Expecting a winter storm? Ready your radio

Winter-Storm-JonasMany of us living in the eastern half of North America are bracing for a winter storm this weekend.

If predictions are correct, this storm could dump a lot of snow, sleet, and freezing rain in  many areas.

Winter-Storm-2Of concern to many is the potential for power loss across the region, should this storm have the expected impact. I, myself, live in a rural mountainous area and fully expect to lose power at some point this weekend. (Keep this in mind if you try contacting me.)

Often when a storm is pending, people rush to the stores to buy bread, milk, and eggs. What I concern myself with is stocking up on power!

And you can guess why.  It’s a fact, and a fun one: some of the best shortwave/mediumwave listening conditions happen during a regional power outage. The local noise level simply dives as noisy electronics take a temporary vacation…leaving an opening for some great SWLing.

Here’s my pre-winter storm checklist:

  • Charge batteries
    • Recharge AA cells for portables
    • Charge the internal battery in my CommRadio CR-1a
  • Have the World Radio TV Handbook handy
  • Have several flashlights at the ready (I’m especially partial to the HumanaLight!)
  • Make sure gasoline tanks for the portable generator are topped up
  • Fill the 4×4 with diesel
  • Charge my VHF/UHF Handy-Talkies
  • Oh, yeah…stock pantry/fridge with plenty of food and water

No power?  No problem!  While the snow blows, I’ll feed the fire in the wood stove, brew a steaming pot of joe with my syphon coffeemaker, and cozy up to my warm radio…for a long afternoon of listening.  Ahhh...

SWLing Post readers: How do you prepare for potential power outages?

Berlin group distributes tiny radio transmitters for Syria

In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, Philipp Hochleichter of the MICT (Media in Cooperation and Transmission) organization talks behind Pocket FM Radio Transmitters in Berlin, Germany. As part of the Syrian radio networking project, MICT has designed small modular FM transmitters. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, Philipp Hochleichter of the MICT (Media in Cooperation and Transmission) organization talks behind Pocket FM Radio Transmitters in Berlin, Germany. As part of the Syrian radio networking project, MICT has designed small modular FM transmitters. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

(Source: Yahoo News via Dan Robinson)

BERLIN (AP) — On the top floor of an old brick building in the heart of Berlin, a group of journalists and tech enthusiasts are working to spur the Syrian media revolution.

Their weapon is an unassuming black case the size of a shoebox that allows opposition radio stations in Syria to transmit inside hostile territory.

Dubbed PocketFM, the device is basically a low-powered radio transmitter. Coupled with a satellite dish to receive new programs, a car battery for power and a one-meter (three-foot) antenna, it can broadcast FM radio within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius.

That’s enough to cover a town or a city district, said Philipp Hochleichter, who oversees development of the device for the Berlin-based nonprofit organization Media in Cooperation and Transition.

The group has been training journalists in conflict zones for more than a decade and often relies on FM radio to reach populations in far-flung areas that don’t have access to the Internet or smartphones. But when the group realized that shifting front lines and the brutal treatment of journalists meant operating large broadcast antenna could become too cumbersome or risky, it developed PocketFM.

Continue reading on Yahoo News…

Winners of the Virtual Radio Challenge IV: Emergency radio preparedness

Thank you to all of those who entered the Virtual Radio Challenge IV and many thanks to the good folks at CountyComm Government Products Group who volunteered an amazing prize package!


David Cripe (NM0S), our judge for the Emergency Radio Challenge IV, has reviewed all of your challenge entries (click here to read full challenge details).

The following is Dave’s introduction, thoughts on emergency communications and assessment with comments and notes about the winning entries.  

Emergency radio communications

David Cripe (NM0S)

The Ozark Patrol regenerative receiver kit is only one of Dave's many 4SQRP kit designs.

The Ozark Patrol regenerative receiver kit is only one of Dave’s many 4SQRP kit designs.

Greetings to the SWLing Post readers and to those who participated in Radio Challenge IV. When Thomas asked me to judge this contest, I was honored, and eager to help out.

In introduction, I have been a licensed amateur radio operator for 34 years, holding the call NM0S. Thanks to the generous reviews on this blog, many readers may be familiar with my QRP radio kits produced through the Four-State QRP group.

In my home town, I’m know as the guy who does ham radio with the Boy Scouts, setting up and operating a full off-grid campsite field station at ARRL Field Day and the Scouts’ Jamboree On The Air. This has been a great learning experience both for the boys and myself, as a great way to determine what works and does not in less than ideal circumstances.   Professionally, I work for a defense contractor, with expertise in military radio systems and their power requirements.

On a personal note, I’ve had first-hand experience with emergency radio communications during the Mississippi River Flood of 1993, Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and the Cedar Rapids Flood of 2008. My evaluation of contest entries were based on these first hand experiences, and lessons learned from published accounts of other natural disasters.

The parameters of the Challenge were drawn from these first hand experiences.

“As is often said, stuff happens. Indeed, our modern communication infrastructure is a fragile thing. Let’s imagine that your area suddenly loses power–as well as cell phone and internet service–for an indeterminate period. Home and personal electronics remain unaffected, but must be powered off-grid (without mains power).  Moreover, you may be required to evacuate your home…perhaps even on foot….”

“Therefore, how do you intend to:

  1. obtain information about local and world events?
  2. communicate within your local region to assist emergency services?
  3. pass messages to friends and family over long distances?
  4. power your kit for an indeterminate amount of time?”

To make the evaluation of the contest entries as fair as possible, I kept off of the SWLing Post blog during the duration of the contest, arranging with K4SWL to send me the compiled entries with identifying information removed.


Click to enlarge

In an emergency or natural disaster, as power and communication infrastructure is damaged or degraded, the main avenue for transmission of information to the populace will be the oldest and most common broadcast medium – AM radio.

Most middle-sized towns have a station, and most families have a battery operated portable receiver. The local new/talk station will become a conduit of information on hazards, evacuations, and requests for assistance. This essential component of the emergency communications kit is the item that most people already have.

There are other sources of information that can provide detail that will not be presented in a radio broadcast. A VHF/UHF scanner pre-programed to local utility frequencies, as well as FRS and GMRS frequencies will let you monitor emergency responder traffic, as well as up-to-date NOAA weather broadcasts.

Those bearing an amateur radio license have the opportunity to not only monitor, but to participate in disaster relief. If two-meter repeaters remain in operation, amateur radio operators have often served to supplant or replace overloaded phone services between hospitals, police, and other first responders.

Tecsun-PL380-TemperatureWhere the devastation from a disaster is more extensive, or if you are forced to evacuate to a remote location, local communication infrastructure may be completely absent. Shortwave radio broadcasts from around the world can supplement local broadcast media. To handle health and welfare messages from an isolated group, when cell phone reception is absent, long-haul radio capability is required. In many disasters, this has been commonly done using portable HF radio transceivers.   When our Boy Scout troop embarks on a high-adventure trip, a satellite phone is packed along. This alternative has the advantage of being able to be used reliably without any skill or licensing.

Amateur radio

Yaesu-VX-3RThis raises a valuable point: there has been in recent years a surge of interest in amateur radio among those interested in emergency communication and preparedness.

Amateur radio is a powerful tool for communication, and can be an invaluable emergency resource. However, without the user skills acquired through their frequent use before an emergency occurs, the challenge of operating unfamiliar radio equipment in a critical situation greatly reduces their utility.

Without practice in using repeaters, participating in nets, or passing message traffic, the added stress of having to learn these skills under pressure may make a bad situation worse. In short: if you get an amateur license and equipment, use them.


battery-levels-full-001A further requirement is the ability to power the communication equipment. Power-hungry transmitters will burn through batteries quickly.

The selections available for rechargeable batteries are numerous, but options for charging are somewhat more limited. Thin-film solar panels have recently become an economical power choice for portable operations. Other options, such as hand-crank generators and thermoelectric converters can provide power when sunlight is not available.

Challenge entries

With the Challenge entries in hand, it was a matter of evaluating each versus the stated goals of the Challenge.   I was impressed by the documentation accompanying most entries, and justification of choices made.

Nearly every entry specified a portable general-coverage receiver with shortwave and SSB.

The Tecsun PL-660 was a popular choice. Radios of this type are very versatile, reasonably economical, and capable of receiving a wide variety of broadcast signals.

Many of the entries included a BaoFung dual-band HT. This is another excellent choice. Although lacking features found in more expensive HTs, they have the capacity to perform scanning, and can be pressed into service as a FMR or GMRS transceiver in an emergency, The economy of these radios makes their inclusion an obvious choice.

Most entrants showed a great degree of thought in their selection of power sources. Many included solar panels or hand-cranked generators to maintain power over long-term operation.

A minority of entries added equipment capable of long distance two-way conversation. For the most part, these consisted of low-cost fixed-frequency QRP CW transceivers such as the Chinese Pixie or Frogsounds kits. The shortcomings of these kits is having the skills needed for proficient operation–thus limiting their utility–but they are better than nothing.

The Winning Entry: Mehdi

One entry took a different approach to long-distance communication; I consider it the winning entry.

The following was the entry submitted by Mehdi:

Here are my thoughts on how to prepare for the virtual Radio Challenge IV:

I’ve already had this idea on my mind, because I live in a densely populated city (Tehran) and the possibility of an earthquake in near future is not improbable, so the least I could do is to be mentally prepared.

I’ve already bought things like torch, portable radio, and even a real US military compass!!

As for radio kit, first, here’s the list:

Image Source: Anon-Co

1- Tecsun PL-310ET
price: 45$ (free shipping)
link: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/2013-new-style-TECSUN-PL-310ET-FM-AM-MW-SW-LW-DSP-Receiver-WORLD-BAND-Shortwave/861504947.html


2- Pack of 12 AA Duracell batteries
price: 12.70$ (free shipping)
link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Duracell-Genuine-AA-Size-Alkaline-Battery-12PCS-Retail-Packing-/300811818605?hash=item4609c8166d:m:mTlbVZ55FLboMa6-9csJOpA


3- BaoFeng UV-5R
price: $25.15 (free shipping)
link: http://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-UV-5R-Dual-Radio-Black/dp/B007H4VT7A

4- BaoFeng spare batteries
price: 15.69 * 2 (free shipping)
link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LAPTWE4/ref=s9_al_bw_g422_i2


5- Thuraya SG-2520 satellite phone
price: 76$ (+ 6$ shipping). Used

6- Thuraya SG-2520 heavy duty battery
price: 69.95$ * 2 + 11.86$ shipping (estimated)
link: http://www.satphonecity.com/products/thuraya-heavy-duty-battery-so-2510-sg-2520.html

7- Thuraya pre-paid SIM
price: 50$ (free shipping)
link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J9O5Y7C/ref=s9_dcbhz_bw_g107_i3_sh

First of all, I chose the Tecsun PL-310ET for this scenario. Why?
I need a light portable radio and it’s got all the functionality I require (AM/FM for local/regional news and SW for international news). I don’t need weather broadcast as we haven’t got that service here. SSB is also not required (found in better models like PL-660). I have also added a 12 pack of AA batteries for it.

The third item is a cheap and small VHF/UHF two way radio which lets me listen to local authorities (fire/emergency/…) and other organizations’ radios and also communicate with them in case of emergency. It can also be operated on FRS/GMRS. I’ve also included two spare batteries. (Because the total price of all is above 35$, they’ve got free shipping).

And about Thuraya phone: I chose it because it’s easier to use and smaller/lighter than a portable HF rig. I have also considered portable HF transceivers before, but they have a few problems:

1- Need good power source
2- Propagation affects it (and regarding propagation, we’re not in a very good time now)
3- Not everyone can operate them easily
4- It needs an antenna to be set up
5- A good rig (even a used one) is more expensive than our budget.

I’ve also selected two spare batteries for Thuraya plus a SIM card.

The sum of all these items is $397.99 and I’ve considered portability, availability and power selecting these gadgets. I also should stress that I have also considered the compatibility and availability of these gadgets in my own country, so it may not be the best match for US citizens. I’m not sure if Thuraya has US coverage, so it could be replaced by something like Iridium or InmarSat. Also, US citizens may benefit from Weather/NOAA enabled radios.

If I were allowed to spend a little bit more, I would include a solar panel charger (about 20 dollars) too.

It’s just the “radio” related part and I will carry other necessary items in my bag (torch, knives, water, lighters, etc)

P.S. My solution is based on some presumptions, most important of them is leaving house on foot. If I were allowed to spend more and I could bring my car with myself, I probably would select a Yaesu FT-817 which operates on HF/VHF/UHF bands and can be powered from car battery and just needs a car-mounted antenna (It can be replaced with all above items).

Dave’s Analysis:

To a kit containing a BaoFung HT and a Tecsun PL-310, Mehdi added a Thuraya satellite phone. Even though I am a ham radio fanatic with a bias toward HF radio operation, I recognize that the ability to achieve reliable worldwide communication using a device with a minimal operator learning curve gives it a clear advantage for communication in an uncertain environment.

While Mehdi specified a list of battery options for his setup, he was not able include a means of recharging within the $400 budget. He did, though, mention the possibility of adding a low cost solar panel, substituting it for one of the spare battery packs would have been a prudent option.

While Mehdi’s solution is very good, it should be recognized that the satellites employed by the satellite phones do have vulnerability to EMP and CME, as would any other communication method requiring terrestrial infrastructure. I would prefer to see a high-end HF transceiver included as part of the communication package, though this is very challenging within the cost target of the Virtual Radio Challenge. Within that cost constraint though, the satellite phone is an excellent choice.

Runner-up: Ashok

A very close runner up is the entry submitted by Ashok, who in his write-up described his emergency experience during the landfall of a super cyclone in his home of Cuttack, near the Bay of Bengal.

The following was the entry submitted by Ashok:

During October 1999, there was a super cyclone in Bay of Bengal. The land fall of the cyclone was near Paradeep port in the Coastal district of Jagatsinghpur.


Cuttack, my QTH, is about 90km by road and about 70km by air. The intensity of devastation happened in cuttack due to Super Cyclone is frightening. Till date those who have face to face with that have never forget the dreaded situation that day.

In the morning at 9:00 AM wind started and power supply failed within 5 minutes. The only way to get news was through radio.

Unfortunately, we were not aware that such a severe cyclone is on the way, so batteries for radio and flash light were not available. My Father and Uncle were worried and wanted to know what is the situation and precautions we should take. As batteries are not available, I reached out to my “junk box”.

I found a IN34 diode an MW antenna coil a 2j Gang capacitor a old telephone earpiece. Immediately I joined them in to a “Crystal Radio” (no soldering just connected those with hookup wires). I managed to receive Local HPT MW broadcast station AIR Cuttack.

Gradually wind condition and rain got worse with the passing time.

In the evening about 8pm I heard the announcer saying “only GOD can help us survive this cyclone–we wish to speak to all our listeners tomorrow, if we survive” and after that suddenly the transmission is broken and nothing is heard. Later we learned that the transmitting tower was uprooted.

Since then, Odisha has faced major cyclones like Phailin (October, 2013) and Hudhud (October, 2014). Though the devastation is not that widespread but damages are too heavy for a poor state like Odisha.

My Take
Currently I am trying to get a Restricted grade or General grade Ham Radio license. After I get the license I can operate in the HAM bands, but Citizen Band radio doesn’t require a license in India, hence currently I have only one FRS radio (though FRS and CB radios are not popular in my part of India). Still there is a hope that a nearby monitoring station or defense establishment may pick up my signal and may come to rescue.

What I propose is as follows.


1) A very good standalone radio receiver (Eg. the Tecsun PL-660). A World band radio can be useful to get news from any available station nearby. The stations in the area hit by cyclone may not have any transmission facility, hence nearby broadcast stations can relay news about the situation.

2) Food
Keep dry foods: Biscuits and sliced breads, 4 liters of drinking water

My prior experience says one must be prepared for 3 days survival. To survive in a natural calamity like a cyclone, food and water is a must. 2 packs of biscuit and 4 liter of water is enough for only one day. Next 2 to 3 days can be managed after the cyclone recedes by exploring nearby area.

3) Medicines
i) Antiseptic cream 1 small tube
ii) Chlorine tablet for water purification
iii) Paracetamol tablet 1 strip
iv) Anti Diarrhea tablets
v) Anti acid/Gastro regulator tablets
vi) bandages 1 or 2 rolls
vii) clinical alcohol for disinfection

In emergency situations generic medicines are vital for survival to fight odds. these medicines are for tropical cyclone survival.

4) few matchboxes or cigarette lighter, candle
to light up the shelter in the night candle is needed. to make fire to survive cold matchbox or candle is needed

5) A Craftman’s knife
To cut clothes, scale wood for fire.

Two-Way Communications:


6) PIXIE like transceiver for SOS use
PIXIE transceivers are easy to construct, very small in size and Low power consuming QRP devices. situations like natural calamities or devastation need smaller devices. it also can be powered from a 9v transistor battery.


7) Hand-held HF SSB Transceiver (DK7IH Handheld QRP SSB Transceiver or TJ2B Portable 4 Band)
Baofeng UV-5R VHF/UHF Transceiver
Voice communication is needed as we can communicate naturally with peers at other end and can convey our feelings easily.

Also there is a psychological factor: when we hear a comforting voice we gather our courage and patience.

8) A QRP antenna tuner
Antenna tuners come in handy as we don’t have proper antenna during and after disaster.

9) A very long electrical wire. (Twin flexible wires are also good)
Wires are needed for antenna and also can be used for fastening


10) A 12v 7amp hour maintenance-free rechargeable UPS battery.
this is the prime battery for several purposes.
i) Lighting the place with LEDs 4White LEDs plus 1 red LED in series can be connected across 12v
ii) powering the TRX Both DK7IH trx and Pixie

11) 9v batteries (quantity of four)
I mentioned 4 batteries as a careful guess work and my previous experience of 1999 cyclone. (We were cut off from the world for 15 days!)

With 4 9v transistor batteries and the Pixie QRP transceiver, I can use it in extreme condition.

12) 1.2v NiMH battery packs
These batteries are needed by the DK7IH transceiver, so 1 or 2 sets extra will be nice to have.

13) Solar charger for 12v
To charge DK7IH trx batteries. and also for charging the 12v UPS battery. Can be usable after the cyclone recedes. Cloud cover recedes few hours after landfall.

14) Hand crank or cycle dynamo. (needed if the situation is extreme and not much sunlight) OPTIONAL…


Hand-crank generator = $111.32

Weight Factor:
The most heavy parts are 12V 7Ah battery (2 Kg approx), next heavier thing is solar panel around 1/2 Kg.

The Tecsun PL-660 is next 470 grams. So total weight of communication system and power sources combined won’t exceed 5 Kg, Which is comfortable for a back pack.

End Thoughts:
The above prices are for radio communication purpose only. But survival of a cyclone not only depends on communication. It needs a presence of mind and making the right decisions.

The DK7IH hand held transceiver is a very compact and nice looking rig. I have it in my wish list I guess it wont exceed more than $100.00.

A hand crank genset is good for situations when sunlight is not available. But it can be considered optional.

I have considered the 12v 7Ah lead acid maintenance free battery from Indian market it costs Rs.850.00 which is $16.00 approximately.

So if we calculate the prices of all the materials then it will cost $336.45. If a hand crank generator is added to this list it will go to $447.77

If I am not taking the hand-crank generator then the remaining money i can go for few meters of wire, some biscuits and water bottles for me and other survivors.

Dave’s Analysis

Ashok’s setup included a Tecsun PL-660, a Baofeng UV-5R, a Pixie, a wire antenna and QRP antenna tuner, and a homebrew 20M SSB transceiver based on the DK7IH design.

Power was provided by 12v, 7AH SLA, and NiMH AAA batteries, recharged by a solar panel. Ashok also had budgeted emergency food and first aid supplies, which while not required in the Challenge, are still an important consideration for emergency preparedness. While the 20M SSB transceiver is not as reliable for long-distance communications as a satellite phone, it does have one important advantage: it is not reliant on satellite infrastructure that would by impacted by EMP or CME.

As I write this, there is a massive relief effort underway in Chennai India as devastating floods affect the region. There are reports of amateur radio operators providing emergency communication to those affected. Lessons learned from this tragedy will help guide us for future emergencies. Exercises like this Radio Challenge help prepare us to face these very kind of situations.

Thank you all for your time and effort.

-Dave Cripe (NM0S)

Thank you!

First of all, I’d like to thank all of those who entered the Virtual Radio Challenge!  The Virtual Radio Challenge IV was probably the most demanding of any reader challenges we’ve posted so far.

Congratulations to our winners: Mehdi and Ashtok!

CountyCommNewWhiteI would also like to thank CountyComm Government Products Group. Readers should know that Nick, with CountyComm, is a ham radio operator and regular SWLing Post reader. When Nick read about our third radio challenge, he wanted to sponsor our next challenge. Fortunately, I had already started working on a draft of this challenge in the SWLing Post hopper. CountyComm was a perfect fit as a sponsor since much of their product line is used either in tactical situations or for emergency preparedness. Nick went above and beyond the call of duty with his prize package–he has been an enthusiastic supporter. Having a prize makes the whole hypothetical challenge even more fun. Thanks, Nick!

Last but not least, I’m very grateful to our judge, David Cripe (NM0S). Dave is a busy guy in both his professional life and in his spare time. When I approached him about being a judge, he knew it would entail hours of research. This was a blind evaluation–Dave only knew entrants by first name or initials. He spent several days worth of his spare time during the Thanksgiving holidays researching product specifications, comparing, evaluating and picking our winners. He is the most knowledgable engineer I know on this particular topic, too. We’re quite fortunate to have him as a resource for this challenge. Thank you so much, Dave!

Early in 2016, I’ll post another–completely different–radio challenge. Like our other challenges, it is based on actual SWLing Post reader questions. I believe it will be a more accessible challenge for those of you who are new to shortwave and ham radio.

Stay tuned!

Scott’s Elecraft KX3 Go-Box

Many thanks to Scott (AK5SD) who shares the following photos and bill of materials for his custom Elecraft KX3 go-box:

IMG_0531 IMG_0534

IMG_0532 IMG_0535 IMG_0537 IMG_0536

Bill of materials

The panel was custom laser cut by Front Panel Express. I have the CAD
file and I’m willing to share it with anyone who wants to reproduce my effort.

Case B&W Type 1000 Outdoor Case with SI Foam
You won’t use the foam, so you can buy the version without it if you can find it cheaper.

Battery Anker Astro Pro2 20000mAh Multi-Voltage (5V 12V 16V 19V)
Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank
Avoid look alike batteries and the next generation model from Anker. The newer Anker
battery is only capable of delivering 1.5A from the 12V supply. Two look alike batteries
I tried did not have the auto-off feature that the Anker does.

ACC2 and I/Q Jacks 2 x 2.5mm Stereo Jack Panel Mount (PH-666J-B)
Phone, Key, and ACC1 3 x 3.5mm Stereo Jack Panel Mount (High Quality) (PH-504KB)
Mic Jack 1 x 3.5mm 4 Conductor Jack Panel Mount (PH-70-088B)
12V IN and CHG IN 2 x 2.1mm DC Power Panel Mount Jack (PH-2112)
12V OUT 1 x 2.5mm DC Power Panel Mount Jack (PH-2512)

You also need plugs and wire for interconnects. I bought some 2.5mm (CES-11-5502)
and 3.5mm (PH-44-468 for stereo, PH-44-470 for 4-conductor) audio cables with right
angle plugs and just cut them to use for the signal lines going to the KX3. I did the same
thing for the 2.5mm (PH-TC250) and 2.1mm (PH-TC210) power cables. A couple of
caveats are in order. The Phone, Key, and ACC1 interconnects require low profile
right angle connectors. The cables I listed above won’t work. Vetco part number
VUPN10338 will work. The power cables I’ve listed above use 24 gauge wire. This
is a little light, but the runs are small so I think it is OK. You can use higher gauge
cables if you can find a source.

USB OUT USB 2.0 Right Angle Extension Cable (RR-AAR04P-20G)

L Brackets 8 x Bracket Rt Ang Mount 4-40 Steel (612K-ND)
These L brackets are used to mount the KX3 to the panel and the panel to the case.
For mounting the KX3, I use a little piece of stick on felt on the bracket to protect the
KX3’s cabinet from damage. Replace the KX3’s screws with #4-40 Thread Size, 1/4”
Length Steel Pan Head Machine Screw, Black Oxide Finish (see below). For the panel
mounting, use #6-32 Thread Size, 3/16” Length self tapping sheet metal screw. You
may need to cut the tip off in order to not puncture the outside of the case.

RG316 BNC Male Angle to BNC Female SM Bulkhead Coaxial RF Pigtail Cable (6”)
This is not the original interconnect I used for connecting the KX3’s antenna output to
the panel. However, I think it is a better option for new designs. The caveat is that you
will need to verify the hole in the panel matches the bulkhead connector on this cable.
There will be a little loop in the cable when you are done, but that is fine.

Screws for Sound Card 2 x FMSP2510 – M 2.5 x .45 x 10mm
Screws for KX3 Bracket Mount 4 x MSPPK0404 – 4-40 x 1/4
Screws for Countersunk Panel Holes 8 x FMPPK0403 – 4-40 x 3/16
Screws for USB Connector *** 2 x FMPPK0406 – 4-40 x 3/8

I’m pretty sure these are the right length for the USB connector. I am doing it from memory.

Amazon.com or eBay.com
Soundmatters foxL DASH A Wireless Bluetooth Soundbar (OPTIONAL)

Sonoma Wire Works GJ2USB GuitarJack 2 USB Portable Audio Interface (OPTIONAL)
(Make sure you get the USB model, not the 30-pin model.)

This is optional if you want a built-in sound card interface for a waterfall display using iSDR. Make sure to eliminate the holes in the upper left corner of the panel if you are not installing. You will also need 2.5mm x 10mm screws to mount this to the bottom of the panel (see below).

bhi Compact In-Line Noise Eliminating Module (OPTIONAL)

In my opinion, the KX3’s noise reduction is totally ineffective for SSB communications. This external noise reducing DSP is one solution, albeit an expensive one, to that problem. It is only for SSB, not CW or digital modes. It is also available from GAP Antenna Products.


Scott: you have done a beautiful job here and have spared no expense to make a wonderfully-engineered and rugged go-box. No doubt, you’re ready to take your KX3 to the field and enjoy world-class performance on a moment’s notice. 

Though I’ve never used them personally, I’ve noticed others who have taken advantage of the Front Panel Express engraving service–certainly makes for a polished and professional front panel.

Again, many thanks for not only sharing your photos, but also your bill of materials which will make it much easier for others to draw inspiration from your design!


Speaking of designs, when I looked up Scott on QRZ.com, I noticed that he also sports a QSL card (above) designed by my good friend, Jeff Murray (K1NSS). Obviously, Scott is a man with good taste!

Reminder: Only two days left to enter our latest radio challenge!

Click to enlarge

Enter our challenge and you could win this prize package worth over $200 courtesy of CountyComm!

Let’s imagine that your area suddenly loses power–as well as cell phone and internet service–for an indeterminate period. Home and personal electronics remain unaffected, but must be powered off-grid (without mains power).  Moreover, you may be required to evacuate your home…perhaps even on foot.

In preparation for this event, what portable radio kit would you assemble?  

Submit your answer to this question and you could win a preparedness prize package courtesy of CountyComm!

All entries must be received by November 21, 2015.

Click here to read about this challenge and how to submit your answer!

Planning for a Carrington Event super solar storm


My buddy, Bill Forstchen, is author of NY Times best seller, One Second After (and many other books). One day, we met for lunch and I admitted to him that I’m less worried about an EMP attack (the catalyst for writing his novel) than I am a powerful solar storm, like the Carrington Event. Bill, you see, is a huge advocate for having our power grid and emergency services prepared/”hardened” for either of these two events.

Last week, I was impressed to see that the White House released a multi-agency plan and strategy to prepare for a severe space weather event.

WashingtonPostLogoThe Washington Post published a summary:

At some point in our lifetimes, the sun could unleash a dangerous surge of magnetically-charged plasma that could severely damage or destroy critically important electric power systems, satellites, spacecraft and telecommunications.

The White House, realizing that an extreme solar storm could jeopardize the nation’s vitality and security, released a strategy and multi-agency plan on Thursday to prepare for and coordinate responses to the space weather threat.

[…]In 2012, NASA said the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with Earth. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado told NASA two years after it happened.

[…]The most severe documented solar storm to impact Earth, known as the Carrington Event, occurred in September 1859, well before today’s power grid and network of satellites existed.

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii, according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA noted.

A National Academy of Sciences study in 2008 said a similar event happening today could produce a devastating economic impact exceeding $2 trillion, 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina.

A key component of the White House plan is to establish benchmarks for space weather events.  “They provide a point of reference from which to improve the understanding of space weather effects, develop more effective mitigation procedures, enhance response and recovery planning and understand risk,” the plan says.

Some recent studies have shown that there is historical evidence of the sun producing “superflares,” or flares 1,000 times larger than what has been observed in modern times.

[…]The 2008 National Academy of Sciences report said power outages after an extreme solar storm could last months or longer, since transformers take a long time to replace. A report from North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) from 2012, on behalf of the industry, was not as dire, noting that geomagnetic storms are more likely to cause blackouts and short-term power loss rather than such sustained damage.

This is just an excerpt–I encourage you to read the full article on the Washington Post website.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) also published the following fact sheet, outlining a space weather action plan:

FACT SHEET: New Actions to Enhance National Space-Weather Preparedness

Space-weather events are naturally occurring phenomena in the space environment that have the potential to disrupt technologies and systems in space and on Earth. These phenomena can affect satellite and airline operations, communications networks, navigation systems, the electric power grid, and other technologies and infrastructures critical to the daily functioning, economic vitality, and security of our Nation. That’s why today, the Administration is releasing a National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan and announcing new commitments from the Federal and non-Federal sectors to enhance national preparedness for space-weather events.

National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan

Over the last several years, both industry and the Federal government have played an active role in maintaining and advancing the Nation’s ability to forecast and mitigate the various impacts of space weather. These actions include taking steps to replace aging satellite assets essential to monitoring and forecasting space weather, proposing space-weather standards for both the national and international air space, developing regulations to ensure the continued operation of the electric grid during an extreme space weather event, proposing a new option for replacing crucial Extra High Voltage (EHV) transformers damaged by space weather, and developing domestic production sources for EHV transformers.

Yet gaps remain in our capacity to understand, model, predict, respond to, and recover from space-weather events. The newly released National Space Weather Strategy (Strategy) and Space Weather Action Plan (Action Plan) were developed by an interagency group of experts, with input from stakeholders outside of the Federal government, to clearly articulate how the Federal government will work to fill these gaps by coordinating, integrating, and expanding existing policy efforts; engaging a broad range of sectors; and collaborating with international counterparts. The Strategy identifies goals and establishes the guiding principles that will guide these efforts in both the near and long term, while the Action Plan identifies specific activities, outcomes, and timelines that the Federal government will pursue accordingly. The Action Plan broadly aligns with investments proposed in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 and will be reevaluated and updated within 3 years of the date of publication or as needed.

Taken together, the Strategy and Action Plan will facilitate the integration of spaceweather considerations into Federal planning and decision making to achieve preparedness levels consistent with national policies, and enhance the resilience of critical technologies infrastructures to the potentially debilitating effects of space weather on the people, economy, and security of the United States.

Supporting Commitments to Enhance Space-Weather Preparedness

Today, Federal agencies and non-Federal entities are announcing new actions to support the Strategy and Action Plan and further enhance national space-weather preparedness.

Releasing New Space Environment Data. The U.S. Air Force (USAF), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will provide Space Environment Data from the current GPS constellation and other U.S. Government satellites. This data could be used to validate space-weather forecast models, potentially enhancing space-weather prediction capabilities. As a first step, USAF and NOAA will make data from January 2014 – a month characterized by a high level of solar activity – freely available on data.gov, providing an opportunity for users to explore the scientific value of the data. Within three months of this release, the Office of Science and Technology Policy will chair an interagency group to evaluate the utility of the released data and to determine if the open data archive should be expanded to include additional historical and near real-time data.

Launching a Space Weather Data Initiative. In accordance with President Obama’s Executive Order on making open and machine-readable the new default for government information, as well as on demonstrated successes of unleashing innovation and technology for disaster response and recovery, the Administration will launch a Space Weather Data Initiative. The goals of this Initiative are to (1) make easily accessible and freely available on data.gov an unprecedented amount of space weatherrelated data; (2) engage with the private sector and the open-data community to leverage the open data and promote the development of data-driven tools, applications, and technology to enhance space-weather preparedness; and (3) expand U.S. Government capacity for using open data, innovation, and technology to support effective and efficient response to and recovery from space-weather events.

Increasing International Collaboration. To strengthen international coordination and cooperation on space-weather preparedness, the Department of State will organize workshops and meetings in Washington, DC with embassy staff from a multitude of nations. These workshops and meetings will provide an opportunity for other countries to learn more about the purpose and goals of the National Space Weather Strategy and accompanying Action Plan; ensure that policymakers in and leaders of partner nations recognize space weather as a global challenge; and facilitate the sustained, coordinated participation of partner nations in relevant international space-weather initiatives.

Including Space Weather in Transportation “Fundamentals” Reports. Space weather can affect communication and navigation systems that are critical for safe and efficient transportation systems. By incorporating space-weather considerations into two reports that provide comprehensive and up-to-date guidance on the major elements of a state’s all-hazards transportation security and emergency management program – Security 101: A Physical Security Primer for Transportation, and A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies –officials will have the information they need to incorporate space-weather considerations into transportation-security guidelines and emergency-response plans. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) – a nonprofit association representing highway and transportation departments in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico – will ensure that space weather is included in the next edition of these two AASHTO Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management “fundamentals” reports.

Incorporating Space Weather into Emergency-Management Training and Activities. Space-weather events can, directly or indirectly, cause or exacerbate major disasters or emergencies, and can interfere with or impair disaster response, relief, and recovery efforts. The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) – a professional association of and for emergency management directors, dedicated to enhancing public safety by improving the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all emergencies and disasters – will increase training and education related to space weather. Specifically, NEMA will:

  • Partner with the International Association of Emergency Managers to host a
    space-weather focused webinar for members of both groups, reaching up to 1200
    state and local emergency managers, and others working in the emergencymanagement
  • Incorporate space weather into training and education opportunities for newly
    appointed state emergency management directors; and
  • Incorporate space weather into the NEMA Homeland Security Committee’s
    policy focus on infrastructure resilience.

Raising Awareness of Space Weather in the Aviation Sector. As part of their commitment to promote safety, security and a healthy U.S. airline industry, Airlines for America – America’s largest airline trade association – will work with member carriers and their affiliates to educate the community on space weather and its effects on aviation, which include degradation or loss of satellite navigation signals and radio transmissions for communication.

Virtual Radio Challenge IV: Emergency radio and a chance to win a prepper radio package


The CountyComm GP5/SSB portable SW/AM/FM radio is just one of many items in this prize package!

UPDATE: This challenge is now closed.  Click here to read about the winning entries.

The SWLing Post attracts readers and enthusiasts from all walks of life. In the past, we’ve put together Reader Challenges based on actual questions we receive from readers, usually looking for the best radio kit for a unique situation or location. Our first challenge sought gear for the most remotely inhabited island on the planet; the second, for a village in the Himalayas; and the third, for an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

This time we’re taking a slightly different angle, but nonetheless representative of a quite significant (and growing!) number of reader queries: What is the best radio for use in an emergency? Or, as we’re often asked,”What is the best prepper radio?”

There are many ways to answer this question based upon the scenario a reader is confronting. To help define a scenario for this challenge–perhaps the first in a few similar radio challenges–I enlisted the help of my good friend, David Cripe (NM0S). Dave, an engineer and radio/kit designer, is something of a modern day MacGyver and preparedness expert. Not to mention, a very cool guy.

Dave agreed not only to help author an emergency scenario (below), but has also agreed to judge the reader challenge responses.  Dave will select his favorite from among the best  entries.

But there’s more: CountyComm Government Products Group has generously offered a comprehensive prize package for the winning entry!

Interested? Keep reading…

The scenario

ivan-hurricaneAs is often said, stuff happens. Indeed, our modern communication infrastructure is a fragile thing. Let’s imagine that your area suddenly loses power–as well as cell phone and internet service–for an indeterminate period. Home and personal electronics remain unaffected, but must be powered off-grid (without mains power).  Moreover, you may be required to evacuate your home…perhaps even on foot.

Electricity-Pylon-TowerDoes the above scenario seem far-fetched?  Actually, this is just the sort of scenario we often see occur in regions throughout the world as the result of natural disasters (and occasionally human sabotage), and it’s the scenario we’ll mentally prepare for in this exercise.

In preparation for this event, what portable radio kit would you assemble?  In particular, you’ll want to look for an optimal combination of features and portability for price, ($400 US for all your kit). And it isn’t just the radio we’re interested in, but also how you intend to use it.

Therefore, how do you intend to:

  1. obtain information about local and world events?
  2. communicate within your local region to assist emergency services?
  3. pass messages to friends and family over long distances?
  4. power your kit for an indeterminate amount of time?


Rather than making this virtual challenge restrictive, the following limitations are designed to make the challenge more fun and create a level playing field for all participants.

  1. Once again, you’re limited to a (virtual) budget of $400 US to procure your supplies; ideally, this will include the shipping costs of all purchase(s) you make.
  2. You may select new, used, or homebrew gear, but you must base your choices on reality (i.e., actually find item(s) online and document the price and time of availability). If you “shop” eBay, for example, make sure you’re using the final purchase price, not the current or opening bid. If you do locate something used on eBayQTH.comQRZ.com, or at Universal Radio, for example, do include the link to the item (just to add to the fun). If you enter a homebrew radio, it should be based on something you’ve either built or used, and must include a photo. Of course, you can use multiple radios, but keep in mind the amount of space and weight these will consume in your evacuation or “bug-out” bag.

The prize package

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

CountyComm is generously offering the selected entrant of this contest a prize package that includes the following items, useful whether there’s an emergency or not:

The total value of this kit is $209.94 US!

How to enter the challenge

This challenge will continue for one month, ending on November 21.

To enter, simply describe the kit you’ve chosen and how you would address the scenario above. Please be specific, but also as concise as you can. If you’re describing a radio or gear you already own, consider sending photos, as well.

Simply send your entry to SWLingPostContest@gmail.com.

Spread the word!

If you’re active in a preparedness group locally or online, please help us spread the word in your group!  Although there is a serious element to this exercise, in that it might really help you or another reader in an emergency situation, it’s intended to be fun; enjoy the challenge, and good luck!