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A Portable Shortwave Radio To Discover What Happened After SHTF

March 2, 2017, by Ken Jorgustin

Regarding a hypothetical nationwide ‘grid-down’ SHTF event while being 1000 miles away from home in your vehicle, I wrote,

My very first action would be to deeply asses the situation as best I can, because further decisions will hinge greatly on that assessment, so it better be right (or close to right).

β€œThis involves verifying the extent of the grid-down and other things that may have occurred as a result. One way will be to listen to AM radio (preferably at night due to MUCH better propagation beyond the local area). Some distant stations may still be on generator and broadcasting info regarding the situation. Finding someone with a portable shortwave receiver (or HAM radio) will reach out much further while discovering what has happened.”

A subsequent blog comment from ‘McGyver’ indicated that this is precisely what he did on the morning of the Northridge earthquake. He tuned in the nearest clear channel AM station, but their power fell back to 5kw from the normal 50kw on generator power. He noted that many AM stations operate under conditional FCC permit which requires them to scale back broadcast power between dusk and dawn, exactly to restrict enhanced nighttime signal propagation, so they don’t step on adjacent broadcasters.

He said, “SW (shortwave radio) is an excellent idea, especially at night due to ionospheric skip. Especially in the Internet age where BBC or VoA will have almost instant access to the news.”

Here’s what I do…

I ALWAYS carry the following portable shortwave radio with me on ALL trips that I go on.

Sony ICF-SW7600GR AM/FM/SW World Band Receiver with SSB Reception

I also bring along the following external shortwave antenna which simply clips on to the radio’s antenna:
Sangean ANT-60 Short Wave Antenna

If you are not that handy with the digital interface electronic tuner and are looking for a good old ‘knob’ to turn with an analog tuner, another portable shortwave radio choice is as follows:
Tecsun R-9012 AM/FM/SW 12 Band Receiver

Note: The radio above, although much less expensive and having far less features than the Sony listed above it, WILL work for basic information gathering on many shortwave bands (as well as AM/FM). Especially if you clip the external antenna to it. This radio is very compact too (about 3x5x1 inch).

Where do you tune the radio for information?

You might simply tune / scan the individual bands for ‘anything’. Or you might try to tune some specific stations that typically broadcast very high power (and no doubt have some serious generators to run their transmitters for a time…) such as various government shortwave broadcast stations. Although government shortwave radio stations are likely to contain an amount of propaganda, they will likely be a source of some good intel gathering during SHTF.

If you have a good shortwave radio like the Sony ICF-SW7600GR listed above, you will be able to pick up many HAM radio bands where you might possibly hear other HAM radio operators around the country who may be transmitting with battery power or alternative energy sources.

The point is, if you suddenly find yourself in a very deep SHTF situation such as ‘grid-down’ or other hypothetical high impact SHTF events, it is often best to first gather intelligence on what has actually happened, it’s extent, and the probable ramifications – before you make any other big decisions… and having access to a battery operated AM/FM/SW / HAM radio will open the doors for that opportunity.

Food for thought.