The preparedness community knows that if you go about prepping as a “lone wolf”, you will not stand a chance in a SHTF scenario. Therefore, you NEED to start building a community of friends and families. However, I can personally attest that building a preparedness community is a very difficult feat…
First, unless you have a locally based preparedness forum like our Cincinnati Survival / Preparedness Group, it’s difficult to find fellow preppers. You are hesitant to talk about prepping to others as it is still a fringe movement. You may face possible condemnation if the person you speak to dismisses your concerns.
Secondly, even if you find like-minded individuals and can start a dialogue, you need a common glue to hold the group together. In my opinion, aside from establishing good personal relationships, proximity and land are the key foundations in starting a community. If the group is spread out over large distances, you are less likely to get together and train. If you do not have a retreat location identified and it hits the fan, all your community members will be in disarray as there is no centralized meeting area. Even finding a centralized area is difficult as the person who owns the private land is putting A LOT of trust into the people that will be coming there.
If you’ve overcome the first two obstacles, you need to start prioritizing your group strategy.
Should your community start training out of the gate on bushcraft, hunting, fishing, firearms, etc.?
My opinion – absolutely not.
You can have all the best trained individuals in a variety of survival skill sets. However, this mean absolutely nothing unless you have a communication plan which will facilitate community organization in a time of panic.
-What are the details of the event and is everyone accounted for?
-Who is en-route to the retreat location and what is their status?
-Are there traveling obstacles that are found en-route to the retreat?
-Is a member in need of extraction?
There are multiple questions that will arise in a SHTF scenario, and they all need answers in order for everyone to reach the retreat safely. Once everyone is there, then I believe all the individual and team based skill sets become more relevant. NOTE: Individual survival skills will definitely help you in reaching the community retreat, however I’m speaking more towards community survival rather than individual.
Why do preppers put COMMs on the back burner?
Many preppers are “keyboard warriors”. It takes time and energy to get out in the field and practice survival skills. Communications is no different as you have to study over 300 questions for the Amateur Radio Technician Exam and take time out of your day to take the test. However, there is no excuse for pursuing your communication survival strategy! If you need a beginners guide on how to get in to radios, refer to my HAM/Amateur Radio 101 guide. You can get into HAM radio for under $60.00.
You’ve got the radio and the license…now what?
– Identify repeater tower frequencies AND simplex frequencies for communication. If a SHTF scenario happens, there may be a lot of traffic on the HAM repeaters and you may not be able to get a word in. Also, repeaters may not be available if they are damaged. With either simplex or repeater frequencies, you need all individuals in the community to perform testing for reception and transmission capability.
– Identify the communication plan. When will communication attempts be made? Top and bottom of each hour? Will one frequency take priority over another? If the priority frequency goes down, what is the default back-up frequency? The community needs to develop a Communication Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) with every member having a copy. This will outline step by step what the communication guidelines will be.
– What if you arrive to the retreat location and no one is there or it has been compromised? There are a variety of ways to leave secret messages for your group. It can be as simple as identifying a secret location where you will leave a paper message or cassette tape audio message. Or, you can get a little bit higher tech and have an Amateur Radio frequency activated voicemail. This is a simplex repeater with a specific frequency that when activated, will relay stored messages to the person who transmitted the signal (video below).
– Amateur radio is over public wavelengths. What about encryption? Encryption over Amateur Radio (HAM Radio) is illegal per the FCC. All voice communications must be encrypted and intelligible. However, in a SHTF scenario, all bets are off. Here’s two simple ways to conceal your communications:
1. Almost all HAM radios have the ability to monitor two frequencies. It’s called dual band monitoring or split frequency monitoring. Setting up your radio in this way will allow you to trasmit on one frequency, and then receive on a completely different frequency. This way, people trying to monitor your conversation will only hear it one-sided. You can even change these frequencies every quarter hour (per your SOP) to keep the enemy guessing.
2. Use bi-letter encryption using a simple table.
Stating “Rendezvous at Mike-Papa” is much more concealed than saying let’s meet at the main house. Have a simple 2X2 table and use the cross sections to conceal important information for transmission over the airways.
In the end, there’s much more to communication planning that just these steps. However, I hope this article instills “the need” to get working on your community COMMS plan!