Tag Archives: SHTF

BOBs and INCHes and GHBs, oh my

“Everybody” knows about the “Bug Out Bag”, or BOB.  And many people use the term inaccurately.  There are actually several “flavors” of emergency kits which are not quite interchangeable; I attempted to differentiate between them here:




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Survival Communications

If you are stuck somewhere you cannot get out of, or are lost, or cannot move due to injury or illness, you want to be able to communicate with someone to come and help you.  Let us assume there is no one within earshot of your whistle, or line of sight of your strobe, flashlight or signal mirror, and a fire is either impractical or proves ineffective in alerting people to your situation.  What then?

You can rely on perhaps the most effective form of communication known – letting someone reliable know where you plan to be and when you plan to be back.  You are more likely to be found if people are looking for you than if nobody knows you are missing.  Of more immediate use would be some form of radio communication.  First choice would be a charged cell phone.  If your cell phone is one of those large screen wonders which gobble battery life, having a recharge with you would be wise.  Easiest would be an “external battery”, but a small solar charger or generator (cranked) would work.

But what if there is no cell tower within range of where you are (no bars)?  A cell phone would be pretty much useless in that case.  Unless it was a satellite phone; those tend to be rather pricey for most people.  Another option is two-way radios.  These do not depend on a “tower” which may not be in range or is not in service.  But they do have range limitations because for the most part, they are unit to unit.

Most common is FRS (Family Radio Service).  These are nice little radios, which are easy and cheap to find, and require no license.  There is a reason for this: they are limited to very low power, and a fixed, low efficiency antenna.  This means that under ideal conditions they may reach a few miles, but weather, terrain or surroundings can reduce the range to well under a mile.  If there is not a receiver in range, it is fairly useless.  Next up is GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service).  This is quite similar in frequency and modulation to FRS, but requires a (no-test) license (per family, not individual) every few years (the only requirement is that you can afford the fee).  These have a much higher power limit, and essentially no practical limit on the antenna.  These might reach out 20 miles or more under ideal conditions, and even under poor conditions usually reach out more than a mile.  Note that many modern FRS radios have GMRS power built in, so can be used for GMRS (with that limited antenna) if you have the license (or are willing to transmit illegally).  Of course, a dedicated GMRS unit with detachable antenna, and the most effective portable antenna there is, provides the best service.  At a higher cost, of course.

Several decades back, CB was all the rage.  There are probably more CBs out there than any other radio type – many of them gathering dust.  CB technology is highly susceptible to atmospheric conditions, and as such, has been somewhat supplanted by more modern technologies.  With a good radio, an illegal amplifier and the proper antenna, CB can reach out a fair distance.  Like most SW (shortwave) radio, it can be bounced off the ionosphere (skip) for astounding range at times.  Using a legal car mounted system, range varies from not much to a few miles.  You can get a portable CB walkie-talkie, which with a decent antenna can provide up to the same range.

Of course, there are police and business radios.  These are essentially limited to use by the organizations and personnel to whom they are licensed, and generally don’t provide any improvement over GMRS, which is similar in technology.  If you have legal access, fine; otherwise it is probably not worth the effort.

That leaves “ham” or amateur radios.  These fall into two categories, “short range” (line of sight) and “long range”.  You can get a technician license for short range UHF and VHF without learning Morse Code.  As mentioned, these are line of sight, up to 20 miles or so.  There is a network of repeaters which allow you access to the telephone system or “land line” communication between repeaters, giving you almost unlimited range – if there is a working repeater within range of your unit.  A more complex license, including Morse Code testing, gives you access to SW equipment which can reach around the world.  This pretty much requires a fixed location with power source and an antenna tower, so is essentially out of the question for a survival kit.

So what does this mean to the survivalist?  For everyday carry, a cell phone and possibly a recharge capability.  If you are part of a group, FRS or better, GMRS radios for everyone.  A CB in every vehicle.  If you are alone, a CB walkie-talkie.  In my bigger kits, I include a small, multi-band receiver for AM, FM and SW.

This should be adequate for survival kits.  What about if the SHTF?  What should the “prepper” consider?  First of all, one set of possible circumstances would be an “EMP”, which can “fry” electronic devices.  Even if there is no EMP, the infrastructure is unlikely to remain functional, at least temporarily, for any centralized communication system (cellular, internet, land line, any repeaters).  I keep some communications gear in grounded metal boxes (a Faraday cage) “just in case”.  Cell phones are most effective – if the cellular system is up.  I’ve got a couple  “dumb” phones backing up my everyday phone of the same model.  CB will likely become much more used, since many people have one in the garage or attic, so have at least one, vehicle based or walkie-talkie.  FRS are everywhere, so I’d have a couple in any case, and if I was part of a group, I’d have those or GMRS for everyone plus some spares.  I’m a technician class ham, so I have the short range gear, but I’m not counting on it for primary communications.  A good SW receiver is nice to get news from far away.  Because all these radios operate on different bands, a good scanner or built in scan function is useful.  Unless you want to be a ham now, it does not seem worthwhile to get the license or equipment just in case of a possible disaster.

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A comparison between ‘Survival’ and ‘Prepping’

‘Survival’ is simply staying alive until rescued or the short term emergency is resolved.  It’s term is hours to days, and a primary goal is to be found as soon as possible.  You do not expect a survival situation and it cannot be predicted, although certain conditions can increase the odds.  For instance, if you go hiking in the wilderness, your odds of getting lost or experiencing sudden weather shifts, or being injured without access to 911 are increased over sitting on your couch in front of the TV.  Thus signalling equipment is of great importance, and having much of your equipment being shiny and/or bright colors is important.  Your survival kit is an ‘insurance policy’.  You don’t want to tie up a significant percentage of your funds in it or have to do extensive maintenance, and you should be able to  carry it without any significant impact on your regular activities.

On the other hand, ‘Prepping’ for SHTF (fecal matter impacting the rotating ventilation device) or TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) is long term; weeks to years and is largely based on AVOIDING other people.  The ‘Rule of Threes’ can be amended by adding ‘3 seconds without preventing someone from murdering you or exposure to CBRN’.  Signalling equipment is greatly reduced in importance, while defensive and personal protective equipment becomes much more important and concealment is key.  Although these scenarios can occur unexpectedly due to external sources, often they are predictable if you have access to reliable news sources and common sense.  You are replacing your current lifestyle with one which is completely different, so it can be costly and can (and should be) an ongoing process.  And the quantity of stuff which will be useful pretty much exceeds what you can ‘carry on your back’, particularly under the conditions under which they become critical.  Disaster resistant transportation and/or residence, and having stuff ‘stashed’ in appropriate places are concepts to consider.  On the other hand, you want the ‘minimum requirements’  readily available in a practically transportable form; generally a reasonably sized and weighted backpack, for when you forced to go unexpected places on foot.  This is sometimes known as a ‘Bug Out Bag’, or ‘BOB’.

‘Medical’ equipment and techniques become more important than ‘First Aid’ thinking (which is based on the concept that additional medical treatment will be forthcoming).  Having resources which are renewable should be a focus.  For instance, it would be silly to have seeds in a ‘Survival’ kit, but not having some in your Prepping supplies might be a bad mistake.  A spare set of batteries might be adequate in your survival kit, but for long term power, you need solar/generator power sources and rechargeable batteries.  Hunting and fishing skills and supplies, particularly those which don’t attract attention, will be of great benefit.  Protection from chemicals, biological threats or radiation is likely to be of great importance, and personal hygiene should be a significant goal.

Although avoiding or protecting yourself from people who want to hurt you and/or take your stuff is a basic goal of Prepping, for the long term, a viable group can enhance your chances.  ‘Primitive’ skills and the ability to evaluate and interrelate with other people will help you choose and be desirable to and accepted by a good group.  Not only can a ‘community’ potentially survive better than a single person on their own, but can it can be a more enjoyable emotional environment as well.

As you can see, although both disciplines work to ensure that injuries are treated, exposure to the elements is minimized, and water and food are maintained at appropriate levels, the goals and time frames vary enough that these are actually different disciplines.  Although they will have items in common, a survival kit is only of some benefit for SHTF/TEOTWAWKI events, and Prepping supplies are unlikely to be available if you experience a short term survival event.


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