Tag Archives: Preparedness Radios

Reminder: Emergency radio and a chance to win a prepper radio package

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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!

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

GP5SSB-Front

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?

Limitations

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

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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!

Gizmodo: Preppers who are ready for next solar storm

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Many thanks to several SWLing Post readers who shared a link to this post on Gizmodo which focuses on preparations for a major solar storm like the 1859 Carrington Event.

Gizmodo touches on several preparedness basics and specifically mentions tucking away a shortwave radio with your survival gear:

Several preppers suggested keeping shortwave receivers handy, preferably of the hand-crank or solar-powered variety (because, you know, the grid’s out). “Personal two way com should be stored in metal boxes in each family vehicle,” one individual recommended. Another source emphasized the value of hunting down older, “tube type” communications gear. “Modern amateur radio gear is hugely susceptible to EMP,” he said. “Amateurs who have made it a part of their hobby interest to rebuild/salvage discarded military gear, especially heavy receivers, and transmitters, are thought to be very survivable.”

I have opinions about the ideal receiver to keep on hand for preparedness reasons. While it’s true that older tube type gear is less susceptible to EMP damage, much of this gear requires 110-220 volts AC to operate.  If the electrical grid is down, you’ll need to have a reasonably robust power supply to bring these rigs to life.

I’ve had a prepper radio post in the hopper for nearly a year now; indeed, this is one of the most common questions I’m asked. Perhaps it’s time for another virtual radio challenge to flesh-out more options? There are a number of Post readers who are experts on this topic.

Include in the CIA’s Survival Kit: the Sony ICF-SW100

CIAEscapeandSurvivalBag

I recently discovered an article on the excellent blog, LifeHacker, which describes the contents of the CIA’s Escape and Evasion Survival Kit.

The kit’s contents currently include:

Lifehacker believes the small bag used is the Maxpedition M-2 Waistpack. I like Maxpedition packs: they’re very durable, typically military grade, and reasonably affordable. But the M-2 is small–quite small.

This led me to thinking about über-portable shortwave radios I would carry in such a small pack for survival purposes. If I were a foreign operative, ideally, I’d want a shortwave radio that has SSB mode, in case my home country’s numbers station broadcast in SSB.

In reality, there are very few good radios that are so compact they could fit in the M-2 Waistpack.

A few that came to mind were the Tecsun PL-310ET or Tecsun PL-380, but the fit would be very tight, if at all; both radios are slightly wider and taller than the M2’s main pocket, which measures 5 x 3 x 1.5 inches. I then remembered the Kaito KA1102 that I owned a few years ago–a very portable radio, but it, too, would be too large at 143 x 88 x 28.50 mm.

But then, it hit me: there is one radio, which, though no longer on the market, would fit the bill (and the pocket)…

The Holy Grail of über-portable receivers: The Sony ICF-SW100

Sony-ICF-SW100

I have never owned an ICF-SW100, but I’d love to. Occasionally they show up on eBay, but prices range from $300-$800 depending on condition. That’s simply too pricey for my budget. Universal Radio has acquired used units in the past on rare occasions; these have sold between $200-400.

Then there are the lucky few, like my radio-listener buddy, The Professor. Remarkably, he tracked down (and knows I’ll never forgive him for it) an ICF-SW100 on Craig’s List for about $50! That was a steal.

Performance is superb for a radio this size. Not only does it have SSB mode, but selectable sideband sync detection.

One note of caution, should you be lucky enough to acquire one: the ribbon cable that connects the lower portion of the radio with the display (especially in the mark 1 production units) is known to fail. Fortunately, there are a number of videos (like this one) which walk you through replacement.

Click here to search eBay for a used Sony ICF-SW100.

Honorable mention: the Sony ICF-SW1S

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The ICF-SW100 predecessor, the ICF-SW1S (above), would easily fit in the M-2 Waistpack–it measures a mere 4.75 x 2.785 x 1 inches. Like its younger brother, it is highly sought after on the used radio market, and usually fetches $300+. The ICF-SW1S does not have a sync detector and lacks SSB mode. Still, as a broadcast receiver, it is truly superb for its size.

If you purchase a used ICF-SW1S, do ask the seller if all 6 original electrolytic capacitors have been replaced. If not, you may have to replace them in short order as the originals were known to fail. While not a repair for the faint of heart (as parts are quite small), there are several instructional sites and videos to help you.  Alternatively, you can send your ICF-SW1S to Kiwa to be professionally re-capped.

Click here to search eBay for a used Sony ICF-SW1S.

Any others–?

Do you know of any other high-quality shortwave portables out there compact enough to fit in the M-2 Waistpack?  Let us know!

The hunt is on…!

My New Year’s preparedness test

Last year, we published two popular articles on preparedness. As I mention in the articles, I’m no hard-core survivalist, but I certainly believe in  being prepared.

This year, on New Year’s day, I got tested. Big time.  Here’s what happened:

Our hero on New Year's Day 2012

We had planned a New Year’s day lunch for twelve, which meant quite a bit of food preparation. I was chef for the day.  At 11:00 am, right after I had just begun searing a large pork roast with the intention of cooking it in the pressure cooker, the lights went out.  I thought perhaps a circuit breaker had tripped. One glance at the power meter, though, and I knew there was no electricity on tap.

So–although we’re not talking life and death here–I had a huge, raw (and frankly expensive) hunk of locally-raised pork to prepare, not to mention all the vegetables I intended to cook; no lights; no water (i.e., no toilet flushing); no auxiliary heat–and a herd of guests, all of whom had driven at least an hour’s distance, en route and looking forward to a delectable dinner.  I didn’t even have time to call the power company to report the power failure. What’s more, as we live in the middle of nowhere, in a best-case scenario it would take the company at least two hours to get here…and on New Year’s Day?

But I try to practice what I preach.

I have a 5550 Watt portable Genrac generator that we use in case of power failure –mainly to supply power to our water pump, lights, and a few appliances (like a microwave). It’s at least six years old, but works beautifully for those modest energy requirements. BUT:  I had never tested the generator with the stove top.  And looking at my raw dinner, and at the clock, I decided I was going to.  No way was my nice cut of pork going to be crammed into our microwave.

So I washed my hands, and zipped around the house turning off all unnecessary power loads and sensitive equipment (radios, computers, router, modem, lights, etc.). I then stepped outside, poured about two gallons of gas from the 10-15 gallons I keep on hand for emergencies into my generator, and fired her up. Though this unit doesn’t have electronic ignition, it did start almost immediately, because I test it every couple of months.

Our external generator connector box

I plugged the generator into our breaker box via an external junction and 12′, 240V  cord that we had installed by a certified electrician earlier this year.  This system included a fail-safe switch that forces us to disconnect our house from the grid, prior to permitting the generator to do its job (lest our power hurt someone working on the power lines).

I flipped the switch, walked back into the house, and saw that the generator had restored our lighting. Still, the lingering uncertainty in my mind was, “Will the generator power the stove’s burner so that I can at least cook the pork and veggies?” I listened to the generator hum as I turned the burner dial on…it barely strained. Whew!

This switch, located on our breaker box, prevents the generator from being connected to the house while the grid is connected.

Over the course of the next hour, guests started arriving; I continued to cook as if we had grid power. It was amazing. Everyone looked a little puzzled when they drove up and heard the generator running, but inside, found us enjoying lights, music, warmth, and the delightful aroma of the succulent pork and apples.  Happily, the meal went off without a hitch.

Mind you, I don’t think the generator could have handled the load of the water pump and the stove top if we didn’t have solar hot water and passive solar heating.  An electric furnace and electric hot water heating elements in a traditional water heater would have simply been too much of a load.

So what’s my point?

I know people who go through a nasty power outage and say, “never again!” They either:

  • Install an extremely expensive automatic propane or diesel backup generator
  • Buy a portable generator like mine, but fail to keep spare fuel on hand, or to test it on occasion

Obviously, neither is ideal.

Preparedness is as much about testing and understanding the limits of what you have–running a few “real-life” scenarios to flesh out anything you might overlook in an actual outage–like fuel, a non-functioning generator, power cords, etc.

And my radios?  Not only will the generator power all of my tabletop receivers and ham radio transceivers, but I keep a separate 40 aH sealed battery fully charged, and at-the-ready, at all times.

After all, every seasoned radio hobbyist who lives in a populated area knows that the best and quietest conditions for catching a little DX is when all of your neighbors’ power is out!

Always keep spare batteries and power for your radios when the grid fails. Don’t just do it for preparedness’ sake, do it for your listening ears!

Happy New Year, and 73s, friends!