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Guest Post: Emergency Communications

Emergency Communications


            As I learned from working in the areas ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and several others, cell phones and land-line telephones are basically useless.  It became obvious very quickly that I could not call home from most areas due to the telephone lines and cell towers being “down” or busy.  Fortunately, I was prepared by having a 2-meter, a 10-meter (both now replaced with a HF/VHF/UHF all band radio), a Citizens Band (CB) radio, and a Uniden Bearcat Scanner which all were mounted in my truck!  The scanner allowed me to hear law enforcement and other agencies that were responding to and working the disaster.  The 2-Meter radio allowed me to contact local authorities and also to monitor rescue and recovery efforts and to plan which routes and areas to work in due to massive damage and debris everywhere.  The CB allowed me to contact truckers and their fantastic network of highway/roadway information! With the 10-Meter radio I was able to make contacts that could get in touch with my family which were several hundred miles away and safely at home!

 

 

I use frequencies from five (5) different areas of the radio spectrum to aid in my travels, for safety, obtaining information, and in communication with others.  The areas were:  NOAA Weather Radio, CB (both AM and SSB), FRS/GMRS, VHF Maritime, and most importantly Amateur Radio (Ham Radio).

 

 

You do not need a license to monitor or listen to any of the frequencies provided in this article. However, you will need a license to talk on some of the frequencies listed.  I will start with “free-talk” frequencies or the ones where no license is needed.

 

 

NOAA Weather Radio

            NOAA broadcasts are tailored to specific areas and give specific information to fit the needs of people in the listening area of each NOAA transmitter.  There are currently over 425 transmitters in theUnited States, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, andSaipan. Canadahas its own weather alert system and can be researched on the Internet.  Each transmitter covers a range of approximately 40 miles from the transmitter site.  Currently over 80% of the country is covered by NOAA broadcasts.  This 80% encompasses up to 95 % of the population!

 

 

In theUnited Statesmost NOAA broadcasts are heard 24-hours a day with the weather forecasts being updated as needed.  Special hazards and other warnings are broadcast as needed.  Broadcasts have evolved to a point where most weather radios have “Specific Area Message Encoding” or S.A.M.E. which allows the user to program only the areas they wish to monitor or hear affected by the broadcasts when receiving weather or other hazard warnings.

 

 

In times of severe weather in some areas, local Ham radio operators or Skyward Hams call in on specific radio frequencies and update the local NOAA office with weather reports from their location.  If monitoring the Sky Warn frequencies you will get advanced notice of any hazardous weather in your area!  NOAA operates on seven (7) frequencies outside of the normal AM/FM radio bands.  No licensing is required to own a NOAA Weather radio or to monitor their transmissions.  They are listed below:

 

Frequency

162.4000 MHz                                    162.4250 MHz

162.4500 MHz                                    162.4750 MHz

162.5000 MHz                                    162.5250 MHz

162.550 MHz

I monitor the NOAA frequencies with my Ham radio equipment and have gained very useful information in times of severe weather.  If you purchase a NOAA Weather Radio, these frequencies are pre-programmed allowing the end-user to turn it on and start receiving broadcasts!

 

 

Citizens Band Radio (CB)

            If you did not sleep through the entire 1970’s and 80’s you most likely have heard of and probably once owned or knew someone with a CB radio!  They gained immense popularity with the truckers and then with almost everyone else at some point in the past.  Since 1977 they all have 40-channels.  Some come with single-side band (SSB).  Others have the NOAA channels and some even have Blue Tooth capability.  The radios that have SSB supply 120 separate channels to use in your communication:  40 AM, 40 USB (upper side-band), and 40 LSB (lower side-band).

 

 

TheUnited StatesandCanadahave a tremendous amount of over-the-road truckers and most of them utilize CB radio!  When listening to or talking with them you will learn the location of weather hazards, mobile law enforcement, roadway obstructions, traffic jams, accidents, hazardous drivers, good food, rest areas, and much, much more!  (A lot of the older Hams cringe at the thought of CB radio, but the information and safety factors greatly outweigh their prejudices against the CB and its operators!  By the way, I’m an Amateur Extra Class Ham and a CB’er!)  CB’s utilizes specific channelized frequencies from 26.965 MHz to 27.405 MHz.  Truckers primarily use Channel 19 (27.1850 MHz) for their communications nation-wide with Channel 9 (27.0650 MHz) being the recognized Emergency Channel.  CB’s are used by many 4X4 clubs, hunting clubs, RVer’s, and boating clubs!  Currently you do not need a license to operate on any CB frequency in theUnited States.

 

 

The transmission range of a CB varies greatly with the type antenna, atmosphere, channel, number of other transmissions taking place, terrain, and solar activity.  Most mobile to mobile transmission will be between your location and up to 10 miles out.  Some periods may allow “skip” or “DX” to occur resulting in transmission over 100 miles and up to a thousand mile or more!  However, talking “skip” is illegal under the FCC rules for CB use.  Power is restricted to 4-watts on AM and 12-watts on SSB.  A CB frequency chart is below:

CB CHANNEL INFORMATION

CB Channel Frequency Frequency Use
Channel 1 26.965 MHz  
Channel 2 26.975 MHz  
Channel 3 26.985 MHz  
Channel 4 27.005 MHz Used by many 4X4 clubs.
Channel 5 27.015 MHz  
 

Channel 6 

27.025 MHz 

Many operators using illegal linears.Channel 727.035 MHz Channel 827.055 MHz Channel 9

Channel 10

 27.065 MHz

27.075 MHzUniversal C.B. Emergency / REACT Channel.Channel 1127.085 MHz Channel 12

Channel 1327.105 MHz

27.115 MHz 

Often used in some areas for marine & RV’s.Channel 1427.125 MHzFCMA (Federal Motor Coach Assoc) heard here   Channel 1527.135 MHzUsed by truckers in CA. 

Channel 16 

27.155 MHz 

Used by many 4X4 clubs.Channel 1727.165 MHzUsed by truckers on the east-west roads in CA.Channel 1827.175 MHz Channel 1927.185 MHzUnofficial main” Trucker” channelChannel 2027.205 MHz  

Channel 21 

27.215 MHz 

Used by truckers for N/S routes in CA and some other areas.Channel 2227.225 MHz Channel 2327.255 MHz Channel 2427.235 MHz Channel 2527.245 MHz  

Channel 26 

27.265 MHz Channel 2727.275 MHz Channel 2827.285 MHz Channel 2927.295 MHz Channel 3027.305 MHzChannels 30 and up are often used for SSB.Channel 3127.315 MHz Channel 3227.325 MHz Channel 3327.335 MHz Channel 3427.345 MHz Channel 3527.355 MHz  

Channel 36 

27.365 MHz 

Unofficial SSB calling channel, USB modeChannel 3727.375 MHz Channel 3827.385 MHzUnofficial SSB calling channel, LSB modeChannel 3927.395 MHz Channel 40  

Since I’m the only Ham radio operator in our family, we have a set CB channel and an alternate channel to meet on if an emergency or crisis arises!  It should be noted that even though there are 40 channels on the CB, only one is set aside for any group and that is Channel 9 (Emergency / React Channel) as mentioned above.  Anyone can talk on any other CB channel anytime, anywhere in theUnited Statesday or night!

 

 

FRS  / GMRS

                The FRS or Family Radio Service was adopted in 1996 for use by families.  Since then, many businesses use the FRS to aid in their daily communications.  The FRS utilizes improved walkie-talkies and is allotted frequencies that are channelized.   The FRS and GMRS use UHF or ultra-high frequency.  Many FRS / GMRS radios come with sub-audible squelch codes (CTCSS and DCS).  This allows the user to squelch out many undesirable transmissions and conserve battery life.

 

There are 22 FRS / GMRS channels.  Channels 1 – 7 are shared with the GMRS.  Channels 8 – 14 are for FRS only.  Channels 15 – 22 are for GMRS only.  It should be noted that the FRS does not require licensing where the GMRS requires an FCC license.  The FRS radios are restricted to ½ watt (500-milliwatts) and must have a fixed antenna.  The range of a typical FRS radio is typically ¼ mile out to approximately 1 ½ miles, sometimes maybe further depending upon the terrain and other factors.  GMRS radios may use up to 5-watts of power and offer better range.  A list of frequencies for the FRS / GMRS is below:

 

FRS/GMRS Frequencies

Channel

Use

Frequency (MHz)

 

Channel

Use

Frequency (MHz)

1

FRS/GMRS

462.5625

 

12

FRS

467.6625

2

FRS/GMRS

462.5875

 

13

FRS

467.6875

3

FRS/GMRS

462.6125

 

14

FRS

467.7125

4

FRS/GMRS

462.6375

 

15

GMRS

462.5500

5

FRS/GMRS

462.6625  

16

GMRS

462.5750

6

FRS/GMRS

462.6875  

17

GMRS

462.6000

7

FRS/GMRS

462.7125

 

18

GMRS

462.6250

8

FRS

467.5625

 

19

GMRS

462.6500

9

FRS

467.5875

 

20

GMRS

462.6750

10

FRS

467.6125

 

21

GMRS

462.7000

11

FRS

467.6375

 

22

GMRS

462.7250


Amateur (HAM) Radio

Amateur radio or Ham Radio licenses come in three classifications:  Technician (entry-level), General Class (mid-level), and Amateur Extra (an Advanced-level).  In recent years it was mandatory to learn CW or Morse Code to progress in each classification, however, now no code is required!

 

There are many Amateur Radio (Ham) frequencies allotted for Amateur use.  They are termed “bands.”  They start in HF (high frequency) at 160 meters (1.8000 – 2.0000 MHz) and continue through the radio spectrum to above 300 GHZ.  A listing of the bands is below:

 

160 Meters /    1.8000 – 2.0000 MHz             75/80 Meters / 3.5000 – 4.0000 MHz

60 Meters (6 channelized frequencies) / 5330.5 KHz – 5403.5 KHz

40 Meters / 7.0000 – 7.3000 MHz                  30 Meters / 10.0000 – 10.1500 MHz

20 Meters / 14.0000 – 14.3500 MHz              17 Meters / 18.0680 – 18.1680 MHZ

15 Meters / 21.0000 – 21.44500 MHz            12 Meters / 24.8900 – 24.9900 MHz

10 Meters / 28.0000 – 29.7000 MHz              6 Meters / 50.1000 – 54.0000 MHz

2 meters / 144.0000 – 148.0000 MHz                        1.25 Meters / 219.0000 – 225.0000 MHz

70 Centimeters (CM) / 420.0000 – 450.0000 MHz

and the following Microwave bands:

2300-2310 MHz, 2390-2450 MHz, 3300-3500 MHz, 5650-5925 MHz, 10.0-10.5 GHz, 24.0-24.25 GHz,

47.0-47.2 GHz, 76.0-81.0 GHz, 122.25-123.0 GHz, 134-141 GHz, 241-250 GHz, and all above 75 GHz.

 

The 2-Meter band or the VHF band is where all the local action usually takes place!  All across theUnited Statesand many other places, includingCanada, the Caribbean areas,Mexico, andPuerto Rico, there is a fantastic network of 2-Meter Repeaters and Amateur Radio clubs that are constantly on the air and are willing to help and relay messages and other information.  Hams on the 2-Meter band contact the local NOAA Weather office in times of severe weather giving updated from their areas to aid in broadcasting weather reports and will give aid to any in need!  This has come in very handy several times while working away from home and also in my home area!  The range of any 2-Meter radio will depend upon the radio output, antenna, repeater height, atmospheric conditions, and other factors.  I regularly talk through one of our local repeaters from as far away a 40 – 45 miles.  I have hit another local wide-area repeater from 52 miles away!

 

 

There are many thousands of 2-Meter repeaters in theUnited Statesalone!  Repeaters are also on the 6-Meter, 10-Meter, 70-CM, and other bands!  The websites below will give more information on the repeaters in your area:

 

www.arrl.org               www.artscipub.com/repeaters/           http://www.usrepeaters.com/

http://www.levinecentral.com/repeaters/google_mapping.php

 

The bands 160 – 10 Meters are referred to as the HF or High Frequency bands.  They are great when hurricanes hit theUnited Statesor when other long distance communication is required.  Many areas along theGulfCoastandAtlantic Oceanhave Hurricane Watch Nets and offer assistance in times of storms or other disasters.  Communications across the country and around the world are possible on some frequencies, with some being better in the daylight hours and some better at night.

 

 

Listed below are Amateur (Ham) HF emergency network frequencies that I monitor.  Also included are the Mode (Lower or Upper Sideband) and the areas of operation. These frequencies are usually in use during disasters in the immediate area designated. Some frequencies are listed more than once due to multiple areas using them.  A lot of information and advisory alerts can be gained from monitoring these frequencies.  However, most over the counter scanners will not receive these frequencies.  You will have to purchase a higher priced scanner or an Amateur HF radio to receive them.  Some frequently seen abbreviations are:

 

SSB –              Single Sideband

Wx  –               Weather

ARES –            Amateur Radio Emergency Service

RACES –         Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (affiliated with local EMO’s)

NTS  –             National Traffic System

altn –                Alternate frequency typically used for night time operations

AMATEUR HIGH-FREQUENCY EMERGENCY & HURRICANE NETS

 

FREQ MODE                         LOCATION

03808.0 LSB              CaribbeanWx

03815.0 LSB               Inter-island (continuous watch)

03845.0 LSB              GulfCoastWest Hurricane

03862.5 LSB              MississippiSection Traffic

03865.0 LSB              West VirginiaEmergency

03872.5 LSB               Mercury Amateur Radio Assoc ad hoc hurricane info net

03873.0 LSB               West Gulf ARES Emergency (night)

03873.0 LSB              CentralGulfCoastHurricane

03873.0 LSB               Louisiana ARES Emergency (night)

03873.0 LSB              MississippiARES Emergency

03910.0 LSB              Central TexasEmergency

03910.0 LSB              MississippiARES

03910.0 LSB              LouisianaTraffic

03915.0 LSB              South CarolinaSSB NTS

03923.0 LSB              MississippiARES

03923.0 LSB              North CarolinaARES Emergency (Tarheel)

03925.0 LSB              CentralGulfCoastHurricane

03925.0 LSB               Louisiana Emergency (altn)

03927.0 LSB               North Carolina ARES (health & welfare)

03935.0 LSB              CentralGulfCoastHurricane

03935.0 LSB               Louisiana ARES (health & welfare)

03935.0 LSB               Texas ARES (health & welfare)

03935.0 LSB               Mississippi ARES (health & welfare)

03935.0 LSB              AlabamaEmergency

03940.0 LSB              Southern FloridaEmergency

03944.0 LSB              WestGulfEmergency

03950.0 LSB               Hurricane Watch (Amateur-to-NationalHurricaneCenter) (altn)

03950.0 LSB              Northern FloridaEmergency

03955.0 LSB              South TexasEmergency

03960.0 LSB              North East CoastHurricane

03965.0 LSB               Alabama Emergency (altn)

03967.0 LSB               Gulf Coast (outgoing traffic)

03975.0 LSB               Georgia ARES

03975.0 LSB               Texas RACES (altn)

03993.5 LSB               Gulf Coast (health & welfare)

03993.5 LSB              South CarolinaARES/RACES Emergency

03995.0 LSB              GulfCoastWx

07145.0 LSB              Bermuda

07165.0 LSB               Antigua/Antilles Emergency and Weather

07165.0 LSB               Inter-island 40-meter (continuous watch)

07225.0 LSB              CentralGulfCoastHurricane

07232.0 LSB               North Carolina ARES Emergency (Tarheel) (altn)

07235.0 LSB              LouisianaEmergency

07235.0 LSB              CentralGulfCoastHurricane

07235.0 LSB              LouisianaEmergency

07240.0 LSB               American Red Cross USGulfCoastDisaster

07240.0 LSB              TexasEmergency

07242.0 LSB               Southern Florida ARES Emergency (altn)

07243.0 LSB              AlabamaEmergency

07243.0 LSB              South CarolinaEmergency

07245.0 LSB              Southern Louisiana

07247.5 LSB               Northern Florida ARES Emergency (altn)

07248.0 LSB               Texas RACES (pri)

07250.0 LSB              TexasEmergency

07254.0 LSB              Northern FloridaEmergency

07260.0 LSB              GulfCoastWest Hurricane

07264.0 LSB               Gulf Coast (health & welfare)

07265.0 LSB               Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio (SATERN) (altn)

07268.0 LSB              Bermuda

07268.0 LSB               Waterway

07273.0 LSB               Texas ARES (altn)

07275.0 LSB               Georgia ARES

07280.0 LSB               NTS Region 5

07280.0 LSB               Louisiana Emergency (altn)

07283.0 LSB               Gulf Coast (outgoing only)

07285.0 LSB               West Gulf ARES Emergency (day)

07285.0 LSB               Louisiana ARES Emergency (day)

07285.0 LSB              MississippiARES Emergency

07285.0 LSB               Texas ARES Emergency (day)

07290.0 LSB              CentralGulfCoastHurricane

07290.0 LSB              GulfCoastWx

07290.0 LSB               Louisiana ARES (health & welfare) (day)

07290.0 LSB               Texas ARES (health & welfare)

07290.0 LSB               Mississippi ARES (health & welfare)

07290.0 LSB               Traffic

14185.0 USB             CaribbeanEmergency

14222.0 USB              Health & Welfare

14245.0 USB              Health & Welfare

14265.0 USB              Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio (SATERN) (health & welfare)

14268.0 USB              Amateur Radio Readiness Group

14275.0 USB             Bermuda

14275.0 USB              International Amateur Radio

14300.0 USB              Intercontinental Traffic

14300.0 USB              MaritimeMobileService

14303.0 USB              International Assistance & Traffic

14313.0 USB              Intercontinental Traffic (altn)

14313.0 USB              Maritime Mobile Service (altn)

14316.0 USB              Health & Welfare

14320.0 USB              Health & Welfare

14325.0 USB              Hurricane Watch (Amateur-to-NationalHurricaneCenter)

14340.0 USB             Louisiana(1900)

21310.0 USB              Health & Welfare (Spanish)

28450.0 USB              Health & Welfare (Spanish)

 


MARITIME / U.S. VHF CHANNELS

            When traveling in the coastal areas and along navigable waterways I monitor the Maritime / US VHF Frequencies.  I have provided a frequency list here with two frequencies highlighted.  The highlighted frequencies are the Distress and Information channels for and from Mariners and the US Coast Guard.  It should be noted that to talk on these frequencies a license is required:

 

Channel Number

Ship Transmit MHz

Ship Receive MHz

Use

01A

156.050

156.050

Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only inNew Orleans/Lower Mississippiarea.

05A

156.250

156.250

Port Operations or VTS in theHouston,New OrleansandSeattleareas.

06

156.300

156.300

Intership Safety

07A

156.350

156.350

Commercial

08

156.400

156.400

Commercial (Intership only)

09

156.450

156.450

Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial.

10

156.500

156.500

Commercial

11

156.550

156.550

Commercial. VTS in selected areas.

12

156.600

156.600

Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.

13

156.650

156.650

Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters.

14

156.700

156.700

Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.

15

156.750

Environmental (Receive only). Used by Class C EPIRBs.

16

156.800

156.800

International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.

17

156.850

156.850

State & local govt maritime control

18A

156.900

156.900

Commercial

19A

156.950

156.950

Commercial

20

157.000

161.600

Port Operations (duplex)

20A

157.000

157.000

Port Operations

21A

157.050

157.050

U.S.Coast Guard only

22A

157.100

157.100

Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Broadcasts announced on channel 16.

23A

157.150

157.150

U.S.Coast Guard only

24

157.200

161.800

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

25

157.250

161.850

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

26

157.300

161.900

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

27

157.350

161.950

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

28

157.400

162.000

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

63A

156.175

156.175

Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only inNew Orleans/Lower Mississippiarea.

65A

156.275

156.275

Port Operations

66A

156.325

156.325

Port Operations

67

156.375

156.375

Commercial. Used for Bridge-to-bridge communications in lowerMississippi River. Intership only.

68

156.425

156.425

Non-Commercial

69

156.475

156.475

Non-Commercial

70

156.525

156.525

Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed)

71

156.575

156.575

Non-Commercial

72

156.625

156.625

Non-Commercial (Intership only)

73

156.675

156.675

Port Operations

74

156.725

156.725

Port Operations

77

156.875

156.875

Port Operations (Intership only)

78A

156.925

156.925

Non-Commercial

79A

156.975

156.975

Commercial. Non-Commercial inGreat Lakesonly

80A

157.025

157.025

Commercial. Non-Commercial inGreat Lakesonly

81A

157.075

157.075

U.S. Government only – Environmental protection operations.

82A

157.125

157.125

U.S.Government only

83A

157.175

157.175

U.S.Coast Guard only

84

157.225

161.825

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

85

157.275

161.875

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

86

157.325

161.925

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

87

157.375

157.375

Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)

88A

157.425

157.425

Commercial, Intership only.

AIS 1

161.975

161.975

Automatic Identification System (AIS)

AIS 2

162.025

162.025

Automatic Identification System (AIS)


Power

When transmitting on any radio equipment, transmitter power must be the minimum necessary to carry out the desired communications.  Different power limits are allowed on different bands.  Some Amateur bands allow up to 1500 Watts (PEP) while the FRS only allows ½ watt!

 


Other Frequencies

When monitoring the airwaves you will want to search the Internet for any frequencies in your area or areas of intended travel.  Some CB’s purchased at truck stops are called “import models” and have the capability to transmit and receive out of band (and are illegal to own and operate in theUnited States).  I scan the “out of band” CB frequencies with my scanner and have found some interesting conversations taking place from all over the US, Canada, Mexico, and areas in the Caribbean!  Since it is illegal to own or use out of band equipment I will leave the researching of frequencies to the individual users.

 


Conclusion

            There are a lot of different frequencies for everyday use, both talking and monitoring, in the times of disasters or other crisis, or just for fun.  Even if you do not choose to purchase or do not own any radio equipment, the frequencies provided in this article can be programmed into a scanner to give a “heads up” of what’s happening around you.  Frequencies for your local and area law enforcement can be found on the Internet.  Amateur (Ham) radio frequencies for you area can also be found on the Internet.

 

If interested in getting your Amateur (Ham) Radio license the following two websites offer great information and study guides (books and audio CD’s) can be purchased from them:

:

www.arrl.org   and      www.W5YI.com

            I personally used the Gordon West (WB6NOA) books and audio CD’s to assist in learning the rules, regulations, and necessary information needed to pass the exams!

 

            Remember, to talk on the Amateur or Ham bands, GMRS, and the VHF Maritime bands or frequencies, a license is needed.  Listening or monitoring any frequencies listed here is free!

 

            I look forward to hearing some of you on the air!

 

73’s,

 

Jim – KC5DOV

 

 ———————————————————————————————————————————————–

From Rourke……

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2 comments to Guest Post: Emergency Communications

  • Harry

    Great article – lot’s of good info.

    Isn’t the ‘s on the end of your 73 redundant? I thought the signal was already pluralized. Wouldn’t that be the same as saying “Best Regardses”?

    Anyway, good stuff – thanks for taking the time to put it together!

    Living close to our southern neighbor, I monitor OOB regularly.

    30

  • KC5DOV

    If anyone wants the CB frequency list or all the frequencies in the article, send me an e-mail and I will send them to you.

    KC5DOV@hotmail.com