Communications Assessment

Have you thought about how you would communicate with the people you needed to contact if suddenly cell phones, and the internet were to stop functioning? This doesn’t have to be a doomsday story to be relevant, we need only look at areas affected by Hurricanes and Floods. Or even New York City (and all of the North East) when the cascading power failure occurred in 2003

Let’s take a few moments and just ask ourselves a few simple questions, to get us thinking about communications in an emergency. From here we can evaluate what we will need to be prepared. After you’ve worked through this assessment, come back and our next post will focus on the very first line.


  1. Do you have a written emergency communications Plan? 
    • If yes, do you practice your plan frequently? 
  1. Who are you primarily going to communicate with during a crisis?
  1. What is the purpose of your communication?
  1. What is the longest distance you are going to need to communicate? (this is critical)
  1. What type of environment do you live in? (circle)
    • Urban
    • Suburban
    • Rural
    • Isolated
    • Other: (Describe)
  1. What is the terrain like where you live? (circle)
    • Mountains
    • Forest
    • Desert
    • Water
    • Other: (describe)
  1. Are you going to be in one location, mobile, or a combination of both?
  1. What kind of power supply do you plan on having for your equipment?

APRS – Ham Radio and Mapping

APRS – Ham Radio Special Modes:

One of the great strengths of Amateur Radio is how flexible the hobby is. One type of operation that is very interesting for the Overlander is called APRS. (Amateur Position Reporting System) APRS takes raw NEMA2 data from a GPS, encodes it, and transmits it over the amateur bands. A simple APRS Transmitter/Receiver can be built by connecting an inexpensive handheld transceiver (around $35 on Amazon) to an Android Phone or Tablet with a GPS, and then installing a $4.95 piece of software called APRSdroid. This APRS site can then simultaneously transmit your coordinates, as well as display the near real-time locations of every other APRS station within receiving distance. Imagine a caravan of five vehicles, each with an small APRSdroid powered APRS system in their vehicles, with the map display turned on.

Android Phone, and Baofeng UV-3R
APRS Portable

Map Display
Map Display

Overland Mapping & Ham Radio

It’s no big secret I have a bunch of radios in my truck. In fact one of my next posts will highlight what I have installed in my Mobile Antenna Farm.

Mobile Antenna Farm

One of the radios installed though is a 10w Byonics Microtrak-RTG APRS Transmitter. If you’re not familiar with APRS take a second to read a little about it.

While driving through the mountains on the Rimrocker Trail my APRS transmitter was happily sending out telemetry data every 5 minutes (because I was traveling less than 60 miles per hour) or every time I had a more than a 14 degree change in direction. Because of the range 2m has while in the mountains (Line of sight from 9,000 feet is a long way.) I actually have a pretty complete picture of where we traveled.

RimRocker APRS Tracks

APRS isn’t as perfect as plotting your own maps with an onboard GPS and Tracking software, but it’s kind of neat to know that the family of one of the guys with us could fairly reliably track our progress through the Rocky Mountains.