How to Acquire Intelligence Post-SHTF

When the SHTF, information will become a very powerful commodity. Initially, the breaking news about the doomsday disaster will likely blare from the television screen, radio, the internet in general and social media platforms in particular. But, those high tech methods of communications so many people currently take for granted, will almost assuredly cease within possibly hours to days after the apocalyptic event began.

There really isn’t a single SHTF scenario that will not, sooner or later, impact or completely take down the power grid. Whether the disaster is natural or man-made, or even a pandemic, at some point, workers will be unable to too fearful, to return to their place of employment.

After the initial stages of the doomsday disaster, local news is going to probably become far more important and critical to your survival than national news. If we are in the midst of a Red Dawn type World War 3 scenario, you will want to know how the battle is going everywhere on American soil, but learning about hostilities occurring in or near your neck of the woods, will be an immediate and ongoing necessity.

Whether your are bugging in or bugging out, knowing what is going on around you should be a priority. The news you collect will guide you to making informed decisions that will impact both the immediate and long-term survival of your family or mutual assistance group.

If modern communications systems go down immediately after a SHTF scenario, a communications plan – and a low tech backup, should be practiced and in place. The odds of you and your loved ones being all together or at home when the apocalypse hits are at the very best, 50 percent.

Concerns about children, especially young children, being away from home at school for the bulk of each day has prompted a growing number of preppers to educate their offspring at home. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but some states have a multitude of obstacles parents seeking to take control of their childrens’ education, must hurdle before opening up a home classroom.

2 Meter and 10 Meter 2-Way Radios

Purchasing quality long-range 2-way radios will allow you to pick up the communications of others in your area, public alerts, (as long as they are still broadcasting) keep in touch with loved ones as they make their way to either your bugging in location or to a meeting point before journeying to the bu gout location.

The 2-way radios will also be extremely useful when monitoring the perimeter or your survival retreat and when part of the family or group is off-site to hunt, fish, or go scavenging. The radio must be stored properly in a Faraday cage to harden them against an EMP doomsday disaster and a multitude of batteries and/or chargers also stored properly and a means of re-charging the radios – solar generator, etc.

A private family or mutual group channels switching system and communications code should also be developed to keep your location and conversations as covert as possible when necessary. Once you garner a list of frequencies (both national and local are highly recommended) you should be able to hear all public services “traffic” – meaning communications, by police, firefighters, EMS, and emergency alerts filtered through a county law enforcement dispatch service.


The Family Radio Service was created in the mid-1990s. The same frequencies are now commonly used by retail stores and other commercial facilities or communication between workers. They radios are basically an upgraded walkie talkie and utilize channelized frequencies. Both General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and FRS radios use UHF, or high frequency channels.

Typically, models of both radios come with DCS CTSS squelch codes. The squelch function allows the user to eliminate unwanted traffic. Most FRS radios have a one-fourth to 1 and a half mile usage range. GMR radios can transmit a little further, but the surrounding terrain will impact their signal capabilities.

FRS and GMRS Frequencies

• Channels 1 through 7 are reserve for both GMRS and FRS radio transmissions.

• Channels 8 through 14 are designate FRS frequencies only.

• Channels 15 through 22 require a license issued by the FCC to utilize and are reserved exclusively for GMRS radios.

• Cellphones – The cellular phone system cannot be relied upon as a primary or sole means of communication during a SHTF disaster. We can all remember how jammed the system became after the 9/11 terror attack – even though the power grid was not impacted.

But, using the phones to attempt a phone call or a text message, should still be a part of the overall prepping communications plan. There are also several free apps that turn a cellphone into a decent short-range (about 2 to 3 miles) 2-way radio.

To ensure you can use your cellphones as a means of high tech communication as long as possible, store them in a small and portable Faraday cage when they are not in use, purchase extra charging cords, car adapter ends, and portable chargers – the type that can be powered either by batteries or via plugging into a USB port on a computer or charger adapter. The portable chargers should all be stored in a Faraday cage at home, the car, in a purse, briefcase, or backpack, and at work.

• Citizens Band (CB) Radios – These 1970s popular devices are still around and do not contain the same degree of sensitive components that modern 2-way radios and cellphones do. Still, they should be stored properly, along with repair parts, in a Faraday cage until needed.

• Weather Radios – NOAA broadcasts share both weather and emergency alerts. There are about 425 NOAA transmitters in the United States and our territories. NOAA operates on seven different frequencies and often use local HAM radio operators as weather spotters and to share early warning alerts during disasters.

Satellite Phones – These pricey pieces of modern communications technology will probably work longer than cellphones during a SHTF scenario, but would be damaged by a solar flare or EMP as well, if not stored properly in a Faraday cage.

• Drones – These popular toys for children and adults can now be purchased for anywhere between $50 to $500 – with models possessing a decent range, typically available for around $100 each. Expensive drones come equipped with a camera, but more affordable models have a carriage to hold a smart phone that can be used to view and record photos and videos via an app. Flying the drone away from your bug out location or prepping retreat will give you valuable insight about any approaching threats and general activity outside of your immediate vicinity.

HAM Radio – The network of HAM radio operators both around the country and the world, will likely offer the most valuable and in-depth intelligence concerning the broader scope and fallout of the SHTF disaster. The typical and nominally priced 5-watt HAM radio has the capability to transmit approximately 10 to 15 miles over relatively flat ground. When a HAM radio is operating using a communications repeater tower, its signal can sometimes travel halfway across the United States.

Operating a HAM radio requires training and a license – at least in a pre-SHTF world. Taking the time to garner the training will allow you to network with other operators and establish a friendly relations now that will hopefully translate into a reliable information relay resource after disaster strikes.

• Listening or Viewing Only Devices – “Bugs” placed in on your mailbox or other structure near a road could alert you to conversations by potential attackers. Trail cameras and home surveillance systems could also be your eyes and in some cases, even your ears, around the perimeter of your survival retreat.

CB Radios Operation Tips and Frequencies

• The “squelch” serves as the control mechanism for incoming communications. You can set the squelch to off when not in use to eliminate radio static noise. The squelch can also be set to constantly receive any frequency signals in range – or the strongest signals.
A CB radio can be used in either a vehicle or the home. Most radios come complete with a mounting bracket, microphone, and power cord.
An antenna is required for a citizens band radio to function. The better and bigger the antenna, the more likely you are to get access to strong signals.
• A SWR meter is also a necessary component for CB radio and is usually sold separately. The SWR meter allows you to properly adjust and tune the radio antenna. If you do not tune the antenna properly, you will not only receive poor performance, but could also damage the CB radio.
• Many varieties of citizens band radio models also boast a public address system mode. An external public address horn must be purchased and attached to the vehicle (or home) in order for the loud speaker function to work via a weatherproof speaker. For OPSEC reasons, you would not use a CB public address horn on any type of regular basis, but in an emergency situation you could use to reach neighbors and members of the family and mutual assistance group who are experiencing 2-way radio problems.

CB Channels Preppers Should Monitor

CB Channel Frequency Details

• Channel 3 26.985 MHz Prepper CB Network (AM)
• Channel 4 27.005 MHz American Pepper’s Network
• Channel 9 27.065 MHz REACT Channel for emergency citizens band radio usage
• Channel 13 27.115 MHz Boaters, RV fans, and campers often chat on this channel.
• Channel 14 27.125 MHz Federal Motor Coach Association channel
• Channel 15 27.135 MHz Popular with California truck drivers
• Channel 16 27.155 MHz ATV clubs often use this channel
• Channel 17 27.165 MHz Channel popular with truck drivers
• Channel 19 27.185 MHz Channels popular with truckers nationwide
• Channel 37 27.375 MHz Prepper 37 channel

Prepper Freeband and CB Radio Frequencies

• CB 3 (AM) 26.9850MHz Prepper Channel
• CB 36(USB) 27.3650MHz Survivalist Channel
• CB 37 (USB) 27.3750MHz Prepper CB Network – AM
• Freeband (USB) 27.3680MHz Survivalist Network
• Freeband (USB) 27.3780MHz Prepper Channel
• Freeband (USB) 27.4250MHz Survivalist Network

HAM Radio Shorthand

• QRL – This code has a dual purpose, to ask if the frequency is busy and also to alert others that the frequency is in use and not to interfere with the traffic at that time.
• QRM – The code is used to indicate there is interference from other radio signals.
• QRN – This code is used to indicate static is occurring on the frequency from either a natural or man-made source.
• QRO – A HAM radio operator uses this code to alert others to an increase in power or to request a power increase.
• QRP – An operator uses this code to request a decrease in power or to alert others to a power decrease.
• QRQ – A code to ask another user to share information more quickly.
• QRS – This code is used to request a slower exchange of information.
• QRT – A HAM radio operator uses this code to ask if someone has stopped transmitting information or to request they do so.
• QRU – This code is used as a both a question or response to about the availability of additional information.
• QRV – This code can mean either the user is ready for information to be sent or asking if the other uses is ready to receive information.
• QRX – This code requests another operator to standby.
• QRZ – This is a request for the operator sending information to identify themselves.
• QSL – This means the information sent was both received and understood.
• QSB – A HAM operator uses this code to notify others that the signal is fading.
• QST – This is the “all code” to alert HAM operators a message or alert is about to be sent.
• QSX – This is used to notify operators of a frequency change and is followed by the channel which will be used to share more information.
• QTH – A HAM operator uses this code as an alert before revealing a location or a request for another operator to share his or her location.

HAM Radio Frequencies Preppers Should Monitor


03845.0 LSB Gulf Coast West Hurricane
03862.5 LSB Mississippi Section Traffic
03865.0 LSB West Virginia Emergency
03872.5 LSB Mercury Amateur Radio – hurricane emergency channel
03873.0 LSB West Gulf ARES Emergency (primarily night usage)
03873.0 LSB Central Gulf Coast Hurricane Emergency
03910.0 LSB Central Texas Emergency
03915.0 LSB South Carolina SSB NTS
03923.0 LSB Mississippi and North Carolina Emergency
03925.0 LSB Central Gulf Coast Hurricane Emergency
03927.0 LSB North Carolina Emergency
03940.0 LSB Southern Florida Emergency
03944.0 LSB West Gulf Emergency
03950.0 LSB Hurricane Watch Northern Florida Emergency.
03955.0 LSB South Texas Emergency
03960.0 LSB North East Coast Hurricane
03965.0 LSB Alabama Emergency
03975.0 LSB Georgia and Texas Emergency
03993.5 LSB Gulf Coast Health and Welfare
03993.5 LSB South Carolina Emergency
07145.0 LSB Bermuda Emergency
07165.0 LSB Antigua/Antilles Emergency
07235.0 LSB Louisiana Emergency
07240.0 LSB Red Cross United States Gulf Coast Disaster, Texas Emergency
07242.0 LSB Southern Florida Emergency
07243.0 LSB Alabama Emergency and South Carolina Emergency
07245.0 LSB Southern Louisiana Emergency
07247.5 LSB Northern Florida Emergency
07248.0 LSB Texas Emergency
07250.0 LSB Texas Emergency
07254.0 LSB Northern Florida Emergency
07264.0 LSB Gulf Coast Health and Welfare
07265.0 LSB Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio
07273.0 LSB Texas Emergency
07275.0 LSB Georgia Emergency
07280.0 LSB NTS Region 5, Louisiana Emergency
07285.0 LSB Mississippi an Texas ARES Emergency
340.20 USB Navy Aviators Channel
07290.0 LSB Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi Emergency
14185.0 USB Caribbean Emergency
319.40 USB Air Force Channel
14222.0 USB Health and Welfare
138.225 USB FEMA Emergency Channel
14268.0 USB Amateur Radio Readiness Group
14275.0 USB Bermuda and International HAM Radio
14300.0 USB Intercontinental Traffic
409.625 USB United States Department of State national communication channel
14303.0 USB International Assistance
14313.0 USB Intercontinental Traffic and Maritime
14316.0 USB Health and Welfare
14320.0 USB Health and Welfare
14325.0 USB Hurricane Watch
34.96.0 USB Inter-agency communication channels for both state and local police departments
34.90.0 USB National Guard Emergency Frequency
14265.0 USB Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio
14340.0 USB Louisiana Emergency
168.55.0 USB Civilian agencies that work with the federal government emergency channel
243.00 USB Military aviation emergency channel
164.50.0 USB Department of Housing and Urban Development Channel

Radios, cellphones, and even the internet (satellites) all operate off of repeaters. The repeaters, which are basically massive antennas built into a tower, are designed to operate on generator power in the case of a blackout or other power grid down type emergency disaster.

If the apocalyptic event was due to a solar flare or man-made EMP attack, the power may never come back on – and quite possibly damaging the repeaters beyond repair. If the SHTF even had nothing to do with an EMP yet the power grid still failed, most high tech modes of communication would only remain operational while the generators supporting them kept on humming.

Low Tech Intelligence Acquisition Systems

Just like with all things prepping, extensive planning of a low tech communications system needs to occur, and be practiced so it will function properly during a SHTF and enhance the chances of survival. Going into pre-programmed mode without hesitation will require training, especially if dealing with children, but is necessary to avoid panic when typical lines of communication fail during a disaster situation.

Communication System Planning Tips

1. Each member of the family or mutual assistance group must learn what is expected of them during a doomsday disaster. Who do they contact, what methods should they use and in what order, and how long are they supposed to wait for a response before moving on, are just some of the questions your loved ones must know the answer to before being placed in harm’s way.

2. When and how to defy authority must also be addressed if you have school age children or grandchildren who are not educated at home. The odds of a school allowing a child to simply leave the building without an adult, even if an older sibling is walking with them, are slim to none. A child must know how long to wait for mom or dad to show up and how to alert parents that might be coming after they flee the school that they have left on their own and what route they are traveling to reach safety.

3. Rendezvous points might be compromised or unreachable. Each member of the family must know where a backup meeting point is located and how to leave a message for loved ones who will come behind that no one else will understand.

Low Tech Messaging Tips

• Spray Paint – Leaving messages, either using code words or symbols, can easily and quickly be accomplished by spraying paint onto a roadway, building, or other pre-determined or large landmark. Mini spray paint cans or paint pens are small enough to carry in a child’s backpack, men’s pocket, or woman’s purse.

• Colored Bandanas – This is a simply and light weight form of low tech and non-verbal method of communication. A color-coded key the family carries with them – or better yet, memorizes, can relay a simple message when tied to a tree, hidden under or by a landmark, or tied to a sign. Bandanas are cheap and can be purchased by color in bulk online. Colored bed linens can be cut into strips and used to communicate a message to loved ones as well.

Emergency Caches – PVC pipe filled with messaging material (pen and paper, colored bandanas, spray paint, etc.) and some basic survival supplies can be buried in a shallow trench along routes frequently traveled by the family members. Coded notes can be left inside the cache or in a pre-determined spot for loved ones who may be following or searching for a missing member of the family.

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5 thoughts on “How to Acquire Intelligence Post-SHTF”

  1. FYI
    There are several errors in the mode of transmission in the VHF frequencies (above 30 MHz) you have listed.

    All of the entries from 34mhz to 168 should be FM –as should the 409 MHz listing
    (most all VHF in the 30-50 MHz, 148-172 MHz, and 400+ MHz bands uses FM)

    I don’t know what the military 319/340 MHz freqs use, but I suspect it is also FM due to the characteristic of FM eliminating of a lot of atmospheric noise
    I also do know what mode the 243 MHz military aviation emergency freq uses, but its “civilian aircraft” equivalent –121.5 MHz uses AM. (all civilian aircraft in the 108 – 130+mhz VHF aircraft band use AM)

    Good list –you may want to consider adding the NOAA weather radio freqs (VHF in the 160’s), and the Marine HF and VHF emergency freqs — more good sources of “hard core grid down” info’


    The other “issue” I noted was that you recommend storing ones personal electronics in a Faraday Cage (a good point) for EMP protection, but in other parts of the text, you allude to the fact that repeaters/cell towers will still (likely) be operational.
    In a true EMP attack (not Carrington type), the radio relay sites will be knocked out also — either (or both) the actual radio equipment or their back-up generators — as most all of todays generators have electronic controls.
    So point-to-point communications need to be planned to be operational without relying on repeaters.

  2. Learn the technique of “Breaking Squelch” to send messages in Morse Code. Breaking Squelch conserves battery power, extends range and can transmit a message silently when voice communication would give away your position.
    Establish a code system and communications security protocols for all communications and follow it. “The enemy is always listening!”

  3. Take a further approach: 1. Place a small cheap AM/FM radio in the Faraday can with a list of frequencies for the local stations. While many of the ham radios can listen in on FM broadcast, you might be using the radio for other things.
    2. Get a ham license – you might not need it when the SHTF, but it will put you into the community and. . may hams are preppers.
    3. Go there, get the frequencies in use for your area – including law enforcement (dispatch), plug them into your radio.
    4. Low/no tech: I use a P.O. Box. . . there are three keys. If I need to leave a message for a loved one i.e. where I am bugging out to, etc I put it in the box. It is also fairly secure.
    5. Cell phones: learn to use them – texting often works when voice calls will not. Make a list of important numbers (cell) and keep a copy in your bug-out kit, the car, truck, everyday carry, etc. Do you know the phone number to all of your loved ones? ‘nough said.
    6. Learn other methods – as a ham, I can send emails by radio to areas where the internet is still working. That also means I can get emails by radio. . .
    7. Get a small, cheap (used), but still working laptop. . load it with various programs, books, info, etc that you may need to survive. If you are looking up a resource today on the internet, how are you going to find it when the internet goes down? Pull it out of the faraday can once a month to update it and recharge it. . then put it back in the can. Remember small is often better – not just because it fits in the can, but it may also use less power. .
    8. Find at least two ways to power your radios. . . .
    9. Develop other methods to gather information. As an example, I get basic news and information by satellite . . . with a small antenna. . . using very little power. . .it is one-way, meaning receive only, but it not tied to the local area or the internet. Another example: I know (or can find out) about almost any aircraft flying within 20 miles of my location.
    10. Old cell phone that still works? Delete all unneeded stuff off it put some non-internet dependent programs on it., and put it in the faraday can. You now have a back-up, small, reduced capability computer. Also, if the cell systems works, even a phone without a plan can call 911.
    11. Do some “war driving” learn where the free WiFi access points are. . . work your network – get the userIDs and passwords to use their WiFi access point. Assumption is that some may still have internet. . . .
    12. Network, network, network. . . I have a small network of local friends – most are hams, others are not. They are spread around the city and county in which I live – we all have radios – we also have a net plan, in other words, when to meet on the radio. Until the meeting time, the radios are turned off if not listening for something else. – saves batteries. The setup helps us get information from across the area – not just my neighborhood. I also have a small list of friends spread out across the country — all connected by radios with a communications plan.
    13. Everyone, including children get a radio. . . All set to a plan frequency, with a back-up. When Dad is down, and can’t call for help, maybe the child can. . .
    I have a wealth of information – some old, some new, some close-hold. Ask the webmaster to pass any request on to me. I am not selling anything, like you, I want to be prepared. . . I would love to write a complete post. . .

  4. Learn how to build your own radios and transmitters from old vave type tv sets and how to operate them. Simple regenerative style radiosand master power transmitters are easy to construct and if made using valves are emp, cm proof. Make them operable from a car battery with some sort of power supply, even 20 odd 9 vol batteries willwork well for a short time. Thats being prepared properly.

  5. For those using the Baofeng radios you need to know how to program them manually as you will be unable to use CHIRP with no internet access. I discovered this during a recent loss of the internet for a few days.


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