What's the best "prepper" emergency radio??

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NSprepper

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Hi all,
This is my 1st post here!

I'm trying to figure out not only what the best emergency "prepper" radio is, but also, what frequencies I need to be monitoring in case of any kind of emergency.

I'm in Halifax Nova Scotia :)

We lost power the other day, and I was suddenly thrust into the reality of being "cut off" and wondering what was going on.

I already have a pair of baofeng UV-5R radios, and a CB base station, as well as a little SW Grundig handheld radio receiver, but alas, all was SILENT when I turned each of them on to see what kind of chatter might be happening out there.

There was nothing on any band of my short wave radio, but I blamed the tiny antenna on this little handheld Grundig Porche radio receiver for not being really able to capture any signals.

I've been looking at some Tecsun radios, and some CCrane radio receivers, but again, I'm wondering what use they will be if there is nothing on them.

Can anyone out there please give me some advice about what radio is the best to buy?

Should I go with a scanner? Should I go with a Ham receiver, or, should I buy a better SW receiver with the ability to add a long wire antenna or something if need be?

Should I also concentrate on the ability to transmit, or simply receive info?

In a serious emergency, will my CB radio suddenly boom into usefulness as many others will also suddenly come on channel??

Your help would be greatly appreciated!

PS, I am not a ham operator, and have no license, but I am an electronics tech from way back in the day, and used to even build amplifiers and other RF equipment, so I do have a basic understanding of how things work, but unfortunately, I am disabled now due to many medical conditions, including a brain injury, so alot of my tech knowledge has all but disappeared, lol :)
 

mmckenna

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Welcome...

You won't hear much in the way of public safety or utility (gas, electric, telephone, etc) on shortwave or CB.
Shortwave will give you long distance broadcast, as in stuff from other countries. It should do AM and FM broadcast, so you could get local news.
CB is only useful if there are other CB radio users in your area that are passing information.

What you need is a scanner. Based off this:
Halifax County, Nova Scotia (NS) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference
You'll need one that can do P25.
Depending on exactly where you are, you may need an external antenna to pick up some of the radio traffic.
I'll leave the actual product recommendations to someone else that is more familiar with the current offerings. Last scanner I purchased was back in 1998 or so.
 

NSprepper

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That's great info and a definite start!

Thanks for the quick reply.

I'm just not in a position to this around huge amounts of cash hoping to find the right rig so I really appreciate your guidance and advice.

Most prepper guides recommend a crank radio, like a tecsun pl-660, but like you say, I want local info, although it is kinda kewl to know what's going on in the world too.

I'll await further suggestions before buying anything!
Thanks again!!
 

NC1

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Since something like that occurred, you would need to receive local and/or regional commercial broadcasts.

A simple AM/FM radio should be more than adequate to gather an overview of what happened, and what the problem is.

After that, I would be inclined to use a cheap Baofeng type radio to scan and listen to the local Amateur Radio repeaters to hear what they are saying. Probably around $25 on ebay, and well worth it.

Of course a scanner will let you hear the specifics of what is happening at that moment, which will add to the information you have gathered from the other 2 sources above.

I have all 3 of those ready for any unexpected event, and they are VERY useful. Hope that helps.
 

NSprepper

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Thanks for your reply.
I'm thinking that no one radio will do what I want it to do, and plan on having more than one rig to monitor chatter.

I'm really interested in listening in to law enforcement and military broadcasts, so would a scanner like the unidentified bct15x beartracker be able to receive the police and emergency here in Halifax, or, do I need something else?

The price is $250 on Amazon.ca, which is at the max top of my budget.

Let me ask, if there was an EMP attack, what radio would you guys check first??
 

mmckenna

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RCMP and local PD, Fire, etc up your way are all on a regional P25 digital system. You'll need a radio capable of P25 reception. That rules out anything but a suitable scanner, preferably one that can do the downloads based on your location. Trying to program it all in by hand would be very difficult and prone to mistakes.

There are other digital modes used in your area, so, you'd really need one of the higher end consumer scanners. In US Dollars, you're looking at the $500 range.

Other things you can try:
A basic scanner without digital would work for listening in on amateur operators on the local repeaters, but I've found they are often as much in the dark as anyone else. There may be some public safety on analog radio systems, but that is always something that can change.

Analog only radios are getting cheap because so many agencies are switching to regional digital trunked systems. Anyway, the Baofengs will already do VHF and UHF, and you could program those for receiving. External antennas really do help with reception, so if you don't hear anything, you may need to get something mounted outside your house.


If I was in your position,
You've got the CB, that's handy.
The shortwave radio with a better outdoor antenna can be really interesting to hear what's going on in the rest of the world.
A good scanner will let you listen to most of the other available radio traffic.

Other than that, getting your amateur radio license would let you use one of your existing radios and get on the local repeaters. That way you can ask if others know what's going on.

Check around on the feeds. Some people stream their scanner feeds on the internet. Not sure if there is anything in your area, but it would be an easy solution, as long as your power stayed on.
 

mmckenna

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Here you go:
Halifax County Nova Scotia Live Audio Feeds
Someone in the Halifax area has a scanner hooked up to their computer. You can listen online and see what you think.
This alone might serve you well, if you still think you need your own radio, this'll give you an idea of what you can hear.

In fact, I'm way over here on the other coast in California listening to the Halifax radio right now.
 

NSprepper

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RCMP and local PD, Fire, etc up your way are all on a regional P25 digital system. You'll need a radio capable of P25 reception. That rules out anything but a suitable scanner, preferably one that can do the downloads based on your location. Trying to program it all in by hand would be very difficult and prone to mistakes.

There are other digital modes used in your area, so, you'd really need one of the higher end consumer scanners. In US Dollars, you're looking at the $500 range.

Other things you can try:
A basic scanner without digital would work for listening in on amateur operators on the local repeaters, but I've found they are often as much in the dark as anyone else. There may be some public safety on analog radio systems, but that is always something that can change.

Analog only radios are getting cheap because so many agencies are switching to regional digital trunked systems. Anyway, the Baofengs will already do VHF and UHF, and you could program those for receiving. External antennas really do help with reception, so if you don't hear anything, you may need to get something mounted outside your house.


If I was in your position,
You've got the CB, that's handy.
The shortwave radio with a better outdoor antenna can be really interesting to hear what's going on in the rest of the world.
A good scanner will let you listen to most of the other available radio traffic.

Other than that, getting your amateur radio license would let you use one of your existing radios and get on the local repeaters. That way you can ask if others know what's going on.

Check around on the feeds. Some people stream their scanner feeds on the internet. Not sure if there is anything in your area, but it would be an easy solution, as long as your power stayed on.
Yeah, I was afraid it would be too expensive to get what I really want :)

So what it really boils down to is either a high end scanner capable of receiving the trunked communications, or, a better shortwave radio to listen in on non-local stuff.

So if I wanted to listen in on military and air traffic, do I still need a high end scanner, or is any of that stuff on the shortwave?

I know, I'm sorta all over the place on this, trying to even decide what I want to listen to, so thanks for helping sort me out :)
 

robertmac

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The way RCMP, EMS and Fire in Canada in a lot of locales are moving to encrypted comms., people wanting to be aware of what is going on in their area will be left in the dark [so to speak] which is very unfortunate and will increase the anxiety levels of already stressed people in times of disaster. And no, encrypted comms. cannot be monitored at all. There are a number of posts on prepping but I don't really look at them. As others have said CB may be an option depending on activity in your area. With the declining solar activity, day and night use of local CB should be good for the next approx. 5 years. After that with increasing solar activity, CB will largely be useless during the day light hours because of the noise from skip, but should be OK after sunset.
A good AM/FM crank radio is a primary must have. Or a battery operated one if you have lots of batteries.
GMRS/FRS may be useful for listening and transmitting in your local area of about 10 blocks.
Cellphone for Facebook or Twitter would be useful if you have a ready source of recharging it [solar panels, AGM batteries with solar power charge, etc.].
Some may disagree, but suggest you try for your Amateur Radio license and obtain a Basic with Honours passing of 80% or more. IF you have a mental injury or disability, there are options for an amateur radio license. Find a amateur radio club in your area, attend a meeting and see if someone there can help you in obtaining a license.
A Basic license will allow you to transmit on 50 MHz and up frequencies which are good for local comms. Basic with Honours gives you transmitting privileges on frequencies below 50 MHz which gives you options on better radios and antennas. Usually long distance communications open up with frequencies below 50 MHz but all bands depending on times of day and conditions will give you some local comms. as well. In going for a ham license, you will learn what antennas will work and how to use them correctly.
 

whsesupv

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The way RCMP, EMS and Fire in Canada in a lot of locales are moving to encrypted comms., people wanting to be aware of what is going on in their area will be left in the dark [so to speak] which is very unfortunate and will increase the anxiety levels of already stressed people in times of disaster. And no, encrypted comms. cannot be monitored at all. There are a number of posts on prepping but I don't really look at them. As others have said CB may be an option depending on activity in your area. With the declining solar activity, day and night use of local CB should be good for the next approx. 5 years. After that with increasing solar activity, CB will largely be useless during the day light hours because of the noise from skip, but should be OK after sunset.
A good AM/FM crank radio is a primary must have. Or a battery operated one if you have lots of batteries.
GMRS/FRS may be useful for listening and transmitting in your local area of about 10 blocks.
Cellphone for Facebook or Twitter would be useful if you have a ready source of recharging it [solar panels, AGM batteries with solar power charge, etc.].
Some may disagree, but suggest you try for your Amateur Radio license and obtain a Basic with Honours passing of 80% or more. IF you have a mental injury or disability, there are options for an amateur radio license. Find a amateur radio club in your area, attend a meeting and see if someone there can help you in obtaining a license.
A Basic license will allow you to transmit on 50 MHz and up frequencies which are good for local comms. Basic with Honours gives you transmitting privileges on frequencies below 50 MHz which gives you options on better radios and antennas. Usually long distance communications open up with frequencies below 50 MHz but all bands depending on times of day and conditions will give you some local comms. as well. In going for a ham license, you will learn what antennas will work and how to use them correctly.
Keep in mind if loss of power, you could end up with battery issues. Those cheap hand crank AM/FM radios are excellent in a pinch. Another issue is whether in a major crisis you would need to leave your home. A bug out bag can get heavy very quickly. A hand held Uniden BCD436HP, BCD325P2 or Whistler TRX-1 or Whistler WS-1088. Those 4 cover everything available in US and Canada my encryption.



Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G920A using Tapatalk
 

reedeb

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I own a Baofeng UV5R myself As a HAM I have the repeaters in my area in it as well as Dallas Fire and PD frequencies [not 800 encrypted yet, monitor use only BTW].. I also have the National Weather service frequency in my area in it as well as a local AM radio uplink. PLUS the FM radio receives quite well. I carry it with me everywhere and I do mean everywhere. it fits in my messenger bag very nice extra battery antenna and metal whip antenna as well. I would suggest trying to get your HAM license if you have troubles a good local HAM club MIGHT have someone there willing to sit down and help you.
 

NSprepper

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Thanks for your replies!

I've been thinking of getting my ham licence since about 1989, lol.

I've just never gotten around to it. At this point, I'm not sure what I know, and what I don't know anymore, I guess just checking out the exam questions would let me know where I'm at now that I've lost so much memory.

There was a time that I was designing, building and tuning push pull amplifiers with mrf454's and other higher power transistors just from memory, so maybe I know more than I think I do, haha.

I also was pretty deep into antenna design, I've always been a Tesla fan/geek.

Anyhow, as for the ham licence, maybe in time, but for now, I just wanted to figure out what is a good radio just to keep informed when the shtf, like I said, losing our power recently reminded me how complacent I've become.

If I was to get a SW radio, would you guys go with an old used vintage one, or a new one with bells and whistles??
 

jonwienke

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I'd suggest a Uniden BCD436HP scanner. Amazon has them for less than $400 in like-new condition (Amazon Warehouse Deals), or $420 new. It will monitor all the local broadcast FM, police, fire, and EMS traffic, and can also scan any local freqs used by the neighborhood watch, HAMs, etc. The only stuff it won't receive is encrypted.

It makes a fine base station operated indoors connected to an outdoor antenna, and can be operated in a vehicle if you have a vehicle-mounted scanner antenna. And of course it can be used on your belt walking around. It will run for about 8-10 hours on 3 AA rechargeable batteries, and if you get one of the large USB battery packs for recharging phones, you can run the scanner for days on battery power.

If you want to know what's going on in your area in an emergency, there's not a much better option.

For radios with transmit capability, that depends heavily on what your friends and associates have--people you'd trust in a SHTF situation--as well as distance you need to talk, local topography, etc. The Baofengs are a solid choice, but you and your associated need to program them with common freqs you can use without annoying the local authorities.

Walkie-talkies are good, but you'll also want vehicle-based radios and probably a base station set up as well, for additional range.
 

NSprepper

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Yeah, that radio is CDN$ 790.00 up here in Canada on amazon.ca, I saw it, salivated, the closed the page and turned away from it forever, lol.
It's just WAY outside my price range that's for sure.
Bummer :)

I have a pair of Baofeng UV-5R's, but I was very surprised at their very limited range, just a few KM's and they drop off dramatically.

I just ordered a few high gain antenna's from fleabay from China, hopefully that will improve the performance a bit over the stock antennas.
I've been using the FRS frequencies on those UV-5R's, as since I have no HAM license, I'm obviously not using the local repeaters, I guess other than monitoring, that's the only way I can use those radios for x-mitting.

Maybe I'll luck out and run into some kind hearted soul out there that will sell me a decent used scanner dirt cheap in my price range.

So, what about the SW radio recommendations?
Thanks!
:)
 

krokus

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Another option, for listening to P25 radio traffic is using cheap SDR dongles, coupled with the appropriate software. The dongles are around US $20, on Amazon, and at least two are needed. (To have it working smoothly.)

There are multiple threads on here about using these setups, and info in the Wiki.

Of course, this option requires having a computer functional.

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jonwienke

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I have a pair of Baofeng UV-5R's, but I was very surprised at their very limited range, just a few KM's and they drop off dramatically.

I just ordered a few high gain antenna's from fleabay from China, hopefully that will improve the performance a bit over the stock antennas.
High gain HT antennas are a bit like hen's teeth. A Nagoya 771 will work better than the stock ducky because it is not artificially shortened by being mostly loading coil, not because it has any real gain. It's just less inefficient overall.

That said, HT-to-HT gets iffy after a few KMs, unless you have an unobstructed line of sight between them (hilltop to hilltop). The best antenna won't help much unless it's high enough to clear surrounding topography and vegetation. If you want to use radios to communicate in an emergency, you should have at least one base station with an outdoor antenna on the tallest mast you can manage. Some vehicle -mounted radios with antennas mounted to the vehicle roof are also a good idea.

The most important thing is to have a plan that is coordinated between you and everyone you intend to interact with during an emergency--family, neighbors, friends, etc. Having all the cool toys is completely useless without a plan that covers what freqs you will use, a contact schedule, relocation contingencies, etc.
 

NSprepper

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High gain HT antennas are a bit like hen's teeth. A Nagoya 771 will work better than the stock ducky because it is not artificially shortened by being mostly loading coil, not because it has any real gain. It's just less inefficient overall.

That said, HT-to-HT gets iffy after a few KMs, unless you have an unobstructed line of sight between them (hilltop to hilltop). The best antenna won't help much unless it's high enough to clear surrounding topography and vegetation. If you want to use radios to communicate in an emergency, you should have at least one base station with an outdoor antenna on the tallest mast you can manage. Some vehicle -mounted radios with antennas mounted to the vehicle roof are also a good idea.

The most important thing is to have a plan that is coordinated between you and everyone you intend to interact with during an emergency--family, neighbors, friends, etc. Having all the cool toys is completely useless without a plan that covers what freqs you will use, a contact schedule, relocation contingencies, etc.
I actually just bought a couple Nagoya 771 and a couple Nagoya 701 antennas just to play around with to see what they would do.

That was the first thing I noticed when driving and testing out the UV-5R, as soon as I went a few KM's away and up over a hill, the signal dropped right off to nothing, and once I hit the peak of the hill on the way back I could get reception again.

I wasn't sure if it was an antenna gain issue or a line of sight issue, or both.

I guess I'm used to CB radios which I've been using since the 80's. On a good day I could get skip from Mexico or even Hawaii :)

I'd like to have a bug out plan, as well as a base station setup. I'm interested in both making sure I could communicate with family if we got separated i an emergency situation, and also being able to contact others who are in the same similar situation if the shtf.

Additionally, simply keeping informed about what's going on out there if we lose power and have no TV or radio broadcasts available is also desirable.

That said, I'm now realizing that I will need different radios for different things, but this all gets very expensive very fast when investing in gear, so I'm just trying to figure out what to focus on first.

Maybe I'll just get a decent antenna for my old TRC-433 base station, and also for my mobile Cobra18WX ST II.
I've been trying to find a decent mobile antenna to mount on my brand new Dodge Journey, but cannot seem to figue out which one to buy, because I'm not sure where to mount it without ruining the paint job with a mag-mount, or how to even run the coax from inside the vehicle to outside.

There are no mirrors or bumpers to mount a firestick on, and these through window antenna have crap range. What do do?

Oh, BTW krokus, I'm interested in listening in on all those things, but am trying first to focus on emergency preparedness, so what things do you think are important to be able to receive in an emergency?
:)
 

jonwienke

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UHF is unforgivingly line of sight. VHF is too, though slightly less so. CB will refract over hilltops and penetrate vegetation far better than either, at the cost of needing physically large antennas for decent performance. CB does not work well in a HT form factor for this reason.

On a vehicle, the undisputed champion of performance is a 1/4-wave whip mounted on the center of the roof, but a 2.5-meter whip on top of the vehicle is problematic if you use parking garages on a regular basis. A Wilson 1000 is a reasonable compromise; it's shorter, but does not perform as well. For a CB base station, you want a 5/8-wave ground plane antenna. They are a little over 5 meters tall, but you can talk 40-50 KM when the skip is quiet if you install it on a tall mast and tune it correctly.

The best vehicle antenna mount is a permanent NMO or UHF in the center of the roof (assuming the roof is metal). You need to drop the headliner to drill the hole and route the coax. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, have someone do it for you.
 
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