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Author Topic: In an emergency how do you communicate with your non-ham family  (Read 20492 times)
W6RMK
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Posts: 662




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« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2011, 07:31:07 AM »

If you're looking to do something like reassure people out of the area, what about the SPOT system widgets?  They're satellite based, so wiping out the local infrastructure in, say, southern California, wouldn't prevent you from pushing the button and having the message post to the website.  Then, your out-of-area friends and relatives could see that you're OK (or not) and where you physically are (within some tens of meters)..

Now, this wouldn't help for the "how do I get in contact with my kid when the freeway is closed between us" problem. (and you're out of "simplex" range.. which is pretty much the case anywhere in the aforementioned SoCal)  But, then, if you are presuming a disaster of sufficient magnitude to knock cell phones off the air, likely VHF/UHF repeaters will also be down, so you're basically stuck with HF links, and that is not exactly "plug and play", even at the best of times.

It's also going to be expensive.  This isn't something where you want the ends of the link to be some sort of cobbled together lashup of an antenna tuner you found at a garage sale, that old, but reliable rig that you've had for 30 years and works fine as long as you remember that the RIT knob has to be set just so, and the mode switch doesn't work quite right.

You want something that is marine radio simple: set channel, push PTT, autotuner takes care of match to antenna. That doesn't really exist in the ham market.  Maybe CB isn't such a bad deal, if it weren't up at 27 MHz, when what you really want is down in the 80m or 40m bands.

Likewise, military or commercial HF  radios with programmed channels would be a good choice.. you can probably even get ones with a (slow) data link included.

You could, if you had a sufficient budget, probably get decent HF SSB marine radios and program in frequencies in the ham bands for your family to use (assuming they're all licensed).  Get suitable autotuners for random wire antennas or verticals, and you're all set.

Take a look at what they use in the Australian outback.. they're big users of HF there for day to day stuff. 
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KASSY
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« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2011, 11:58:20 AM »

I don't completely agree with OP in the first place.  The number one problem is not communications, it's survival.  Food, water, shelter.  Communications with detached family members comes after that.  In an airplane, they teach you to put on your oxygen mask first, then the children.  You can be of no help to others if you do not ensure your survival first.

After that...
Who is it that's in the emergency?  Are you, the ham, in the stricken area, or is it your non-ham family members?  The answer to your question depends on that.

I like what K9KJM said -if a family member thinks it's important to communicate when stricken by an emergency, then they should get licensed.  The licensing process has never been easier, and on an inflation-adjusted basis, radios have never been cheaper.

After the '94 Northridge quake, gramps used good old HF.  Repeaters were down, and the cell phone network wasn't built out to our area year.  Nothing, long-term, is more reliable than HF.  You can always find a band that is open to the part of your country that you want to communicate with, and the repeaters never get overloaded.  HF traffic still works...gramps would get a message out to the states where relatives lived and get an NTS message sent to them saying "We're OK, just without power for a while."  That was enough.

-k

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AF6WI
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« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2011, 01:25:32 PM »

I thought it was interesting how only moments after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, there were text messages, tweets, facebook updates, and you-tube videos posted on line. Granted some of those came from areas that were less damaged, but it shows that the cell phones shouldn't be discounted completely. Also, isn't it likely that text messages are more likely to go through (if there's any service at all) even if the voice channels are all jammed up?

Location, location, location. If you look at the towns around Sendai, you'll see there is nothing left. Nothing. No houses, no buildings, no cell towers, no dial tone, no nothing. Nobody was tweeting from there. No text messages were sent from there. Yes, people were messaging from less damaged areas, but not from everywhere.

We have a large Japanese population in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the local news shows local people every night saying they can't get through to find out if loved ones have survived.

If there's any service at all, text messages often get through when voice calls don't. But often in the first hours after a disaster, there's no service at all. And restoration is not a sure thing.
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KF5GWN
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« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2011, 09:30:14 PM »

I have it fairly easy as this part of Texas is flat.  I have GMRS for the rest of the family.  We have a number of repeaters in our area that also have emergency power and were up and running in the immediate aftermath of Ike.  If you look at the maps on the mygmrs web page it looks like southern PA has pretty good coverage with GMRS.  I don't know about emergency power for those repeaters but if you find one in your area you can contact the owner and ask.
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AE6ZW
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« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2011, 11:03:12 AM »

I have heard a lot of news about earth quake and what happened there by reading Japanese news paper and blog posted by person.   over there, they have a rule that in event of emergency non ham can use ham radio without license, so many people used ham radio without license, even manufactures of ham radio distributed ham radio intended for such use.    most country including US has such rule I think.   I understand ham radio to those who have them , first several hours after earth quake  are most useful to contact family member, etc.  it is best to get license and make them use it regularly , that way you know where it work, and everyone is familiar with how to use them.   in our family, everyone is licensed, we use ham radio in daily basis,  it is much cheaper than using cell phones,  and technitian class is not that difficult,  best way to pass the exam is to just read only the right answer, don't even read question.  mask out wrong answer and even question in the book, and read right answer only, then take demo exam online, you will remember if which answer you have read before or not.  use mobile high power radio for emergency,   and simplex,  repeaters will be too crowded or even not working during event of emergency.   handheld to handheld  is good for up to 0.5 miles at the most.   also consider parts 90 service,  specially in low VHF band 27 to 50 MHz is wide open, no body use them anymore.   and VHF 151 to 160 MHz band is pretty much open now day.
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K9KJM
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« Reply #20 on: May 02, 2011, 10:33:30 PM »

Another thing to consider is TEXTING via cellphones......
The most frequent "failure" of commercial telephone systems during disasters is not actual infrastructure failure, But simple "Overload" (Too many people trying to make calls all at the same time)  NO telephone system is designed to be able to provide air time for all subscribers at the same time. (The actual percentage systems are designed to handle at once are pretty much top secret for business reasons)
So while a voice phone call attempt may only get a busy signal, In many cases TEXTING will get through!    We all need to take some lessons from the kids that are adept at texting!

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KI4SDY
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« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2011, 06:33:34 AM »

If you are an experienced ham that is skilled in building and setting up antenna systems (since you are asking these questions, probably not, so it would be a good learning experience for you) a good inexpensive system can be set up using SSB CB transceivers. It will give you county wide solid communication using homemade ground plane antennas at 30 feet and you can set up a three element wire beam system for your out of state relative. It will be as reliable as a 10 meter ham radio of similar power and as we should know, 5 watts (12 watts PEP SSB) and a proper antenna is as good as 100 watts and a mediocre antenna. In an emergency, you can use car batteries for power. Further, they would be able to communicate with others that may be left after a disaster, in case something happens to you. Also, others on the band can relay messages when propagation conditions are bad for the out of state relative. No license needed, but you can only communicate legally with the out of state relative during an emergency.  Wink

Set up a Sunday family net every weekend to test the system and you will have inexpensive and fairly reliable communications. Remember, nothing is 100%!  Shocked
« Last Edit: May 04, 2011, 08:09:45 AM by KI4SDY » Logged
KD8NGE
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Posts: 36




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« Reply #22 on: May 09, 2011, 08:39:04 PM »

Excellent suggestions:  I do like the most recent one about setting up a family net on Sundays.  Makes sure the equipment works, gets the involved parties in practice.
Pre-plan the contact:  when it hits the fan, listen on an agreed-on frequency at the top of the hour and the bottom of the hour for 5 minutes, as an example.
I live in flat and glaciated northern Ohio and the land of my nativity is the hill country near the Ohio River.  I'll be exploring NVIS to see if/how well it works.

Going back to the original question, "In an emergency, how do you communicate with your non-ham family?" -- when it hit here, I waited until immediate repairs were completed, our hacienda was secure and the generator was running ... by then the phones were restored, so I made one quick "We're okay, pass the word" phone call to baby sis and let her phone-tree the rest of the family.
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KG6ORW
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« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2011, 09:52:50 PM »

I like KD8NGE's idea of NVIS.  Just one thing to remember if you use it though.  Both the transmitting AND they receiving antenna need to be NVIS to have true reliability in the 200 mile radius zone.
73s
KG6ORW
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KC8OYE
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Posts: 297




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« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2011, 12:27:12 PM »

I am surprised that no one has mentioned the NTS system yet...
Hams will get the message through for you.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #25 on: June 25, 2011, 06:42:33 AM »

The thread starter asked for a 7 mile range though. The NTS is great for getting a welfare message out of the state to a known address, but it could take a while.
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KC8OYE
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« Reply #26 on: June 25, 2011, 08:25:36 AM »

The thread starter asked for a 7 mile range though. The NTS is great for getting a welfare message out of the state to a known address, but it could take a while.

oh yeah.. hehe.. i guess NTS would be a little overkill for 7 miles... but then again..at 7 miles why not just go there in person?
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #27 on: June 25, 2011, 08:44:49 AM »

I suppose the scenario is if they have to hunker down due to weather, or fire, flooding, riots or congested traffic keeps them separated - and just deciding how they're going to meet up with each other, know how the situation is, and plan evacuation or sheltering.
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K7RBW
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« Reply #28 on: June 25, 2011, 09:10:40 AM »

Any comm plan should include a lost-comm plan as well.

In the case of a disaster or emergency, the first priority for EVERYONE should be their own personal safety. After that, the safety of those around them. Just like on the airliner: put YOUR mask on first, THEN help those around you.

Once that's taken care of then you/they can exercise your communication protocol (text messages, smoke signals, head towards a common meeting point, whatever).

If you know that your loved ones are prepared to take care of themselves in an emergency, you'll worry a lot less when you can't communicate with them for a while.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #29 on: June 25, 2011, 09:48:56 AM »

Excellent point.
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