806 Mhz) to VHF (144-148 Mhz) and all the way up to 160-meters. You do not need to have an amateur radio license to own and listen with a transceiver. You just cannot transmit unless it is an emergency. Brand new transceivers start at around $700- and go up to and surpass $5,000-. With that written, used transceivers like the Icom IC- 735 will go for around $250-. How do you find a used transceiver you might ask? I suggest you befriend a licensed ham who will keep their eyes open for you. These deals come up often but are very seldom advertised. Another opportunity is to attend a “ham fest”. A ham fest is a kind of rummage sale but only for ham radio equipment. If you go this route, make sure you know ahead of time what you are looking for.
Just like the passive radio you will need a good antenna. The ground wave that I described earlier would certainly work but just for RXing. To TX you would need an antenna that would accomplish this. For new hams I always recommend a G5RV type of antenna. I wrote an article on how to build one titled, Building A Simple, Affordable, High-Quality Multi-Band Antenna or just go and buy one. Here is a good one from Amazon.
The G5RV antenna can be put up horizontally (Flat top) or as an inverted “V”. If you go with the flat top (Optimal) you will need about 102-feet of horizontal space using trees or supports at both ends and be able to go 30 to 40-feet high. Or you can go with an inverted “V” which only needs one hoist point about 30 to 40-feet high at its azimuth.
Getting your license
Recently I was in South Carolina touring Palmetto State Armory (PSA) You can read about my visit going here. I had several folks approach me asking how to get their Technicians ticket. I explained to them that it was easy if they followed a three-step process which I wrote about in a earlier article titled, ARRL Field Day 2019.
The last thing I want to talk about is power to run your radio if the electrical grid goes down. My back-up power is simple. It is made up of the following components.
- One deep cycle marine 12-volt battery. I used a Group 27
- Battery box to keep battery in and terminals covered
- 10-gauge coated wire to go from the battery to the radio for power
- A 12-volt smart battery charger to keep the battery up to snuff
- A gallon of distilled water. Yes, if you buy a lead acid battery, you will need to top off the water in the cells every 3-months or so, and
- To make things easier some Anderson Power Pole connectors to make connections easier and foolproof between the battery and radio.
There you go folks…No excuse to be left out in the dark with no communications in a grid down situation. And last, if you’re new to all this and are looking for instruction, there’s a class to get you up to speed. Check out the training calendar.
Freedom Through Self-Reliance®