Many times people ask “What frequencies should I listen to when SHTF?”
There isn’t a simple answer but some of the considerations are “Who do you want to talk to?” or “How far do you want to talk?”
For communicating with link-minded groups around the country I’d recommend the frequencies used by AmRRON. There will probably be a lot of “chatter” and if you are trying to contact a specific person you can probably “hide” in the traffic. It could be your initial contact and tell them to implement some other frequency plan you have pre-arranged.
Staying on one frequency for any length of time makes it easier for someone to find you, both physically as well as your communications. Having a matrix where you change frequency on a regular basis makes it more difficult to find you. This is easy for tactical comms, where you are trying to communication to a local group and it is usually line of sight (see article on tactical communications). It is more difficult with HF because the band conditions, and the usable frequencies, change during the day as the sun heats up the atmosphere.
Another influence on HF communications is the type of antenna you have. In post SHTF you want something that is not conspicuous, is easy to set up and take down and it going to be able work on the frequencies you want to use. Two of the easiest are a long wire with a tuner and a NVIS antenna (usually best on 40 and 80 meters). See the section on antennas for more information.
It is important that your communications plan has been developed prior to a level 1 condition (see article on preparedness conditions) AND that you have shared it in a secure way with the other members of your group that need it. One method is a frequency plan that varies by the day of the month, day of the week, or both. As mentioned above it also has to take into consideration the best frequency band for the time of day. Having a set time to communicate would partially determine the best frequency band, however it does make it more predictable. Varying the time of a ‘regular’ communication can help with some of the band considerations.
Create a matrix, spreadsheet, where across the top you have the day of the week. Continue that row with the band. Down the column under each day start a day of the month (1-31) BUT vary how far down the column you start, i.e., the first column starts with 1, the next column leaves a row or two blank before starting 1-31.
Once you have done that go across to the columns where you have the bands listed. Down each column you put a frequency. You can take the range of HF frequencies allocated to each band and divide the range into 31, one for each day of the week. You can put them in sequence, or random, down the column so you end up with a frequency for day day (1-31).
Remember, this is for SHTF communications, not regular “normal” communications as these frequencies have a ‘band-plan’ where some are used (by agreement) for digital, some for phone (voice), etc. and some are limited by the type of ham license you have.
This is why you need a ham license
You need to understand why a certain band ‘behaves’ the way it does at different times of the day. You need to understand what type of antenna is better for certain bands or under certain conditions, you need to be able to improvise antennas. These are not skills that you can read in a book and suddenly apply when SHTF. These are skills you need to practice, just like a firearm, lighting a fire, preparing a deer or other animal for cooking or packaging food for long term storage.
While voice communications sound like they are easy to do they can be challenging on HF and especially in poor conditions. Learning the skills, and having the equipment, to do digital communications will give you the ability to send and receive communications (“traffic”) even under the worst atmospheric conditions. This is where regular practice comes in, and especially on nets such as those done by AmRRON.
It is also a reason why you need to form or be part of a mutual assistance group. Find people who are skilled at specific things, share resources and learn from each other. Remember, the sum is always greater that the individual parts.
Being aware of events that might impact communications is also important. We talk about preparedness conditions, and having triggers that will cause you to take specific actions to increase your preparedness or readiness. Communications impacts are part of that. Events such as solar flares can impact communications, but also other events such as hurricanes, tornadoes as well as attacks on the infrastructure, both cyber and physical.
AmRRON monitors potential impacts to the communications infrastructure and has Communications Conditions, called AmCON, linked to actions. The current AmCON is: