Episode-1322- Steven Harris on Radio Preps for the Common Man — 102 Comments

  1. Funny, he was talking about pirating FM stations, I know of 2 places in Texas where for about 20 miles you can hear Alex Jones on a FM station with no commercials, both are near coal mines yes coal mines in Texas and I’m convinced it comes from inside those mine areas

  2. As Steve mentions, if you have access to any radio that requires a license (HAM, GMRS, etc) and there is an emergency where no other means of communication are available, it is explicitly legal for you to communicate on them for the duration of the emergency for purposes of emergency communication. This includes personal emergencies (breaking your leg when out hiking).

    As such, it wouldn’t hurt to order one of the $35 Baofeng UV-5r radios to have on hand, even if you don’t take the time to get licensed.

  3. Great show guys- just a few things I can add:

    Using a Baofeng or any other radio that has the ability to transmit as a scanner can be risky if you don’t program it correctly. Ask Jack said, they may tell you to “knock it off” if you are causing interference- or they may not be so nice, especially if they have had problems before with people interfering with them. And with the explosion of cheap radios with wide open transmit, this is becoming a much bigger problem (and radio salesmen are using this to push more and more agencies into trunking systems as well, Baofeng is the best salesman Motorola ever had for trunking systems).

    Anyway, if you just program the radio with the frequency you want to scan you will have it set to transmit on that frequency as well. This means you can quite easily by accident transmit on that frequency, drawing undo attention to yourself, breaking federal and in most states state laws, and in a disaster interfering at a time when they are the most busy. It could be you put the radio on a belt and push PTT when you sit down, it could be you accidentally get it set on VOX and end up broadcasting your entire phone call or conversation, or it could be a child picks it up and starts to play. I have seen all these happen. Yes departments should have PL set up, but many don’t on receive and even if they do you can still cause problems transmitting on their repeater output.

    So, if using a Baofeng or other radio you need to make sure you have it programmed properly to ensure you don’t do this. This is best done using the software, the Chirp software is free and works well. When you program for scan if you are using a good radio it will allow you to set it for transmit inhibit, or if it is a cheap radio where they too shortcuts (like the Baofengs) you need to either set it to transmit on a harmless freq (for example on VHF set it for a MURS freq, for UHF set to an FRS freq) or program a repeater offset that takes it way out of the radios range.

    A few extra minutes setting it up right will keep you from possibly interfering and becoming a problem in a disaster, and also possibly keep you out of legal trouble. I would hate to see any TSP listeners get into hot water, and it is happening more and more often.

    Also, Steve said that FRS and GMRS radio can’t have removable antennas. This is only partially true- the rule exists for FRS, but not for GMRS. The bubble pack toy radios that combine both must adhere to FRS rules, but GMRS allows for a lot more. You can use real commercial grade radios, mobile and base radios up to 50 watts, and even have repeaters on GMRS. I have a GMRS repeater, 5 35w mobiles and 12 5w handhelds all sitting in my shed, I have less than $600 in the whole setup since I bought police surplus stuff and just reprogrammed it. GMRS allows for far more than just the little bubble pack radios, and in fact the FCC allowing the sale of those has really given most people the wrong idea about what GMRS is. If you have a group that doesn’t want to do the work to get a ham license you could all get GMRS licenses (no test, just a form) and run 50w base radios at home and in your car and even have a repeater- you can essentially have the equivalent of a police department basic radio system.

    • Good point, Tim.

      I didn’t hear Steve mention it, but there’s a lot more to these Baofeng radios. He hinted at this with them being able to listen to repeaters, but it gets better. These radios also cover not only Ham and emergency frequncies but also FRS, GMRS, and MURS. Again there are legality issues transmitting on these frequencies, but rules change during an emergency.

      One other side benefit… it has a single LED flashlight.

      This radio is a win.

      • Okay, I posted this 30 seconds before Steve mentioned using for FRS and GMRS. This is a great radio. They are also very small. I keep one in my coat pocket.

  4. Steve, a small correction to
    You say, “Ham radio operators are issued call signs by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and we operate under the Part 15 rules.”

    Actually, we operate under Part 97 of the FCC rules (Title 47 of the US Code).

    Thanks for educating people on radio, which is one of my lifelong passions.

  5. One thing about scanner apps like 5.0 radio- they depend on more than just the cell network, so don’t assume they will work just because your phone has a signal.

    The way those apps work is the data comes from somebody providing a feed. I did it for a while, what it takes is a scanner hooked to a computer that is hooked to the internet to feed the servers, then they send it to your phone.

    So in order for that feed to stay up in a disaster that person providing the feed will need to have power to keep the scanner and computer working, plus a working internet connection. If they lose power or internet at the location of the feed, your app will have nothing.

    Some feed providers are really good about keeping them up, some not as much and don’t have backup power pr even. UPS, so one power flicker and the feed is gone until they reboot everything. And they are all still at the mercy of their ISP to upload, and the data usage means it it always cable or DSL.

  6. I’m half-way through today’s podcast, and I’m loving it but I used to be a professional entertainer so I’m totally disappointed that the history segment was dumped for time. (It was justifiable but hey! It’s ME! :-)) Therefore I feel compelled to tell you that you missed a really great history segment. Check it out at the TSP Wiki. You can find the link above labelled as: “The Year 1322”.

    Practicing without a License and Too Well — Jacoba is practicing medicine without a license but that is not the real problem. The REAL problem is that she is REAL competition.

    A Merciful Death — The Earl of Lancaster loses his head… and his bones… as the Despenser War comes to an end. His bones will be found in a box at an auction house many years later.

    The Templar Curse Continues — King Philip the Tall of France is dead and Charles IV will take his place and die young too. The curse of the Grand Templar rolls on.

  7. Great show!
    Steve, I have been thinking of buying the baofeng UV-8r. It’s their new one on amazon. From my limited research, it seems it has better ergonomics and a better speaker. Do you know if this radio is better than the 5r? Thanks

  8. Great show Mr Harris. As a Motorola Radio Tech, I agree with you priority list. I wouldnt go buying a digital trunking scanner because more than likely if a municipality has the money for that system, they probably already have/will have encryption on that channel. And unless you have a P25 capable scanner/radio with the encryption key you won’t be hearing much. A tip: if your looking for an inexpensive quality scanner, you could try going to a local radio shop and ask them if they have any used-narrowband capable radios. They just might have old stuff they took on trade. For a small amount they would probably program the radios with all the perniant channels of your area…just ask them to make all the channels RX only.

      • Renegade & Tim, I agree with you both. P25 encryption is not common in the rural South, either. Atlanta uses it, I’m told, but the rural areas are still using narrowband FM.

        • Most places in NC that are going P25 are just piggybacking on the states VIPER system since that infrastructure is already there and expanding it is easier than buying new. Very few are bothering with encryption aside from SWAT and surveillance stuff.

          A lot of agencies that have the capability to encrypt still don’t. First reason is it makes managing your radio system more labor intensive, second is that it hinders interoperability when neighboring agencies can’t listen in and communicate ( unless they paid Mother /\/\ more for encryption and you keep all of them updated on keys, more hassle for your agency and theirs). Lots of agencies are discovering what the salesman promised wasn’t always the way it is.

        • Tim and Backwoods,

          You are both correct. Up here in northern VT, we only service a couple of PD’s with encryption, and even then, they have multiple other open channels. I can’t think of any FIRE/EMS agencies that operate encrypted.

          My thought though was that if I was going to spend >$400 I’d want to make sure I have a decent usable life span on my equipment. NOTE: I don’t have any experience with these types of scanners…I have XTL’s and APX’s to play with. LOL

  9. I listened to the show. I am Amateur Radio operator, ARES/RACES operator, and previous Emergency Management Coordinator for my home’s township.

    Yes the Baofeng radio is a great radio. And yes, it is illegal to transmit out of legal frequencies. I can’t emphasize enough… DO NOT TRANSMIT on some random open frequency. I know it is technically illegal to use these radios on FRS, GMRS, MURS frequencies… but please go there instead of some other random location. Just dialing up an open frequency for you and your community could be very bad.

    What sounds like an open frequency with nothing but static could be an important telemetry frequency. There are many digital controls that transmit at very low power, that you may not be able to hear but the output of your radio could interfere. There are medical devices, satellites, air traffic control and many other important frequencies that are virtually undetected. If you want to find an open frequency, be sure to research what is using those frequencies.

    Here is alink to the FCC’s frequency allocation table for reference:

  10. This was an awesome episode, learned a lot but I wanted to add a few things.

    First, during hurricane Sandy, it’s true that most of the cell towers stayed up but they weren’t in a state that I’d rely on. Often times I’d have a signal but couldn’t do anything with the tower. Calls usually went through but sometimes it took a couple tries. I think they were probably operating at a reduced capacity coupled with the traffic they were seeing, the data connection from them was sometimes slow to the point of unusable. SMS messages would usually get through but sometimes with a significant delay. It’s what really prompted me to look into getting a ham radio.

    I also can’t stress the importance of a little am/fm radio. During Sandy it was a great way to get the news. We had a generator but the few times I powered up the tv, the news was less than what we were able to get on the radio. So personally, I’d probably put the portable tv lower on the priority list.

    I love the info on the flight radio, such a great idea!

  11. Once again, Jack and Steve batted it out of the park. Good job, I sure learned a lot.

    Steve, I’m going to recommend one more AM/FM/SW for your page: Kaito 321, $19 on Amazon at the moment. It is pocket sized and it works great, especially for nighttime AM DX. It’s an affordable backup, and just the right price and cool-factor for an offbeat Christmas present.

    Thanks again for a great show.

  12. Jack– that was an excellent piece of reasoning you made in deciding that the volume was the largest contributing factor to the power drain of an AM/FM or shortwave radio.

    As a radio engineer and designer, I applaud you.

    And this show was informative to me, even though I have been a ham operator since I was 14 (late 40’s now).

  13. Good stuff from Steve as usual. My oldest is currently studying for his ham license and your discussion is appreciated.

    But, if you aren’t that interested in what Steve has to say, and you are at home for the night, try playing the * drinking game. He says * at least 18 times in his first 22 minutes. Let me know how it turns out.

    • I know of at least 6 people who have their licenses because of the low entry price with these radios. We’ll be running a test session in June for at least 14 more; again, because of the low entry price to get into the hobby.

  14. Great Show!

    One thing that probably needs emphasized for the audience. Steven mentions the Baofeng UV-5R families will receive frequencies used by most Police/Fire scanner frequencies. This is true, however, check your locale before relying on that as most likely it won’t help you.

    While the Baofeng can listen to that frequency spectrum, you’ll only have luck if your Police/Fire are on simple, older technology. It won’t be able to follow dispatch conversations or get anything useful if your local Police/Fire uses trunking or other capabilities. The Baofeng can’t track trunking. That’s when you need the more expensive scanners Steven recommends. So check ahead of time to see if a UV-5R will do that job for you.

    Otherwise, great radio and I own two (along with other much more expensive Ham gear).

    • It seems that quite often both the new digital trunked and older FM radios are being used. Locally we use both the state wide MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio System) and the older VHF FM radios, depending generally on the agencies involved and the distances being covered.

  15. Another option to watching TV at home without rabbit ears:

    With satellite TV providers like Directv or Dish, as long as you have a way to power your devices and your dish is still on the roof, you can watch TV. You just need to make sure that you can get power to your TV, and in some instances the adapters that send power to the dish.

    This is a great solution when you are in a disaster that may disrupt local broadcast(s) and/or you want to see more than what you can get via your rabbit ears.

  16. Thank you Steven for yet another information packed podcast. One of my other fetishes (feti?) , other than flashlights, is radios. I have fond memories back in the 80’s with my Radio Shack SW60. I bought it in 1984 and it finally bit the dust in 2004 or so. The volume knob got too ‘crackley’, I sprayed it with WD40 and it would work for a while then start again, then the tuning knob went on it. It had amazing AM reception. Fond memories indeed. I will scour the, time to get back into some late night radio. I get all the New York ABC,NBC,CBS stations up here in Prince Edward Island. And that BaoFeng unit looks real like the ideal ticket for me. Single guy in the woods with lots of time on my hands

  17. Not implying he BaoFeng is an AM radio, I need to get another good multipurpose unit in addition to the BaoFeng

  18. I think a disclaimer is in order. Please realize that Steve Harris makes money when you go through one of the links on his sites. He’s perfectly entitled to do this. He offers a lot of info for free. Realize that there re cheaper places to buy the same products he gives links to.

    I just bought the 9″ version of the portable TV from for $25 less than the 7″ version he has links to, shipping and sales tax included.

    Just shop around.

    • I think no disclaimer is needed. I think Steve is clear about Amazon and his relationship, and he says almost as often as he says 1234, if you can get what I recommend elsewhere for less, go for it.

    • yeah.. if you can get it cheaper elsewhere, go ahead. The TV is a special case, its just not available anymore that I can find. Also, my main reason I have all the stuff up on the 1234 websitse is so you can see it, I’m not just throwing you to the wilds of the internet. Its really hard to beat the 2 day shipping on amazon, along with the 30 day money back guarantee and the rating system they have for stuff. Also, I own most everything on the 1234 websites. Physically own it, its not just me shoveling stuff up there for a few % of the sales from Amazon, and then there is the time involved. Those comments on the items are my comment, my experience with the items and I give you the pros and cons and how it works with everything else… any idea how long it takes me to write the comments for all those items and to make the webpage ?? Long time.


    • I just went and found the

      Azend Azend Group Envizen Digital ED8850B Duo Box Pro 7-Inch Handheld Digital TV/DVD Player with Built-in Tuner, Carrying Case

      at Sears… its $273 !!!


  19. The 5.1 earthquake we had here in southern california last night was perfect timing with me listening to this podcast. Tmobile went down for about 20 minutes and I could only communicate with my wife via Facebook. Another reminder to have a plan when a much larger quake will hit. Fortunately, all damage was minor in some isolated areas, but a much larger shake will be huge problem with an ever larger population since the last one in 1994 (Northridge). Being from the south and only lived here in California since 2003 I’m preparing for the worst shake to come.

  20. I’m now sold on buying a Baofeng. I’ve wanting to jump into Ham for a while, but time and money have always been directed at more pressing hobbies/preps. For that price and with that many capabilities, it’s stupid to not have one.

    BTW, while Googling I found this site with a lot of excellent info on the Baofeng, including a users manual written by American radio operators called “The Chinese Radio Documentation Project”

  21. I think with all the pushing the Baofeng radios have been getting(not just here, but everywhere in the prepper community), some reality needs to be cast on them as well- a $40 Chinese radio is a $40 Chinese radio, and you get what you pay for, and folks need ot know there are issues.

    There are a LOT of issues and problems with the Baofeng, that people tend to overlook or ignore due to the price point. I am working on a full T&E and article about them, but here are a few highlights so people don’t go in full bore thinking these are radios with no problems that somebody managed to make and sell for $38 when the closest supposedly comparable radio is about $140.

    The stock antennas are really junk. Most stock rubber duck antennas have aroudn -4 to -5db gain, already a compromise for size. The extra cheap antennas on the Baofeng have been tested to be about -8db. That means your effective radiated power is about .733 watts for the 3.8 watt radio. You can buy a better antenna, but then the cost advantage gets a little worse.

    The radio uses a plastic case instead of metal. This is easier to break.

    Many radios have been shipped without the hole for the antenna drilled in the case.

    The stock microphones are poor quality and have really poor pickup (not all, but a lot, the poor QC means that the quality swings wildly). On some the FAQ pages they say this is because these are supposed to be “professional” radios that operate in noisy environments. This is a bullshit answer, I have owned and used many real professional radios and they don’t use crappy microphone elements to minimize background noise. You can do better with a speaker mic, but once again if you are buying more to make it work like it should your cost advantage is going away.

    The poor quality LCD screens will blank out when the radio gets hot after extended transmit use. Baofeng and their distributors say this is “normal”, but once again it is not. It happens because they used the cheapest LCD available and the radio has very inadequate heat sink. The plastic case aggravates this as a metal case would serve as a heat sink instead of an insulating case holding heat in. This heat issue points to a further problem, internal temps that high from extended transmit use mean you final output transistors are having their life shortened.

    The radio is very, very susceptible to water damage. Don’t take it out in even a mild rain. Most radios that are not sold as “waterproof” still take basic measures to get some degree of water resistance. Typical are o-ring seals on knobs, a basic seal on the case and a flexible membrane behind the keys between them and the inside of the radio. The Baofengs I have taken apart have none of this, and as a result I have seen, and reports are common, lots of water damage from radios that were just on a belt in a light rain. This one flaw is perhaps the biggest from a prep standpoint, a prep radio should be durable enough to last. It really shows how many corners they cut to make this radio as cheaply as possible. You can buy a waterproof bag to sue it in, but that makes using it unwieldy and once again chips away at the cost advantage.

    Factory support? Warranty? Forget about it. After your 30 day Amazon warranty is up, there is supposed to be a warranty but good luck. The various US based distributors supposedly offer one, but people have spotty luck at best.

    For use as a scanner, the Baofeng has a few issues. It scans very slowly, a compromise I can deal with. But is has some serious issues with CTCSS tones and scanning. If you have a receive CTCSS tone of 136.5 or below, the radio will skip that channel when scanning always- a known bug they don’t ever fix despite numerous firmware changes (another issue). You can just scan without tone squelch, but for folks in a more crowded area this might not be desirable due to adjacent stations or intermod.

    On the subject of CTCSS, they have some pretty serious flaws with the DCS/DPL implementation as well. I need to test more, but based on use on a local GMRS repeater they will intermittently not decode and the person won’t hear an audio. I think it is related to how the DPL is processed when multiple people are using it quickly, but I need to test more. So for use on anything that uses DCS/DPL, including talking to FRS/GMRS radios using it, this is an issue.

    The power supply that ships with the desk charger is a switching power supply instead of the usual transformer one, to save cost. This is ok, except the one they use is of course cheap and poorly filtered. This means when you put the radio into the charger the receive sensitivity drops, an issue for a scanner or a radio you want to have on to allow folks to get in touch with you 24/7. You can buy a better power supply and use the desk charger base with it, but once again you eat away at that cost advantage.

    Also most similar ham radios have a port for external power, usually 12v, to allow battery charging and powering without a drop in charger, these do not. So with most radios you can wire them right into a vehicle or battery bank and the 12v will charge them as well as power them. You can’t with the Baofeng, you must carry that desk charger with you to charge on the road, and to power it from 12v you must have a battery eliminator- buying that once again eats into the cost advantage.

    Those are some highlights, but bottom line is a $40 Chinese radio is a $40 Chinese radio and folks should know it isn’t the be-all end all of VHF/UHF radios but really is a bottom dollar, bottom quality radio. If its all somebody can budget for it certainly is better than no radio, but people should be aware of all the shortcomings so they can weigh the options. A Yeasu FT-60R can be had as low as $140 every day, $120 if you catch it on sale. With one quick mod (removing a resistor) it will transmit on as broad a range as the Baofeng, has a real rugged water resistant metal case, has a 12v power jack built in, better antenna, none of the quirks or issues of the Baofeng, and has factory support and a real warranty- and you can take it in the rain! So for those whose budget allows a little more (not much if you spend the $$ to buy everything you have to on the Baofeng to make it as close as it can come) that should be listed as another great option. Or a Kenwood TH-F6A is a cool little radio that has the bonus feature of having a very extended recieve range- so it serves also as your little AM/FM radio and as a shortwave radio, 3 of the priorities in one. Yeah it isn’t the best SW receiver, but works and it is also not adding any weight at all to your kit….

    There are a lot of option out there other than the Baofeng, all of them better in virtually every way but cost, so folks need to do some research before making the plunge.

    • Tim,
      Thank you. I am a Ham (no-code tech from 15 yrs ago, so part of the unwashed masses for sure, but still a ham!) and was wondering about just the question you answered about a more rugged radio.
      Do you recommend the Kenwood over the Yaesu for that reason? (is it unlockable and otherwise just as capable?)
      Hoping to get into HF soon when the projects on the homestead cool down.
      Again, thanks. Also appreciate the good merchandise I’ve ordered from your business…

      • Tim,
        I just was reading on the net about the FT-60R and mostly came across angry rants from the Ham police about how OOB mods are against mom and apple pie… Or at least transmitting with bandwidth that is too wide.
        Do you have any good links or references for those of us wanting to buy good solid radios that would allow us a wider transmit band when appropriate?

        • Tim,
          Thanks for the thorough answer! I’m looking through the specs on the TF-F6A and it looks pretty impressive.
          I had not thought to emphasize wideband AM, FM, SSB reception, but your point re: Steve’s priorities is well-taken.
          My interest in OOB is the idea of having the potential xmit capability in one package. E.g. I would never transmit on air band with this except in an emergency, but I am a pilot and what if this were the only radio backup I had with me? (also have an older airband rig). Or Steve’s advice to xmit on guard in a real wilderness emergency.
          I’d probably have to read a bit more about how big a deal it would be to xmit on FRS or GMRS, but if I can set this to modulate power and xmit w/ appropriate bandwidth, it might provide an easy +1 to a pool of FRS radios… Again, in one package rather than two.
          My recollection from days of owning a Yaesu HT was that accessories were pricey and programming was in its infancy.
          Is it mostly a matter of buying a special cable and using the same public domain software (as w/ the Bao Feng) these days?
          I know what you mean about “whackers”; did not know that term, though. I do find a certain subset of hams (as with most technical disciplines) that are really orderliness-minded and go ape at the idea of anyone breaking rules, even if there is no consequence (e.g. someone went so far as to invoke “homeland security”). FCC rules allow deviation in life-or-death emergencies, so how big a deal is it to mod equipment for emergency use? Technically the mod should not be done, but the regulations are designed to protect people from themselves. Which brings up the old personal responsibility and education thing. I guess if you’re spilling RF energy all over the place, just by doing the mod and inadvertantly ruining the in-band xmit, I suppose it could be a big deal. But I’m thinking that the published community mods are reasonably well-tested.
          Agree totally re: your thought that these wideband cheap radios will attract attention at some point. That said, most people will buy them and put them in a closet after playing with them. Just like most “SHTF rifles”. 😉
          Might be writing you soon for advice on SMT de-soldering.
          Again, Thanks!

      • The Kenwood I like more because it has a very, very wide band receiver. It can receive everything from AM broadcast through shortwave to FM broadcast- giving you a very powerful tool in a tiny package, if you follow Steves “priorities” it takes care of three of them in one whack. The shortwave receiver isn’t the best in the world because it is packed into that tiny package, but if you make a simple antenna for it you will be pleasantly surprised.

        It is about the same in durability, both meet MIL STD 810 for rain, dust and vibration.

        Yeah the FT-60 won’t transmit on narrow band(The Kenwood TH-F6A does if it is a big deal to you). If someone was planning to use this as a duty radio for police of fire (a bad idea anyway) this is an issue. For use as a scanner it isn’t as big a deal, all you will notice is your received audio is a bit lower. Ham is still wide band, GMRS is wide band (some cheap radios do it narrow, if talking to them your audio will be wide and a little clipped if they have true narrow band receivers, many are wider than spec), MURS is supposed to be wide on some channels and narrow on others but in practice its virtually all wide band. FRS is narrow band, so if you try and talk to them your audio will be loud and clipped on their end. So while it won’t transmit narrow band, this is not a huge deal and worth the trade off for greater durability. If your funds allow the Kenwood its definitely a better choice, but at 2x the cost.

        Yeah, some hams are dead set against OOB mods. Mostly because you get the “whacker” types attracted to the hobby and radio. A whacker is somebody who wants to be a cop/firefighter/whatever but can’t, usually they are more than a little off mentally, so they try and act like one. Almost always those types doing a mod ends up with someone interfering with public safety modifications. That ends up giving the hobby a black eye, hence the resistance to advocate it by many hams. But I expect that the audience here is smarter and more responsible than most.

        FWIW, I expect that same issue to be why the inexpensive radios like the Baofeng will probably get banned from import before long. It was not long ago when the FCC would not type accept a radio that was keypad programmable and worked on anything but ham bands, because it can too easily lead to unauthorized use and jamming. We are already seeing a lot more of this since these started showing up on eBay and even more since they hit Amazon and parents started buying them as toys. As more of these get out the problem will get worse, and eventually there will be backlash.

      • David,

        I noticed you said this:
        “I would never transmit on air band with this except in an emergency, but I am a pilot and what if this were the only radio backup I had with me? (also have an older airband rig). Or Steve’s advice to xmit on guard in a real wilderness emergency.”

        I think some clarification is in order. None of these radios, the Baofeng, Yeasu or Kenwood will work on the air band. Some will have the ability to transmit in those ranges, but all these radios are FM. Aircraft communication is all AM, so even if any of these radios would transmit on Guard nobody would hear you. To do that you must have a specific air band radio that transmits AM.

      • Tim,
        Wow, glad you mentioned this.
        I was well aware that air band transmission was AM (to prevent “capture” of weak signals by nearby frequencies, right?), but I simply assumed that since Steve told everyone you could use the Bao Feng to call on VHF Guard in emergencies that the transmission mode is switchable across the transmission range…
        Perhaps you could email Jack and let him know about this? I’ve exchanged only a few emails with him and I know he gets like 100’s a day so you probably have a better chance of getting through.
        Really appreciate having you as a resident Elmer here on TSP!

      • you know..there is one thing I KNOW, and I KNOW what I said, and I wish people would listen to the show rather than make assumptions.




        I hope that makes it clear.


      • Hi Steve,

        Big Steven Harris fan here. I assure you I listened to your podcast. I must simply have not been listening carefully enough! Or maybe I just misunderstood. LOL
        Anyhow, mea culpa… sorry to misquote you. I’ve been meaning to listen to it again for fun anyway. I’ll pay closer attention.


  22. I know this is a “for the common man” show, but I’m surprised that Steve didn’t mention SDR (Software Defined Radio). It takes a little computer savvy to set up, but that’s pretty “common” these days. Let’s you use your computer for everything from FM radio, HAM, scanner (including Digital Trunking). You can also get a TV tuner to get local channels on your computer. In a disaster or grid-down scenario, running my laptop off battery & charging as needed, with that as my radio, tv and 4g internet is as close to a light saber as I can think of. And your price of entry for SDR is about the same as the Baofeng radio, or less.

      • Radshop,
        Wow, all of the SDR I’ve seen is pretty expensive. Could you post some additional information or a link to what you’re using?

        • Yes, please. I agree. The SDR’s I’ve seen are fairly pricey… at least the serious ones. I have read that the Bao Feng’s are technically SDRs, too…

  23. Doing a little research today after my new baofung radios arrived and learned that there is a nationwide effort to move the public safety net to the 800Mhz range. There’s a good article about it here So I can’t use the radios as a scanner. I am still glad to have them in my preps. Just check you area first if you plan on using them as Steve described in the podcast. As usual though, Steve puts out a great wealth of information.

    • 3hr FARM… YES, you can still use the baofeng as a scanner. I know there is a push to 800mhz, but some police departments can’t even afford bullets. They standard repeaters will be around for SO LONG… read an article about Los Angeles police department, they are trunked and all digital, but they actually use a ‘repeater’ to re-broad cast what is on certain police frequencies on analog so people can listen to the police on a regular scanner. There is a big movement for people to be able to always listen to their public safety people because its our right to know what is going on. Transparency and all that.


  24. Something that just dawned on me that wasn’t mentioned on the podcast was some special shortwave stations that everyone should know about.
    WWV and WWVH are stations operated by the US Governments National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and provide both accurate time and frequency references. Operation is on 5, 10, and 15 MHz at a power output of 10 kW and 2.5 and 20 MHz at 2500 watts. Besides the accurate carrier frequencies, the stations broadcast a steady tone, BCD time code, one second pulses and minute and hour markers, and voice announcements. WWVH does not broadcast on 20 MHz. WWV is located in Fort Collins Colorado, and WWVH is located on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii. Steven mentioned propagation being different at different times of the day and year, and these stations can give you not only the time; but, some idea of the current propagation to and from your location. Simply listening to all of the frequencies and rating their signal strength and quality, will give you a good idea of the propagation for different frequencies at the time you are listening.
    Additionally, the Canadian National Research Council (NRC) also broadcasts similar time coded data via station CHU on 3.330, 7.850, and 14.670 MHz from Ottawa, Ontario.

      • Steve,
        I wasn’t complaning. The show was welll done, and at least for the folks reading these comments, I was just adding some additional hopefully useful information.

      • No worries, Steve. We know you have time constraints when it comes to your thorough level of preparation. I think what we’re saying though, is if you wanted to do another comms show down the road, maybe one designed at the guy who bought a Baofeng to listen and now wants to take the next step and become a licensed ham, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would enjoy it.

        Now I know Jack might not be interested in the topic, and that’s fine, everyone has their own spheres of interest, but if you ever wanted to go into more depth at TSP or just record a podcast on I for one would enjoy listening.

  25. Does anyone know the output wattage on the BaoFeng? Does it change depending on what frequency you are using it for? I know the Frs, Gmrs radios change from .5 to 1.5 watts like Steve said. Just wondering.

      • when you go out of band they will have significantly lower transmit power and the further away you go from where the transmitter and antenna have been optimized. Some power is better than no power, that is why I said to get the better antennas for it.


        • Thanks, I just got 3 of the Baofeng’s sent to me with free 2 day shipping through Amazon. I’ve also bought a better antenna for each. I’m playing around with them and I’m learning a great deal already. What a great radio! I have about 3 sets of FRS/GMRS radios that I’ve purchased through my local stores but these Baofeng’s have so much going for them.
          I just want to officially thank Steve for working so hard to bring us such wonderful shows. Amazing information that I would not have the time or knowledge to find myself without hours and hours of searching. Thanks again Steve. Honestly, you have changed my life with your shows.

    • Typically Handheld transmitters (HT) are 5 watts.
      Putting a bigger antenna with high gain will help.

  26. Steve,
    Great show. It is going to take me forever to transcribe 🙂

    Question: What do you think about Weather Alert Radios? Any Harris approved recommendations?

    (OMG, did I just suggest a 2nd show…)

    • errr…. I dont think I can do a whole show on weather alert radios. Where I live in PA we just don’t get ‘tornados’ they are rare, they are so rare that they use the ‘tornado sirens’ to call out the volunteer fire department… is year 2014 filled with cell phones, text messages, even pagers and they have to act so retarded and blow tornado sirens to call out the ‘volunteers.’ geesh.

      I don’t have one I can suggest, I had one at one time some 8 years ago, and the thing kept on going off for flood watches and other stuff that did not pertain to me. If I was looking for one, I’d want one where I could enter my zip code and tell it that I only wanted it to go off for severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches and warnings.

      So know what I’m going to do.. HELP HELP HELP. Someone who lives in tornado alley, and I know you guys SWEAR by these things in tornado alley in tornado season and they have saved so many many lives. Please. TELL ME and HOOTIE the low down on what you really want to look for in a weather alert radio…which one is the most awesome and reliable and how to set it so if you are not in a flood area that it does not go off for flood watches and stuff like that.

      All my best
      Steven Harris

      • Steve, this one has served me well, and has all the key features- SAME technology so you can narrow alerts to your ZIP code, a good sized antenna, and battery backup. This is more expensive than some others, but it has a feature I think is very important- it allows you to not only set so you only get alerts for your zip code, but lets you choose what kind of alerts you hear. Nothing is more annoying than a weather alert for a winter storm warning, high wind warning or flood watch going off 4 times a night waking you up when you only want tornado and severe thunderstorm alerts, so people grow weary of this and turn the radio off- defeating the purpose. By letting people tailor the alerts to what they want to hear it is less annoying and far more likely to be kept in service.

        Its also worth noting that in a severe emergency NOAA weather radio will also broadcast non-weather emergency alerts such as in the event of a chemical spill, nuclear incident, terrorist attack and more- so it should be on everyones list to check for info.

      • Ok Old Grouch… I’ve reviewed the weather radio that you suggest and I have put it up on for everyone to see. Thank you VERY much for taking the time to let us know about it and to write such a detailed review of it.

        Steven Harris

      • Steve & all,
        Here in central Ohio we’re at the edge of Tornado alley, but still use these radios a lot. The current one I use is from Radio Shack, but there are numerous manufacturers that make good radios. To set them up requires basically three steps. Mine is line powered and battery backed, but folks can find the features they need, keeping in mind that these radios are receiving 24/7, so line powered does save batteries.
        First you select the frequency to listen to, generally with a 7 position switch that is preset to the seven NOAA NWS broadcast frequencies from 162.400 MHz through 162.550 MHz in .250 steps. For a list of stations in your state and area refer to:
        Second, you input the counties (or parishes) of interest using the FIPS) Federal Information Processing Standards) 5-digit county codes. This allows you to be selective in the information you want to see. In my case, the bad weather almost always comes from the west and northwest, so I include my county and some additional ones that can give me some lead time. A search for FIPS country codes will give you lists, pdf, and even spreadsheets of them; but, they generally come in the book with the radio.
        Third, you program the events you are interested in. These are encoded by the weather radio as SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) codes and include watches and warnings for a large list of events. The radio’s I have used have allowed you to step through the code using English to describe the event, such as Tornado, Hurricane, Flood, Earthquake, etc. You simply enable the ones in which you are interested. In my case for instance we don’t enable hurricane or earthquake.
        Once they are set up, they simply listen all of the time for incoming messages, including the automatic test message, which at least in my area is every Wednesday afternoon. There is generally an additional button allowing you to turn on the audio and listen any time you want a manual update.
        Hope this helps.

  27. Steve,
    Which of the BaoFeng radios are you recommending? 5R, 5R+, 5RA? Does it matter? Thank you for your help!!!

    • The 5RE is the one I have on its one of the newer ones, the 82 is the newest ones, but there are more accessories out for the 5 series.


      • I’ve been using the Baofeng radios for more than a year, and it appears that the electronics for the entire 5 series is the same; however, they do have different case designs, and selecting a newer model such as the 5RE gives you a better chance of the newest firmware, which can be an advantage.

  28. Due to the many requests.. I have listed on in the ham radio section a MOBILE antenna, Dual Band, with magnetic mount antenna base right below it and the SMA to PL259 adapter above it listed on the page. This is one awesome mobile antenna, I own it, its the same one I use. It will GREATLY extend the range of anything you are doing with the boafeng or any other VHF (144mhz) or UHF (440mhz) Ham Radio, scanner etc… note: these antennas have NOTHING to do with CB.

    Steven Harris

  29. I have a question about radio interference. Every morning on my way home from work when I pass this one house my radio picks up a whole lot of interference for about 1/4 mile or so. It is on 950 AM. Could a ham be causing that?

    • yeah..right..blame it on the hams. hams don’t cause interference, we’re educated on radios, transmissions, feed lines and antennas and know what we are doing. Also, hams have NOTHING any where near the AM broadcast band, we are ‘miles’ away from those frequencies. Nor would we want anything that low in frequency.


      • Not blaming anyone Steve. Just wondering. Thanks for the great show. You always make the gears in my head turn. My wife hates it when I listen to you because it gives me more projects to work on.

    • Actually, the Amateur Radio service has frequencies close to the AM band in the
      0.535- to 1.705 MHz range with hams operating in the 1.8-2.0 and 3.5-4.0 MHz range; however, the likelihood of a licensed amateur causing problems on these frequencies is extremely small. The explanation by Tim Glance in this thread pretty much hits the nail on the head. Hams often get blamed for things, simply because we have the visible antennas and give the neighbors something to point at and complain about. I’ve heard cases of hams putting up towers and antennas, and almost immediately getting complaints, even though they had not yet connected or operated any equipment.

  30. Dave,

    Probably not a ham. Since you always hear it the odds of him always transmitting as you drive by are pretty slim, and that is not typically what interferance from a ham would sound like.

    99% chance it is a cracked insulator or other problem with the power lines/poles in your area. This is pretty common and causes a wide range of interference on AM broadcast and shortwave. I have tracked it down using a handheld AM radio, tune it to the edge of the interfence and when you get closer to the problem pole it will get stronger.

    If it is not that it is likey a malfunctioning consumer device. Electric fence chargers are notorious, but I have seen all sorts of stuff do it- battery chargers, TV’s, jacuzzi pumps, heck I went and bought a neighbor a new doorbell transformer once because theirs made a horrible noise.

    By law the owner of a consumer device that interferes with a licensed service must correct the problem by repairing or replacing the defective item. Power companies are usually very good about this once you tell them. Some private citizens are, some will slam a door in your face. I always try and resolve it nicely, and like I mentioned above don’t mind spending a few bucks to get it fixed even if technically they should. If a person absolutely refuses to correct the problem the FCC will step in and send a warning letter with instruction and clarifying the law, if they still refuse to correct it the FCC has been known to issue fines. But unless the party causing the interference is being an absolute ass about refusing to correct it there usually isn’t an issue resolving it person to person, and in many cases doing so helps prevent what could have been a fire caused by that malfunctioning device down the road, or let’s them get it fixed under warranty before it has a total failure.

    I would call you lock power utility and report it as power line noise, they will likely be glad you helped catch it before it caused a bigger failure.

    • Thanks for the quick reply Tim. I’m not really too worried about it because it’s a small area and it’s not my radio station getting cut out. I’ll let the people know anyway and they can do what they want. It could be worse. I used to have a neighbor with a 30 foot antenna and I could hear everything he transmitted through every speaker and phone line in my house. The FCC told me they didn’t care when I called them. What was the deal with that? I don’t think he was a ham because I never heard a call sign and I did hear profanity. Maybe CB?

  31. This was a really good episode. In the Episode Steven mentioned that you can get Guard channel on the Baofeng radio.
    I purchased a UV-5R+ but it wont get into the guard ranges 121.5MHx for Civilian Guard and 243.0 for Military Guard.
    What model was used for this purpose. I am however really happy with the radio but download the chart that shows them all to see what the freq ranges are before you order a radio.

    The guard use is very important to me. Any help would be appreciated.

    • I take GREAT effort in the preparation for the show. I am VERY VERY careful on what I say and I say it very very clearly and often repeat myself.

      I NEVER EVER SAID YOU COULD GET THE COAST GUARD ON A BAOFENG RADIO !!! Ever !! You have to purchase a separate AIR BAND radio to do what I describe, which is WRITTEN IN DETAIL at the very TOP of the website so you can read it word for word.


  32. Thanks Steven. I usually am driving while listening so the entire show melded into what I was interested. I see what you said.
    The BAOFENG radios are excellent.
    Our group is buying them in sets. We are getting the Gen 1 and the Gen 2 which has a wider Freq range. We are also playing with the different accessories to see what all we like. Thanks for letting us know about a great and inexpensive radio.
    I posted the BAOFENG radio chart on our FB page for our members to select what they want.
    Thanks again