Community Networking

20160131_111626 Over the weekend I had a great opportunity to meet some kind and very generous folks at the 10th NC PATCON. Among the broad topics demonstrated and discussed, a few items of interest stood out in my mind as needing more attention from a Survivalist paradigm rather than the usual Small Unit Patrolling concepts. The reason for this is rather patently clear- from placing the needs of your community first, which defense is certainly a part but only one part, a large number of folks will be highly concerned with day to day sustainment activities rather than roving about looking for an adversary.

The Survivalist paradigm differs from the militant one in that capabilities are viewed from the simplicity and flexibility standpoint, rather than worrying about who’s listening in and keeping everything hush-hush. If you listen around, you’ll notice in rural areas fire and first responder communications are normally in the clear and police frequently moving to some type of P25 based system. This is because latter has a arguably sensitive nature and the former has a 100% reliability requirement. So where are we going with this?

As discussed, a need for local communications with your neighbors independent of infrastructure is pretty darned important. So what were the solutions presented? ch3.jpg

First, check out AmRRON’s CH3 Project and gather a couple pointers. CB channel 3 (26.985 mHz), MURS channel 3 (151.940mHz), and FRS Channel 3 (462.6125 mHz). None of those require a license. All of those are easily found in the wild, meaning there’s lots of radios that operate on those frequencies. The radios that utilize those frequencies are also normally very easy to use as well. This is important because setting up a community wireless or radio-based communications plan will require little training to get up and running and won’t intimidate or scare anyone off. The goal here is getting as many folks near you on the air as possible reliably – in a long term interruption of service this is critical.


Well, a governing body (any governing entity) is only legitimate when it provides for the needs of the people. Once it fails to do that repeatedly, that confidence erodes. The same goes for you. A tight knit community that effectively communicates and aids one another is a successful one. This doesn’t have to be some goofy hypothetical scenario- look at the Cajun Navy example in Louisiana. The flood response in SC last year. The relief effort in Joplin MO. The list could go on and on, but the best help comes not from waiting for FEMA and feel good speeches by clean and comfy politicians, but from your own neighbors. And once you apply this principle to projected fun times ahead, communications become pretty important. Implementing and practicing something now makes doing it later much easier and infinitely more successful, and playing radio can be pretty fun with folks in your area.

But…wait a second…I though we had to worry about direction finding, interception, counterintelligence and all that stuff?

It’s not that you don’t. In a tactical sense, those are all very real concerns. But there’s also a pretty high value on having so much chatter it literally cannot be processed- ie overloading a system. If everyone in a community is talking most of the day, messages can rather easily be passed using local slang that would go completely unheard. From the analyst’s perspective, even a good one will get burned out from routine traffic and ignore the mundane stuff. For you that benefit is twofold; it’s a human factor to security, but it also, through communicating regularly with people you know personally, becomes sources of real time information (known in many locales as gossip) with a large and nearly instant bona fide

This is not anything new. LTC Les Grau, in one of his many dissertations on Chechnya, indicated that many villages equipped their people with as many radios as possible to as many people as possible thereby getting as many reporting eyes on a target as possible. As the photo suggests, think of it as an old party line, and sorta the same logic as the ‘camera in a cop’s face’ phenomenon going on these days, or really social media itself for that matter. In South Africa rural farmers established a VHF radio net to alert plantation owners of impending communist guerrilla attacks from the ANC. The idea is still around, much more for a mutual aid purpose these days.

In both cases the operators, from being in a small localized structure, knew each others voices over the air. Not only that, but they know when something is wrong, because you know a bit about that person. It’s these human factors that cannot be ‘learned’ once whatever downturn in the current social status happens. To be effective it needs to be put in place and practiced regularly now.


20151013_153203 A lot has been written about the cheap chicom radios, particularly the Baofeng. There’s folks who worship at its altar as some sort of God-sent miracle of technology and others, myself included, who very realistically have been telling you you might want to invest in some better gear. But the reality is that they’re out there en masse, in use in real time, and have literally every accessory imaginable available for it. Review what I previously wrote on maximizing their use, not forgetting that they are what they are- a $25-ish radio.

All that being said, they are simple, they are cheap enough to not break anyone’s wallet, and it has a decent enough receiver to multi task as a NOAA receiver and scanner. Its also good for testing new antenna designs that might otherwise be risky for higher end radios in regards to SWR. (And yes, SWR matters on ALL radios, it’s a part of physics and its critical to efficiency. 1:1 means 100% of your power is ‘getting out’, 2:1 means 50%, 3:1 means 33%, etc, and the power not going out comes back into your radio, causing problems and eventual equipment failure. So yeah, it matters, no matter what.) The bottom line is that while FAR from ideal, they do work, and they’re increasingly being found everywhere. There’s even a Packet TNC out there compatible to it for APRS, should you get more advanced.

I wouldn’t use these for snooping and pooping in the woods. The stupid flashlight on top and the ridiculously poor build quality kill it in my opinion. But to hand to an elderly neighbor or the farmer at the other end of the loop to be able to call you if lines are down, sure. To hand out to new folks to get them on the air and build some social capital, sure. For everyday use playing on repeaters, sure. It’s far from being an ideal Survivalist radio (the Yaesu VX-7R is…) but know that it’s no miracle wonder kit, it’s not high quality, it’s a $25 radio and performs like one. But if that’s the chair you’ve got when the music stops, then that’s what you’re sitting in.

Don’t discount the value contained in simple CB radios either. As the sun cycle makes 11m not as much fun as it used to be, it’s popularity is fading a bit, but it’s still very much a viable option. The migrant worker community around here certainly hasn’t had a problem  with it. On most channels most of the day you can hear lots of chatter en espanol, limiting it’s utility in my opinion (in my area at least…ymmv) but it’s a good demonstration of community radio party lines in practice serving a community.

oldschool.jpgSpeaking of party lines, one of the attendees to the PATCON brought along a really interesting project– an actual off grid, solar powered closed phone set. But, ain’t that what the TA-312 is? Yes. Except these look like normal landline phones you’ll find in every home. The TA-312s I have stick out like sore thumbs. This is important because social camouflage and plausible deniability is critical to guard your infrastructure. From a door kicker’s perspective, I would very quickly overlook the landline, because well, it’s a landline. Using common phone line found everywhere, they’ve successfully created not only a normal wall phone but field phones as well, along with a simple tone generator (which works very well as a CW keyer over the line too…). It’s something I’m highly impressed with and see a lot of potential at the community level. The best part of it all, it’s solar powered and you control it.

Get to Building

The bottom line of all of this is to make use of what you have, what is practical for everyone concerned to get on the air with, and DOING IT! The underlying message here in case you missed it is the party line- building a community communications infrastructure. This stuff is great from a hypothetical standpoint, but without action, is just a fun suggestion. If that’s accomplished with a solid mobile base unit and weekly check in net, a handful of Baofengs or midland FRS radios, or tin cans and string, get it going. This stuff is important.

I’d like to thank Brock, Tom and everyone attending this year’s PATCON. I had a lot of fun and had some great BBQ (especially the banana pudding…it’s kryptonite). The house was beautiful and the event was full of Patriot camaraderie- the world, at least for last Saturday, made sense. I’m going to be at the next one come hell or high water, and I’d like for y’all to as well. No matter who ‘the will of the people’ pick to skipper this Titanic, get-togethers like these are critically important and are going to be even morso in the near future.

30 thoughts on “Community Networking

  1. K4eep

    I’m all for community networking. We may need it one day. A established system must be in place……

  2. Cogent thoughts, bro.

    Shooting, Mudhole-Stomping, door-kicking, badassery is only a sliver of the survivalist pie.

    Friendship, community, and trust are a much bigger hunk of said pie.

    1. Exactly. My tone (and everyone else’s) was completely along those lines. Everything discussed was about taking a community and making it stronger.

      For that I’m thankful to have had the opportunity and look forward to more.

      Unfortunately it seems like so many are caught up in the SOF-wanna-be paradigm when really, a guy can do quite well with a calm demeanor, a good laugh, and some well broke in cowboy boots.

  3. S.B.

    Thanks a great deal for shining a light on the field phone system we’ve developed. I’m hoping the community sees the utility of it and uses it to its full potential. We need those get togethers more often. Six months is a long time in between!

  4. Pingback: Brushbeater: Community Networking (Plus NC PATCON AAR) | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  5. We are fortunate to have an active AmRRON net (mostly ham, some MURS) here in the Northwest Montana. Some of the guys help newbies with installing antennas and programming their radio. That is a huge help to get newbies going.

    1. Awesome!

      That’s a huge plus, not only for the infrastructure value but for the fact that working regularly teaches so much that can’t always be explained.

  6. X

    Say what you will about the commie radios, but a simple $25 Baofeng provided enough motivation for me to get my tech ticket at a ham cram. Yep, they’re cheap, yep they’re not the best quality, yep, there are much better (and more expensive options), BUT there is a lot of value in a $25 no shit, actual ham radio. Especially for guys on a tight budget.
    I’m not gonna whine about money, but I’m on a tight budget. God, yes I’d love to get an HF rig, and figure out NVIS, but this paycheck my budget for prepping was just under $40, and that went toward PVC parts necessary to build several well buckets. At this point I’m very happy to have a BTECH UV-5001 (Christmas present last year from my in-laws), and a jet stream power supply (Christmas present from my wife), running to a N9TAX Slim Jim antenna hanging in the attic as a base station.

    I also have a BTECH UV-2501 in the truck, running to a quality NMO mag mount antenna (also a gift).

    Last year I gave my dad a Baofeng UV-5R and a N9TAX antenna for his birthday, and a BTECH UV-2501 for Christmas.

    I guess the point of this rambling post is YES, by God, do SOMETHING to provide yourself some commo options, even if all you can afford is the $25 commie talkie. And FFS spend the $25 to go to a ham cram and get your license. Seriously, it’s not that hard, and you’ll learn to actually use the radio.

    I think my next commo purchase is gonna have to be a CB, simply because there are too many people who REFUSE to get their ham ticket, and a CB might come in handy communicating with that segment of the population. Of course I’d like to get a countycomm GP-5 SSB radio too… It’s only money.

    On another note related to community, what do you think of CERT? I signed up on an email list Saturday for more information on joining my local CERT program. I figure it couldn’t hurt.

    1. Ok.

      This is NOT going to turn into a “baofeng is great” shit fest.

      It got you into radio. Good. As I pointed out, it can get others into radio too. They’re also poor quality, put out pretty serious spurious emissions, and the build quality doesn’t lend itself to long term durability.

      As far as CERT goes, great, if you’re doing it locally, can sit down for coffee with the coordinator, and he seems competent.

      1. X

        Absolutely agreed in terms of quality etc. of the Baofeng, my point, which you’ve made as well, is that something is better than nothing, even if it’s just a low quality commie talkie. The way I see it, drop the $25 on a commie talkie, if that’s all you can afford, learn to use it, and start saving for something better.

    2. Regarding the HF ham setup and associated costs. At the PATCON, Tom gave a presentation on software-defined radio (SDR). This can be hooked up to an old laptop, which in turn can be powered by solar-rechargeable battery. In theory (because I haven’t done it) you can add an upconverter (e.g. and hit HF. This would be at a discount. Again, I haven’t done it. An additional upside of this setup is that the laptop can obviously be used for other things, such as reading all the important documents, downloaded websites, rifle manuals, medical treatises, books of western civilization etc you might want squared away. NC Scout mentioned a local source for refurbished laptops; these should exist reasonably close to everyone.

      Maybe NC Scout can give a more learned opinion of SDR – HF …

      1. I didn’t want to jump in on what Tom was demonstrating too much, but yes, you’re correct. One needs an upconverter for HF monitoring. Mike Bishop commented here a bit ago linking a new model that has it all in one, but I can’t find the link at the moment.

        As for watching the waterfall and intercepting signals, a friend of the blog wrote a really good primer on it that I posted here a long while ago.

        The guy who wrote that is one of the mods at the HF Underground forum.

        As for laptops of the used variety, definitely size up your local thrift shops, but also check out hamfests. At Shelby this year there were more used laptops than radios.

  7. Reblogged this on The way I see things … and commented:
    The timing of this article is great as I am looking for something handheld. Would love to hear any reviews.


    A lot has been written about the cheap chicom radios, particularly the Baofeng. There’s folks who worship at its altar as some sort of God-sent miracle of technology and others, myself included, who very realistically have been telling you you might want to invest in some better gear. But the reality is that they’re out there en masse, in use in real time, and have literally every accessory imaginable available for it. Review what I previously wrote on maximizing their use, not forgetting that they are what they are- a $25-ish radio.

    1. What are you looking for as far as ‘reviews’ go Lisa?

      Do the Baofeng HTs work? Yes, for a while. The UV-82 is better, build quality wise. The GT3 I programmed for a kid last deer season seemed solid, better than the other models.

      The best of the bunch is the Quansheng TG-UV2. It’s actually a really well put together radio, somewhat water resistant (there’s a membrane inside it) and is still under $100. They do all the same things the Baofengs will.

      The ideal rugged Survivalist (being general purpose) handheld is the Yaesu VX7R. They’re discontinued, but the 6R is still around, and is still a great deal for everything it does.

      Feel free to shoot any other questions you might have.

      1. You’re very welcome Lisa! It’s ok for a car. I have a Cobra 29LTD in my truck along with a 2m mobile. Make sure you pick this up:

        Put one on the power cable. Cigarette lighter plugs are notorious for noise, especially alternator whine.

        With CB, the antenna matter much more than the radio itself. I use firestick:

        They last forever. Pick up some RG-8X from the truckstop and you’re set for CB.

        Anything you need, feel free to ask.

  8. I agree there’s way too much focus on the tacticool stuff,and not enough on really important things like building solid communities,medical care,and safe, sanitary food storage/cooking.
    Not enough people know how to butcher livestock,or even field dress a deer.
    Nowhere near enough people know how to cook for large groups- and that will be important,people will stick together in groups-all this lone wolf Rambo type nonsense is just that-nonsense.
    I remember when I was a little kid,my grandma and granny used to go help the neighbors on the next farms over with canning,other local women did the same.
    Then when it was time for my grandma’s veggies from the garden to be canned-all those ladies came over and helped her.
    The men did the same,when one guys hay was ready to be baled-everyone helped,then on to the next farm,then the next,until everyone’s hay was put up.
    Both the men and women helped out at butchering time-it was like a big party-the ladies set up tables of food,the men killed the hogs,then everyone did their part,and in a couple hours,the hogs or the cow was cut up,wrapped and frozen,the bacon was being brined,the hams were salted and hung up in the smoke house.
    Hogs got butchered around the same time apple butter was being made-the grocery store was for stuff like coffee,flour,salt,sugar,yeast,rice,dried beans,canning supplies-and gossip among the women.
    People used to raise most of their own food-and that will be case again.
    Those who know how to do all the above mentioned things to provide food will be every bit as valuable to the community as the door kickers.

    1. It wasn’t that long ago that folks did all this.

      I think, for what it’s worth, that those with these skills are far more valuable than a trigger puller.

      1. BaconLover

        We still do that here in the geographic center, thank the Lord Almighty. Going over to
        my neighbors tomorrow to help butcher a hog. It seems to me that we all moved away from this
        for pursuit of money. The “what’s in it for me” attitude. Sad

    1. Yes.

      Get a scanner. Scan 140-161Mhz.Listen and write down what you hear.

      Scan 420-470mHz. Listen and write down what you hear.

      Check out the Channel 3 project linked in the article. AmRRON has a tab to find local nets for your area to narrow your search.

      Feel free to ask any other question you might have.

  9. K4eep

    I believe you met my father at this event. He had mentioned the possibility of developing a comms network. If so, I’d like to participate.

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