A few questions from a Reader

…I’m going to put up HF antenna in expectations of decent range. Just getting Ham gear set up together. Studying for my test.
Things are looking sporty lately, I know time is short, I’m about at the end of my financial reserves, decisions of what to do and get next begins to take on the character of triage.

First, kudos on all of the things you’ve done to get things ready. As for HF, you’ll be happy on the hill for that and for LOS communications. As for the finances, that’s obviously your call, but I don’t see mundane equipment disappearing anytime soon. Radio gear will always be around in one way or another. One advantage of being on the lower end of the income scale is that you get the opportunity to learn a wide variety of tasks. Don’t stress over it too much…all good things in time.

So with those imperatives, I got to ask for a qualified bit of tactical comms advice for the questions following:.
I’ve heard previously many entities are going encrypted, any info on that?
It is very mountainous terrain in the Appalachian mountains of my AO, how effective are these hand held units in that regard. And is fabricating an antenna system on a tower effective in increasing their reception capabilities, (I have heard there are repeaters at strategic locations the state and counties employ to boost their coms).
Is it possible at some point, depending on events, will the feds begin to bring various state and county comm systems under an umbrella of encrypted systems?

If by “many entities” you mean LEOs, then yes. The major municipalities already have, long ago. Almost all nowadays use derivatives of P25; not encryption by rule but not decipherable by ear either; it’s simply a digital store and forward mode that utilizes repeaters and breaks down into what’s known as “talk groups.” I’m WAY over generalizing, but you get the idea. Any digital scanner within the last few years will be able to listen to them. As for encryption, most departments have an encrypted channel reserved for sensitive topics. I’m not jumping any further into it than that.

Digital radios, including federal agencies’ provided equipment, are all built and maintained under contract, by companies such as Motorola, Harris, EF Johnson, etc. These companies also install the repeaters.

Since they work on LOS frequencies(VHF and UHF…depending upon a bunch of factors) they do indeed heavily rely upon repeaters to function. In addition, these sets literally cannot be used without the programming from a radio or PDA/Tablet. So as for field maintenance, it’s 90% reliant upon outside sources.

As for Fed level LEs bringing everyone under one umbrella…that’d be really nice in theory but the reality is that…no. The level of human error is simply WAY too high for that to ever get off the ground, not even factoring in egos and agendas of each agency. Believe it or not, there is a difference between Local, State, and Federal agencies and often they’re NOT one big happy family. There are protocols for interoperability channels…and even those are next to impossible to get right during an incident. The bottom line is that a few may complain about FreeFOR’s commo shortfalls; valid as they may be; but I promise those agencies responding ain’t much better.

Here’s a good resource for what’s going on in your AO, radio wise:


3 thoughts on “A few questions from a Reader

  1. everlastingphelps

    Also, because of the peculiarities of P25 encryption and the designs of the radios, they almost always drop out of the encryption at some point. One guy ham-fingering the controls on his radio is enough to pull and entire talk-group into the clear (if you have a P25 decoder) and almost always happens.

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