OFF-GRID HAM RADIO: Simple Emergency Communication When the Grid Goes Down


Off-Grid, Portable Emergency Ham Radio Rig: Showing you how to quickly deploy an Emergency Communication System that can send and receive communications across the globe, with very little power.

BIG ISLAND ARRL NEWS, 08 November 2016, 06:15 hrs, UTC, Post #35.

Source: OFF-GRID HAM RADIO: Simple Emergency Communication When the Grid Goes Down (

Author:  Robert Richardson.

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One of the central themes running through this website is maintaining communications during natural or human-made emergencies.  Despite the wonders of our digital age, the systems supporting local, state, and federal agencies are incredibly fragile.  For example, most cell phone, cable television, and public service communications were temporarily knocked out in West Hawaii Island Monday morning, 07 November 2016, when a tree limb fell and severed a fiber optic cable serving Kailua-Kona.  Radio amateurs in West Hawaii were standing by in case they were needed to relay emergency traffic for Hawaii County officials and public safety agencies. Fortunately, the damaged cable was repaired and service was restored late Monday afternoon.  ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) volunteers are trained to respond to such emergencies.  Had this disruption been caused by a hurricane, earthquake, or tsunami, restoration of communications services may have taken days or weeks.  Meanwhile amateur radio operators would be used to keep emergency  communications open until regular channels were opened.

Are you prepared to maintain communications “when the lights go out?” Do you have backup HF/VHF/UHF transceivers, portable antennas, and reserve power to operate during an emergency?  The time to plan for an emergency is now, given Hawaii’s recent experience with the 2016 hurricane season.

Your backup communications system needn’t be complex, expensive, or heavy.  In this article by survivalist Robert Richardson, we learn how to assemble a simple, inexpensive, and reliably portable/emergency ham station with materials readily available from your shack or the nearest hardware or building supply store.  Robert’s video is quite good and does an excellent job of showing what’s needed to prepare and equip a “go-kit” for emergency operations.

In Robert’s case, the station is simple and highly portable:

A solar charger and deep cycle batteries.

A portable HF transceiver such as the ICOM-703.

A simple “Slinky Dipole” antenna.

Regular household TV coaxial cable, such as RG-6.  With suitable connectors, this 75-ohm cable can be used as a low-cost antenna feedline.

An optional antenna transmatch (i.e. “tuner”).

Spare parts such as clamps, portable camp lanterns, and basic tools.

Robert also provides a list of helpful resources to help you assemble and build your emergency “go-kit.”

The video does a good job of showing how a simple amateur radio setup “can keep communications going even if the grid goes down.”  Robert’s portable ham station can be carried in a small crate and “deployed anywhere in the world.”

If you serve the Hawaii Island community as an ARES volunteer, you’ll need a fully functional and portable ham station that can be activated in a matter of minutes.  If the “Slinky Antenna” doesn’t appeal to your, make a 40-10 meter dipole fed by ladder line, tv twin lead, or homebrewed balanced line. Configure and erect your dipole as a NVIS (near vertical incident skywave) antenna approximately 17 feet/5.18 meters above ground.  This antenna will provide excellent coverage between 100 to 300 miles/162 to 486 kilometers.

My emergency ham station consists of an old Yaesu FT-7 QRP rig, a small MFJ “tuner”, 50 feet/15.24 meters of 450 ohm ladder line, a 4:1 current balun, a short length of RG-8X coax to connect the feedline and balun to my “tuner”, tools, a few wooden stakes, two 20-foot/6.09 meters long pvc pipes, and a homebrewed 40 meter dipole.  My power is supplied by two deep cycle marine batteries and a solar charger.  I’ve used this system for years, and it works very well.

Hopefully, Robert’s article will give you a few ideas on building a portable ham station for your use.

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Thanks for joining us today!

Aloha es 73 de:

Russell Roberts (KH6JRM)

ARRL Public Information Coordinator

Hawaii County, ARRL Pacific Section

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