Recent events in Kazakhstan in the last ten days has highlighted the importance of backup, emergency communications, where reports emerged describing the citizens as being as hungry for information as they are for bread. Local nets are critical for sharing information in your immediate areas, such as what bakery has bread, where a local emergency shelter is operational, or warnings to avoid a certain street or neighborhood due to a trend of violent robberies, etc.
But how might you learn whether or not you still have a functioning government? How would you know that Russian troops just crossed your border, and what direction they may be heading? Or what border is safe for refugees to cross, and what borders are closed? Or hordes of refugees headed in your direction? These are regional issues, as opposed to local information, but as equally as important. These were questions the Kazakhistan citizens had, and nobody had answers.
Having comms capabilities to receive regional or national (or international) information is critical, and AmRRON practices this regularly.
“I run a local 2m net. I’m a licensed Technician, and nobody in my net operates on HF. How are we supposed to get the Net Word of the Week and other AmRRON Traffic that originates on the HF nets to pass along to our local nets?”
There are many local AmRRON VHF/UHF nets which take place across the country, most often on 2 meters and the non-licensed CH3 bands. A significant number of these nets have no General Class (or higher) licensed members in their local nets. It’s imperative that at least one station (ideally the Net Control Station operator and the Assistant (ANCS) have the ability to at least RECEIVE, even if they cannot legally transmit. Then the operator acts as a relay to the rest of the local net.
- Acquire a Shortwave radio with SSB, or an HF ham radio, or a SDR (Software Defined Radio) receiver (at least one person in your group)
- Download and setup the free FLDIGI, FLMSG, and FLAMP software on your Windows, Linux, or Raspberry Pi computer
- Tune in to an AmRRON HF voice or digital net (See List of National Nets, Rolling Regional Nets, and Sub-Regional Nets Listings),
Alternative: If you’re away (such as work schedule), you could tune in to the net frequency and receive traffic even while you’re away!
- Receive traffic from scheduled nets, and then relay that traffic to your local net over 2m, CH3, etc. (or by courier)
Coordinating with another AmRRON HF station NOW (while the grid is up), and practicing regularly, is SMART.
- AmRRON Corps has many tools, such as the Zello walkie talkie app (‘the Z-Net’), and the forum, to link up with other AmRRON stations and practice on air
- Monitor the nets now (including the Persistent Presence Net schedule) to determine what stations you see on the air regularly, and note the time, frequency, signal quality, and how often you see them. That could be the perfect station for you to coordinate with to get traffic to you for your local net.
- The free software program, JS8Call, is a great program for monitoring the airwaves on the AmRRON digital mode frequencies, as it provides signal quality each time a station transmits.
Become, or Recruit
The preferred solution is to upgrade to General Class and become an HF operator with digital mode capabilities. The other option for meeting this need is to recruit a like-minded HF radio operator into your local net, who can also teach (‘Elmer’) others in your group who have the desire to move into HF but need some mentoring. This gives you the ability to both receive and send information to and from your local net and the AmRRON HF regional or national nets.
If a local net simply doesn’t have an HF operator
If you’re a radio operator in your local net, and especially if you’re the NCS or ANCS, your job is to make sure comms happens. It’s the responsibility of the lead NCS to make sure someone can receive HF traffic, any way you can, especially the digital mode traffic. This is how you receive AmRRON Intelligence Briefs, SITREPs, and other traffic.
To learn more about how easy it is to receive digital mode traffic over HF, check out the postings we have on the website by clicking the links below. A setup as simple as a shortwave receiver, and audio patch cable, and a tablet or PC with the free digital mode software installed, can have you connected to the nationwide and regional AmRRON nets (and others) before you know it, keeping you and your local nets and community informed in an emergency when citizens are as hungry for information as they are for bread!
- How to Receive Ham Radio DIGITAL Communications
- So You Want To Practice Decoding Digital Modes?
- FLDIGI specific Postings (excellent tutorial resources)
- Full list of AmRRON Postings Related to Digital Modes
The traffic is right there, in the air. All you have to do is grab it!
Unless you’ve pre-coordinated with another AmRRON HF station, don’t think of it as someone else’s responsibility to send net traffic to you.
Think of it as your responsibility to get it.
A simple shortwave radio receiver (with SSB — Single Sideband) can be very affordable, and there are surprisingly affordable and good quality receivers on the market. There’s something out there for anyone’s budget. Here are some that come highly recommended by AmRRON members who’ve used them.
For example (click on images below for specifications):
Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital PLL Dual Conversion AM/FM, Longwave & Shortwave Radio with SSB (Single Side Band) Reception
TECSUN PL-680 Portable AM/FM/LW/Air Shortwave World Band Radio with Single Side Band
Tecsun Digital PL368 AM/FM/LW/SW Worldband Radio with Single Side Band Receiver (Black)
Many of our operators started out as Technicians and wanted to be able to receive HF traffic, but appreciated the value of an actual HF Transceiver. This has multiple advantages, and here are the reasons they chose to skip the shortwave receivers and go to full HF radios (if your budget allows).
- The filtering and receiving capabilities of an actual HF ham radio are far superior than most all basic shortwave receivers
- In an emergency, not only could you receive, but you could also transmit in a life or death situation, even if not a General or Extra Class licensee
- It served as a motivator for many operators to upgrade to General Class so they could transmit and receive and actively participate in the nets
One very popular transceiver for under $800, owned and operated by several AmRRON Corps operators:
Yaesu FT-891 HF/50 MHz All Mode Analog Ultra Compact Mobile/Base Transceiver – 100 Watts
Although we try to avoid Chinese made products, one affordable and surprisingly capable low power (20w) HF transceiver which has received very positive reviews is the Xiegu G-90:
Xiegu G90 HF Radio 20W SSB/CW/AM/FM SDR Structure with Built-in Auto Antenna Tuner
Regardless of what you choose, for whatever reason, it’s every individual radio operator’s responsibility to ensure they’re comms up! That means being able to at least receive traffic from the AmRRON nationwide and regional nets that take place on High Frequency (HF) nets on a regular, and even daily, basis.
It’s all about the antenna!
Finally, the antenna… It doesn’t matter how expensive a radio you have. If you have a woefully inadequate antenna, it can turn a $3k radio into the same level of performance as an $80 shortwave receiver with a decent antenna for receiving ability. Antennas should be strung up outdoors if possible, and as high as possible. And if you care to dive in (youtube is your friend), there is an abundance of information about HF antennas — enough for a college semester course on the subject.
Here’s a great resource on Shortwave Radio Antennas
If you invest in a commercially-made HF antenna, especially if you acquire an HF transceiver, you’ll know/see/hear the difference in performance. It’s worth it!
God bless and 73!
Now… get your COMMS UP!