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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I see a lot of people smitten with the concept of ham radio as a novelty or as something incredibly simple. And it is - but it also isn't. The proliferation of cheap, almost disposable, Chi-Com radios has brought a lot of people to the hobby (guilty) but it also has served to discredit the technical aspects.

I give to you a recent event as an example. I have a guy that I know from another forum, a ham radio forum (not plugging it here). I live out north of Phoenix and he was travelling to a ranch just 6 miles north of the Mexican border with the US near Bisbee. He got into ham because this particular area of the state is much the same as it was when the first Winchester 1873 came riding through town in a saddle scabbard. No cell phone coverage - AT ALL. No dial up at the ranch. Only a ham radio. The people here live every day in a world that you and I only consider possible after a TEOTWAWKI event. And it is normal for them.

So this guy... He's worried about being able to call for help or what we call EmComm (EMergency COMMunications).

Over the course of a week, prior to his trip, he and I coordinate with the help of other hams to pick a set of repeaters that will work together. When he got into town, I reached out to hit the K7EAR 2 Meter Releater on Mt. Lemmon in Tucson - 114 miles from my home. He got on another K7EAR 2 Meter Repeater near Bisbee / Mule Mountain. That repeater was 100 miles from my repeater and another 25 to 30 miles to him. He and I were able to talk back and forth as though he was sitting next to me. No harsh signal. No static. No fading audio. Just 200+ miles of clean, clear, crisp two meter FM transmission.

I benefitted greatly from the exercise because I learned about antennas, altitude and linked repeaters in my area. He learned that not only could he reach the repeater in Bisbee (Population 5,000) for assistance if he needed it, but that his signal could be bounced into Eastern Phoenix / Scottsdale / Mesa and reach about a million people.

Now I know that not all of those 1 million people are hams. Only about 0.3% of the population are. But he is able to hit a number of fire, search and rescue outfits and if the ham population really is 0.3%, wouldn't you have a better chance in hitting one in a population of 1M (probably 30 hams) versus 5k (maybe 3 hams)?

So this is the reason I tell people, don't just buy a ham radio and think you will start using it when the SHTF. Get your license. Study the concepts. Understand what the equipment does - not just your equipment but the equipment that you can "borrow" via repeater networks. Anyone can pick up a radio, key the mic and start calling for help - but that's like 911 having an unlisted 9 digit telephone number. You can keep dialing until you get the police. Or you can know the number for 911, pick up the phone and call them on the first try - that's knowing how ham radio works.

...and if I can do it - ANYONE can do it...
Seriously, people. I ain't that sharp.
 

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No-no-no....

Do NOT tease us. You mentioned the ham forum, now plug it!

A ham forum doesn't compete, and what we learn we can bring back here!
 

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GT, I am going to confess my sins, here. I hold an FCC license - GROL element 3. I am an avionics technician. Wherever an electron travels in a Black Hawk, I am there.

My personally owned radios? A hand held C.B. radio.

You have shamed me, sir. I will endeavor to repair my ways.
 

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I thought you were going to post a video or something.
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So you want a ham radio for emergency communications
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For Glenn Beck fans; an intro interview with ARRL rep
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Well, that Glenn Beck was about a bust. Gotta get back to work, maybe find another later.
 
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Some videos of actual playing with a radio. Since I have this model, that's what I looked up. These are not my videos, just some I found on you tube.
Keep in mind, some people know how to run a radio better than others. Success also depends greatly on the antenna you're hooked up to.
Edit: I should have said this is just a receiver, no transmitt on this model.

Kenwood R-300
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10:20 minutes

2:20 minutes

6:13 minutes
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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GTGallop,

Good article! I really enjoy reading stuff like that.

Couple of questions:

What radios were use using?

How much power?

What kind of antenna were each running?

Pretty good distance for standard hand helds so I am assuming yall at least had a decent antenna setup.

Since it was a linked repeater system, did you friend have the ability to auto-patch if he needed to talk to EMS directly? I remember using autopatch as a kid with my HT and people would go nuts thinking it was the coolest, haha.

For those who don't know autopatch (sometimes called phone patch) is a way to make phone calls via ham radio. It requires at least one radio (normally on the receiving end) to have a junction to a land line. It's not that complicated with the right equipment. Lots of local repeater clubs still operate them and work like a charm if you are neck deep in the woods and your iphone just cannot push out a signal


Inquiring minds want to know!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Couple of questions:
What radios were use using?
How much power?
What kind of antenna were each running?
did you friend have the ability to auto-patch if he needed to talk to EMS directly? I remember using autopatch as a kid with my HT and people would go nuts thinking it was the coolest, haha.
I was on a $30 Baofeng BF-F8+. I think he was on a Yaesu hand held. Not sure on the model.
Wattage was 4W for both of us.
I'm running a cheap mag mount car antenna that I got from Amazon for $36. His was just his whip antenna on the Yaesu.
I've used the auto-patch before. It is crazy cool useful. Not sure if his repeater had it, but if he did he could have easily used it.

Most of the autopatch in our area is limited to local calls only. The Repeater Owners block long distance and international because they don't want to pay for it. Understandable. But they could flip over to Vonage and do VoIP just as easy with out the charges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
As a follow up...

We took a weekend trip from Phoenix to Greer, AZ. Greer is almost on the border with New Mexico, high (8500' ASL) in the White Mountains. After leaving Phoenix, the two largest towns you pass through are Payson (15k people) and Show Low (10k people). As a matter of fact, Greer's population is listed at 41, but there are probably many more people there - maybe a thousand - that don't list this as their permanent address.

Point is, this is remote back country lacking infrastructure. Most of the trip, there is NO Cell coverage. What little parts we did get coverage in was mostly Edge Network - No LTE, no 4G, not even 3G.

But I had my ham radio and car antenna up. Same setup I used to contact the guy in Bisbee. All the way out to Greer, I had excellent radio coverage from two or three independent local ham repeaters at any given time along the way and two state wide linked systems - W7ARA & K7EAR. The repeaters they have on Mt. Ord can be heard for miles and cover a HUGE area of the land. Half way to Greer (a 4 hour drive - all back roads) I was having a conversation with hams in Phoenix about the weather, traffic, weekend events (Barret Jackson car auction) and the like - just like we were in the same room almost.

With out knowing how the repeater systems worked and which ones were linked, I'd have been pissing in the wind.

You have to know that your radio listens on 146.7200 and transmits on 146.6600 and that your radio needs to broadcast a sub audible tone and what the tone is to activate the repeater. It is all very elementary when you get use to it. But nothing about it is intuitive, especially if you don't have the repeaters and frequencies spelled out for you.

Just another example where ham radio makes an excellent PRIMARY communication tool and our modern cell network takes a distant back seat as a secondary tool.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Mt. Ord.jpg

Footprint of the Mt. Ord system. Obviously your mileage may vary but holy hell fire that thing has a giant footprint.

You know what they say about giant footprints - must have a big antenna.
 
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