Prepper Communication – How Well Do You Know Your Options?

Hey, can we talk?

We’d better know how if we’re going to survive.

Perhaps that sounds like silly hyperbole, but how well do you know your prepper communication options? Talking with one another is just one of them.

Jim Cobb joined me on DestinySurvival Radio to talk about communication options for preppers. His latest book, Prepper’s Communication Handbook, covers old and new technologies and includes chapters on interpersonal communication–a vital element often overlooked.

 

The Author of the Message

If you’ve listened much to DestinySurvival Radio, you’ve probably heard me visit with Jim Cobb because he’s been on a number of times before. But in case you’re not familiar with who he is…

 

Jim Cobb is the author of several books focused on disaster readiness, such as Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide, Countdown to Preparedness, Prepper’s Financial Guide, and the Number One Amazon bestselling Prepper’s Home Defense. He has been a student of survivalism and prepping for about thirty years. He is the owner of SurvivalWeekly.com, a rather popular disaster readiness resource.

Jim and his family reside in the upper Midwest and he is currently working on several more books.

 

The Vehicle for the Message

 

Prepper's Communication Handbook

 

To give you an overview of Jim’s book, here’s the publisher’s description, slightly edited.

 

Stay connected when the grid goes down. When disaster strikes, your calls, texts and emails will not work. After 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy, cell phones were rendered useless when transmission towers were destroyed and networks became overloaded. Having an alternative way to reach family and loved ones at these critical moments is essential.

With Prepper’s Communication Handbook, you learn the best tips, tricks and expert secrets for surviving when phones and the Internet fail. Exploring the best options for every disaster scenario, this hands-on guide features in-depth coverage on a wide variety of life-saving emergency communication systems, including:

  • Satellite Radio
  • Shortwave
  • NOAA [Weather] Reciever
  • GMRS and FRS Radios
  • Citizen’s Band
  • Ham Radio
  • [Police] Radio Scanner
  • MURS Radio
And there’s more. In the last few chapters Jim addresses aspects of interpersonal communications or people skills.

Like his other books, this one is easy to read. You won’t be bombarded by a lot of high tech jargon. Topics covered include…

  • One-Way Radio: Receivers
  • Two-Way Radio
  • Amateur Radio
  • Online Communication
  • Putting a Plan Together
  • Emergency Business Communications Planning
  • Codes and Ciphers
  • Essentials for Effective Communication
  • Body Language
  • Conflict Resolution

 

The Highlights of the Message

What it is and isn’t – Jim wants readers to be clear that his book provides us with communication options. It’s a good overview, and it’s worth having if you’re new to the subject. But if you’re looking for a catalog of the latest and greatest radios and electronics gadgets, you’ll be disappointed because this isn’t it.

Options – The more options we have in the event of an emergency or disaster, the better off we are. It’s up to us to choose the best options in the time of need.

Prepper’s Communication Handbook is meant to show you and I the communications tools and techniques available to us. It’s not a “how to” book. Follow up with the resources given in the book for that.

Planning – Many books on preparedness discuss planning right away. When I asked Jim why his chapters on planning came later in the book, he said it’s so he could present options first. Then, as you’re planning, you’ll know what options you can incorporate into your plans.

Not only do we need to plan as individuals, but businesses also need to plan how they will communicate. Jim touches on this as well.

Know your tools – After expressing my preference for older, simpler radios in our conversation, we talked briefly about radios with the capability to receive NOAA weather stations. This brought us around to the changing nature of the broadcast media.

Here’s what it comes down to. Know the communication tools at your disposal. Then get familiar with how you can best use those tools.

Look at it this way. If listening to area radio stations for news and weather is part of your communication strategy, it doesn’t matter whether you listen on a pocket transistor radio or a smart phone app. The key thing is, while you seek to acquire information, understand what it is your local stations have to offer–and what they don’t.

Another important point is that every source of news and information has its own bias or spin. Recognize this and compensate accordingly. Get information from as many sources as you can so you’ll be the wiser for formulating opinions and making decisions.

To take this a step further, remember that your brain is the most significant tool at your disposal.

Power tip – One of the clever tips Jim gives when discussing alternative power sources is to use solar yard lights to charge rechargeable batteries. I’d suggest having a simple battery tester on hand to be sure your batteries received a good charge.

Ham radio – I’m glad to see Jim is a proponent of amateur or ham radio, and we talked about it in our conversation. He noted how friendly and helpful ham radio operators are. A number of them practice preparedness as well. That only makes sense, since many hams provide communications assistance for disasters.

Ham radio has something to offer for everyone. It has become very high tech. It’s not like the old days with boat anchor radios. Those are still around, but computers play a big part in ham communications. Software defined radios and new digital modes are part of the advances in recent years.

Online communication – Yes, what we take for granted everey day with our computers and smart phones may still be around when disaster strikes. Of course, in the wake of a disaster, who knows what the status of the Internet and cell towers will be? Thus, the need for preparedness options of all kinds.

Can social media be trusted as a reliable source of information? Jim gives tips on making sure we know how to sort out that which is credible.

Remember, if you’re online, be aware of the need for privacy and security.

Again, put your brain in gear.

Person to person – I’m delighted Jim spends the last few chapters on interpersonal communication. But why did he do that?

Because, no matter what technology we use to receive or transmit information, human beings are on both ends of the message. The better our people skills–especially in times of stress–the better our chances for survival.

If you’re part of a prepper community, or if you have plans to be part of one, conflict resolution will be a crucial skill. No matter how much you have it together with food, water, etc., the people element of the equation could be the most challenging.

 

The Ways to Explore the Message

Hear my conversation with Jim Cobb by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for March 10, 2016. (Right click to download.) If you miss our chat, you won’t hear the banter about a favorite resource Jim and I both like. It’s not strictly related to communication, but every prepper should know about it.

Get Prepper’s Communication Handbook by clicking on its title wherever you see it linked in this post. You’ll be taken to the page where it’s featured.

As with other survival skills, now’s the time to know and practice your communication options.

 

Get A Glimpse into Ham Radio Public Service Communications

Whenever there’s a hurricane, monster snow storm, forest fire, earthquake or some other natural disaster, you’ll find ham radio operators pitching in to provide communications for various public service organizations and agencies.

If you’ve considered becoming a ham radio operator to help provide communications in the wake of a disaster, you’ll want to hear this week’s DestinySurvival Radio. It’s the account of one man’s experience in the aftermath of the Joplin, Missouri, tornado in the spring of 2011.

I’ve pulled today’s show from the archives. In August of 2013 I interviewed amateur radio operator Joe Casler about his role in public service communications after that notorious Joplin tornado..

Sadly, on January 21st, 2016, Joe passed away rather suddenly while undergoing treatment for cancer. I’m sharing my 2013 conversation with Joe as a tribute to him. But it will also give you a glimpse into what’s involved with public service communications in the wake of a disaster.

Hear my conversation with Joe Casler by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for January 28, 2016. (Right click to download.) Be sure to view my original blog post about our 2013 chat here because it features pictures and important resource links.

 

Off Grid Cell Phone Communication in Emergencies – Roampod Could be the Solution

If you have a smart phone, what will you do when a major disaster knocks out the cell towers? If only there were some way for off grid cell phone communication in emergencies.

Roampod could be the solution. You can find out about it on this week’s DestinySurvival Radio. I share a conversation with Nik Kitson, cofounder of Roampod.

 

My Smart Phone Disconnect

I confess. I don’t have a smart phone. And I seldom use the little cell phone I do have. So when you hear my visit with Nik Kitson, you’ll hear your humble host put amazing ignorance out there for all to hear.

But that’s OK. Maybe our Q&A will prove beneficial to others who aren’t up to speed on this stuff.

But how dependent should we as preppers be on today’s technologies anyway?

If you’ve been reading my posts here and listening to DestinySurvival Radio, you know I don’t focus much on technology. I began promoting e-books a few years ago on Amazon’s Kindle only grudgingly. I’ll spare you my opinions on what I believe modern gadgets are doing to us. For now, let me keep the focus on preparedness.

An awfully lot of us are using today’s technologies to our advantage, and that’s great. But in a disaster or survival situation, what do we do when we can’t use our wonderful electronic devices? Will our dependence on our GPS and smart phone apps prove to be detrimental?

On the other hand…

Maybe there will be work arounds that allow you and me to keep using our electronics in ways we’re not now aware of. For example, Roampod may be the solution you need for communicating by cell phone off the grid.

Roampod isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, so to speak; but Nik will explain all that as you listen to our chat. In fact, he explains how you could play a part in making Roampod all it’s meant to be.

 

I’m Off the Hook

And some would say I’m unhinged, too. But that’s another story.

Seriously, allow me to insert a brief personal disclaimer. I have no affiliate relationship or any other financial connections with Nik Kitson or his company. I’m presenting this information to you for educational purposes.

Roampod is a new thing with great possibilities, but I want to let you know I’m not on the ground floor, promoting some get rich quick opportunity. I am neither endorsing nor discrediting the technologies presented for your consideration today. You assume full responsibility for any purchases of that technology you choose to make.

 

He Talks Funny for a Texan

Nik told me he’s located in Texas. The Dallas area, if I recall correctly. But you’ll notice he doesn’t have a Texas accent. You’ll understand when you read the following bio blurb.

 

Nik arrived in the US from New Zealand, where he is an avid windsurfer, snowboarder and outdoors enthusiast. He has been deploying and designing wireless industry for 15 years before co-founding Roampod. The idea behind Roampod is to enable private & secure communications without cellular or Wi-Fi from your smart phone.

 

Revealing Roampod

Here’s an overview of Roampod. It’s a bluetooth device that you pair up with your smart phone or tablet. It actually consists of two parts–an app and a small, portable device that acts as receiver and transmitter.

Roampod enables you to connect with other Roampod users. It uses a new long range wireless technology which creates what’s called a mesh network. Mesh networking doesn’t use the Internet. It greatly extends the range you can communicate by allowing messages to hop from Roampod to Roampod.

As things stand now, the Roampod app supports two way messaging. You can send location updates and offline maps. Nik’s company plans to add voice messages and other options in future app updates.

 

Yeah, But What About…?

Privacy and Security – Roampod’s signals are encrypted in such a way that only another Roampod user can decipher them. Several other privacy options exist in settings for using the Roampod device.

Licensing – You don’t need a license to use Roampod, like you would with ham radio or GMRS radios.

Roampod uses millions of channels in a part of the frequency spectrum commonly used by cell phone devices and Wi-Fi. Nik’s company has done what they needed to do to be registered properly with the FCC.

Range – Going from one Roampod to another, you may get up to a mile in an urban area. You may get up to 20 miles outside of the city, depending on terrain. Your message goes a lot further when Roampods connect in the mesh network. Plus, digital signals are clear and static free.

Battery Life – Depending whether you’re listening or doing a little transmitting, the Roampod device may last 3-5 days. Of course, you’ll want to have your cell phone charged as well. You can use the same chargers for Roampod’s batteries as you’d use for your cell phone’s battery.

EMP – Whether Roampod or your cell phone will work depends on the nature of the EMP and whether your devices are on or off.

Jamming – It’s not likely because it would be difficult to do. Nik explains this better in our conversation.

Tracking – When your cell phone is on, it’s tracked. However, it would be almost impossible to track the Roampod device itself.

Target Risk – A friend of mine says terrorists and drug dealers use mesh networks. Does that make you and me a risk if we use Roampod?

Not likely, according to Nik’s explanation. And it sounds to me like he and his company are doing everything openly and above board.

Availability – The off the shelf version of Roampod for consumers is expected to be available this fall or by the end of the year.

 

Find Out More

This is one of those shows you have to hear to get a more complete picture than what I’ve been able to present here. Therefore, if you want to go deeper, I highly recommend you hear my conversation with Nik Kitson by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for June 18, 2015. (Right click to download).

Also, check out www.Roampod.com for more info. Sign up for the newsletter to get details on the Kickstarter campaign Nik talked about during our chat.. You have an opportunity to give feedback and save big money on Roampod.

Another way for you to get a quick overview of Roampod is to take a couple of minutes to view the video below this post.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Is Roampod something you’d like to have as part of your prepping supplies? Could you envision your family or prepper group using Roampod when cell towers are out? Why, or why not?

 

 

 

A Ham Radio Operator Talks About Emergency Radio Service After the Joplin Tornado

If you’ve ever been curious about how ham radio operators provide emergency radio service in the aftermath of a disaster, this week’s DestinySurvival Radio will give you an inside look from one man’s experience. My guest was Joe Casler, amateur radio call sign KC0WGB, and later N0JEC. We talked about his public service in the wake of the massive tornado that obliterated part of Joplin, MO, which took the lives of 162 people on May 22, 2011.

Update – Joe Casler passed away on January 21, 2016. In ham radio circles he’s referred to as a silent key (SK). Our DestinySurvival Radio conversation demonstrates his service-oriented spirit to others. Read on to find out more.

 

Devastation after Joplin Tornado

 

Joe was a fellow member of the Central Missouri Radio Association (CMRA), a ham radio club in Columbia, MO. At the July 2013 meeting, Joe gave a talk and slide presentation on his service in Joplin a couple weeks after the tornado blew through. He agreed to do an interview with me for DestinySurvival Radio and share some pictures.

 

A Point Worth Noting

Let this sink in for a bit. Joe’s services were needed two weeks after the Joplin tornado. The services of the Red Cross, Southern Baptist relief groups and numerous agencies were still required as well.

So often we hear sensational media stories about disasters, but then they fade away. That by no means indicates the troubles and recovery are over. Ask anyone who’s been through Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy. Hundreds of volunteers put in thousands of hours doing nitty gritty logistical tasks on the ground before recovery can begin in earnest.

The point is, for you and me, having a three day kit is barely a beginning. You may find yourself in a situation that calls for weeks of food and supplies. Or you may have to evacuate to a shelter or other temporary housing. Be as ready as you can be, and be as adaptable as you know how to be.

 

Joe the Ham Radio Operator

Joe became a ham radio operator in 2006 after retirement. A friend talked him into getting licensed. Within a couple of years, he had his Extra Class license, the highest of the three license classes. His experience with public service in the Civil Air Patrol spurred him to public service in ham radio. He was an active member of the local ham radio club.

 

Messages and Traffic

Without getting too complicated, there’s a structured system ham radio operators use for sending and receiving certain kinds of messages. Messages are referred to as traffic. They’re passed from one ham to another on nets, short for networks.

Messages can be passed on any part of the ham radio frequency spectrum. Joe’s service in Joplin was on 2 meters–frequencies between 144 and 148 MHz. That’s above the FM band on your radio.

 

Ham radio equipment

 

Ham radio fills a significant gap during and after emergencies. Cell phones and other technologies we count on can fail or simply not be usable.

The few days Joe spent in Joplin weren’t adrenaline-pumping dramatic. He served as net control operator with SATERN, the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Net. He relayed messages related to the functions of canteens on wheels that supplied water, food and other supplies to people in need.

 

Water drop off

 

On the Ground

Pictures hint at the devastation left by the monster tornado.

 

More Joplin Devastation

 

Debastated trees

 

The community pulled together to help one another. If there was any looting, it was long over when Joe arrived.

Volunteers came from several hours distance to help out. Joe himself drove about four hours. He said food and accommodations were good, too. The community was very supportive of the efforts done on their behalf.

 

Credentials

If you’re interested in becoming involved with ham radio public service efforts, Joe said to get all the training you can. Of course, get your license, which is much easier than it used to be. The groups you serve will appreciate your completion of instruction from ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League) and FEMA. Relevant links are below.

Once you become a ham, get involved with a local club and any radio nets in your area. Listen, learn, and participate. And make new friends–like Joe.

 

Find Out More

Hear my interview with Joe Casler by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for August 29, 2013. You’ll find out more than I can share here. Want to know what Joe found to be creepy?

For more info on resources Joe and I referred to, check out the following:

  • Get an overview on the Joplin tornado from Wikipedia here.
  • Info about SATERN can be found here.
  • For info about ARRL, the ARES organization, traffic handling, and public service training as a ham radio operator, go here.
  • Info on FEMA ICS training courses is here.
  • Find other communications related links under Survival Communications in my Links of Interest page.

 

A Bit of Han Radio Trivia

Joe ended our interview by saying “73.” That’s ham radio lingo for “best regards.” So 73 to you, my reader.

 

Some iPhone Apps That Could Save Your Life

I never know for sure how much to write about today’s modern technology. For example, how much should you depend on a GPS unit? What about developing traditional direction finding skills that don’t depend on batteries?

Most of us as preppers know we need to be ready for the day when modern technology isn’t there. That could happen for any number of reasons. Nonetheless, as long as the technology horse is galloping along, we may as well ride it to the end of the trail, anticipating that the trail will indeed come to anend.

With that in mind, I pass along the following excerpt and link to an article about some iPhone apps that could save your life. I don’t have an iPhone, so I can’t write intelligently about apps. I defer you to those who are knowledgeable about such things.

10 iPhone Apps That Could Save Your Life

Whether you have a pre-existing condition or find yourself with a medical emergency, time is always of the essence. When it comes to a matter of life and death, you will want to have as much available help as possible. Thankfully, there are some excellent iPhone apps designed to help in medical emergencies. These 10 apps could save your life, so make sure to install them on your iPhone before it’s too late.

Read the rest of the article here.

Apps mentioned in the article which may be of particular interest to preppers include…

  • Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T.
  • SPOT Connect
  • First Aid
  • !Emergency!
  • SMART – ICE
  • FEMA
  • iTriage

The article cited above comes from the Longhorn Leads blog.

If you want to be sure your iPhone is powered up when the power’s out, get what you need by clicking the ad for Goal Zero below.

Shop the Most Innovative Portable Solar Power Products today at Goal Zero. Click Here!

 

Get Tips on Talking to Your Children About Severe Weather

Recently an article came to my attention with tips on talking to your children about severe weather. It’s from FullTimeNanny.com. That’s not a site I’d normally associate with preparedness, but the post contains links to a number of blogs and sites with important, life saving info about…
  • Bad Weather Fears
  • How to Prepare
  • Tips for Severe Weather
Below is an excerpt with a link to the original post.

 

21 Blogs Sharing Techniques to Help You Talk to Your Child About Severe Weather

Severe weather is something that nearly every area of the country experiences, whether it’s a tornado, hurricane or a nor’easter. While these weather patterns can be unsettling, talking about what to do in the event that severe weather strikes and planning for how to handle it can help keep your family at ease. These 21 blog entries provide some guidance for talking to kids about severe weather without scaring them, preparing for severe weather and implementing practical tips you can use to keep your family safe.

 

View the entire blog post and its associated links here.

 

It’s a good idea to monitor weather conditions with a weather radio. Find emergency radios that include weather bands, offered by several companies featured on the Survival Kits & Essential Supplies page in the Prep Mart.

 

Surviving the Collapse of the Internet – Is the Web Already Broken?

You’re reading my words now because the Internet exists. But as you and I continue to prepare for an uncertain future, we must consider that the Web may not be around one day. Or it could be changed dramatically from what it is now. Either way, our normal routines will be disrupted.

But what about the disruption to society and the economy which the Internet itself has already caused? There’s a bigger picture than the one you and I see every day as we surf online, do our banking, order from Amazon, do Facebook, Twitter, or whatever. The Internet has become a seemingly indispensable part of our social fabric.

George Ure, author of Broken Web: The Coming Collapse of the Internet, talked about these notions yesterday on DestinySurvival Radio. Before the show, Steve, the producer, asked me if George was the author of How to Live on $10,000 a Year – or Less. Yes, he is. But his current book–and related topics–dominated our conversation yesterday.

 

Curious About George

I’ve been blessed to have a number of guests on DestinySurvival Radio with impressive credentials. George is one such guest. In the next couple of paragraphs, I’m borrowing from bio info he sent me.

He has been a big city radio news director, international airline vice president, college president, software strategist and accomplished sailor. He has an MBA and multiple competencies in flying, sailing, construction, farming, and research.

George takes preparedness seriously and is a drop-out from “big city life.” He now lives with his wife Elaine on a secluded 29-acre ranch in East Texas which features solar panels, a well, a garden and shooting range.

 

Book Notes

My impression when reading George’s book and a few of his blog posts is that he’s wonderfully negative. He’s not a fear monger, but he has a realistic perspective on larger issues. He brings out things we preppers may not have thought of.

This is important because, as I’ve said numerous times before, we need to know what’s going on in our world. It’s because of that crazy world that we’re prepping, isn’t it?

While George tackles technical issues, I don’t think you’ll be baffled. However, if you miss some of the technical info, you’ll still come away with the overarching concepts he shares. I appreciate his historical perspective. Have we created our own worst nightmare? You’ll get caught up in his book as you read.

Issues he tackles include…

  • Economics, globalism and socioeconomic changes
  • Surveilence and its dangers
  • Viruses, worms and other malware
  • Cyber war and terrorism
  • Systemic vulnerabilities, including EMP threats
  • What the future might look like, including 3D printers and desktop manufacturing
  • Limits of complexity
  • A few solutions for you and me
  • Planning for life without the Internet
  • …and more

 

Our chat About Big Ideas

The first question I asked George was whether he took Y2K seriously. I was gratified to find that he did. As 2000 rolled in he was on a well supplied sailboat outside Seattle. Nothing noticeable happened then, but that didn’t mean big problems weren’t lurking behind the scenes.

But the problems with Y2K were largely programming and software issues. We face greater, more complex threats today.

One such threat is electromagnetic pulse (EMP). What if it comes from nuclear attack? Or what if it comes in a different form from intense solar activity? Either way, when it’s over and batteries and generators run out of fuel, life will be much different–maybe like the 1800’s.

What’s the greatest threat to the Internet? Could it be a terrorist attack? Or will people back away from the Web because it’s no longer seen as useful or productive? Will people get tired of being spied on by marketers, employers and the government?

Is there an Internet “kill switch?” Why might such a thing be activated? What might happen if it’s used?

Are we too hooked on what George calls “digital cocaine?” Have we become mentally imbalanced? What’s happened to our relationships and morals? Does everything follow a business model of some kind now?

The impact on the labor force is huge. We’ve imported so many jobs overseas because so much can be done online from places like India. And what has been the impact of robotics?

The nature of work has changed. One example is photographs–taking them and distributing them. George and I reminisced about that a few minutes.

Other large questions come to mind. What has happened to the quality of information and news we get when everybody’s broadcasting events to the world by using their smart phones? What about copyright laws and intellectual property infringement?

The Internet has changed our language and how we use words. Can following such changes predict the future?

And in that future, do you have the necessary job skills to survive? What changes will you need to make to your lifestyle to develop and use those skills?

 

And finally…

George is quick to say he’s not anti-technology. But he is skeptical of where things are headed. And what he does in his greenhouse is more important than what he does on Facebook.

Hear my whole interview with George Ure when you listen to DestinySurvival Radio for December 6, 2012. You get a bonus half hour because we were given the luxury of extending the show. I applaud George for holding forth in spite of recovering from the flu. It’s my hope that he’ll be a guest again in the future because there’s so much more to talk about.

Check out George’s sites at www.UrbanSurvival.com and www.peoplenomics.com.

George’s book Broken Web: The Coming Collapse of the Internet is a DestinySurvival Pick. He says it’s only meant for people who use the Internet. If you’re reading this, then his book must be for you.

To get your copy, click on its title wherever you see it linked in this post. You’ll be taken to the Amazon page where it’s featured. Add it to your cart to start the order process. It’s a Kindle e-book, but remember, if you don’t have a Kindle, get Kindle for PC free from Amazon.

I’m interested in your comments. Are you preparing for the day when the Internet won’t be around? Or do you hold a more optimistic outlook?