Hi Amrron,

We are in the American Redoubt area. We have been prepping for a couple year now but what we have not done anything about is communication! I just hear about the T-Rex on the 22-24 and would like to participate. Looking at equipment I have no idea what to buy. There is analog vs digital, mobile vs base, some blogs say don’t get anything that is not 800 mhz. I just don’t know where to turn. Can you help? Eventually I want to work on my HAM licensing but it sounds kind o hard. Just having the knowledge would be great! Thanks so much.

We get this type of letter on a regular basis and we’re working diligently to help folks overcome the “AAARRRGH!  Where do I begin!?!?” syndrome.  So, the following is a guide to help the newly-awakened, aspiring self-reliant patriot get up to speed quickly:


Down and dirty quick response from JJS:

1.  Purchase a Baofeng UV5R (plus 2 spare long-life batteries (Rechargeable Li-ion Battery For BAOFENG UV-5R UV5R Double Ultra High Capacity) , a Programming Cable ,  and a roll-up J-pole external antenna (ebay).  Download the CHIRP program.  It’s free.  YOUTUBE IS YOUR FRIEND!  Type in ‘CHIRP Tutorial’ and watch a couple quick videos.  Do the same for ‘Baofeng Tutorial’ and/or ‘Programming Baofeng’ as search keywords.

2.  Purchase the best quality  Shortwave Radio with SSB (Single Side Band) Reception  you can afford.  You get what you pay for with shortwave radios.  Look for one at least in the $100+ price range.  Good example would be the Tecsun model 660 or 880 (PLL), or something similar.  Compare Amazon reviews. Once you get it, go to Youtube and type in the model number of your shortwave radio, plus ‘Tutorial’.  Build, purchase, or otherwise acquire an external long wire antenna.  KEY TO BETTER RECEIVING:  Whenever possible, string the antenna outdoors, and as high as possible… and as long as possible (25′ – 50′).

3.  Get a digital copy of the Communications SOI and print it out in hard copy and start a communications binder.  Download PDF manuals for every piece of comms equipment you own, and print them out.  Print out all the frequencies in your area for Ham repeaters, emergency services, highway department, etc.  Ask your local county emergency/disaster office for a list of frequencies they use for ARES/RACES so you can monitor for emergency information in a disaster.  They may even have the frequencies listed on their website.  Do an internet search using the following keywords “___________ (your county) emergency office, ARES/RACES”.

4.  Download and practice with the digital software (called ‘fldigi’) so you can receive digital communications.  There are several good articles on AmRRON.com.  Just type in a search on the website for ‘Digital Communications’.  That will have you up and running, practiced, and ready to receive digital communications by the weekend.  You may want to pick up a 3.5mm double-ended audio patch cable from Walmart or RadioShack to go from the headphone OUT of your shortwave radio to the microphone IN of your laptop).   This is the most reliable way of receiving ham communications on the HF (shortwave) bands, especially during T-Rex and the regularly-scheduled communications nets (see Net Schedules on AmRRON.com).

Want more practice on digital?  Tune to 14.070 USB (Upper Sideband) on your shortwave radio where operators around the world are almost always there sending the digital mode known as ‘PSK-31’.  All the instructions you need to receive digital communications on HF are in the articles here on AmRRON.com.

5.  Go to www.RadioReference.com and locate all of the frequencies in your area.  Program those frequencies into your Baofeng radio, either by hand using the keypad (instruction guide under ‘Resources’ on AmRRON.com), or preferably, use the CHIRP software program with your programming cable.

6.  Join the American Redoubt Network, either as a Redoubter or an AmRRON operator.  It’s free and it’s anonymous.  That will give you access to the member directory so you can see what other members are listed around you, with their Code Name and their general location.

That’s my down  and dirty ‘GET YOUR COMMS UP NOW!’ response.  I’ll add more in the next few days to fill in some of the blanks, but if you do what I say, you’ll be well on your way to having comms. JJS