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If this mess of the past two years has taught me anything, it’s that gathering accurate information matters. There is no way to accurately predict the exact scope of a disaster months in advance. There is no means to accurately predict how quickly variables will change post-disaster. This is why the prepper needs accurate information. As the world changes around him, he needs to be aware of how it is doing so.
Information is what allows the prepper to adapt to his environment.
Our first priority after disaster is to make sure our loved ones are alright. For sanity’s sake, accurate information about the safety of loved ones is paramount. Even if we can’t communicate with our family immediately post-SHTF, there is a large degree of peace of mind which comes from knowing the extent, precise location, and nature of the chaos that has just taken place.
However, this is where we face something of a catch-22. We need accurate information more after the SHTF than we ever have before, but the very nature of a SHTF event means communication infrastructure has likely been damaged, shut down, or overwhelmed.
With Venezuela’s usual power grid cuts, even the local radios stations stop broadcasting. Should a disaster strike during one of these times, you’re in something of a news vacuum. Imagine what would happen in a long-term situation. It’s rather concerning, is it not?
The only grid means of communication for us during these times is the old, reliable landline telephone. (That’s why I find the old-school BBSs I previously mentioned so appealing if this should happen someday). The BBS system has a limited scope, though. However, there are other alternatives.
How to use the landline grid as a news source…
I’ve tinkered with computers ever since they first started finding their ways into private homes. (Yes, I’ve just revealed my age.) However, this long interest in computer science has helped me to grasp some interesting computer concepts which are of use to the prepper.
Did you know you could connect two PCs using just the telephone line? Do you remember that old 80’s movie War Games? Within that movie, the main character is able to use his computer to gain access to another computer (coincidentally, the one that controls the US nuclear bomb arsenal) via a landline telephone.
Well, those old capabilities of landline computer connections remain intact. As long as phone landlines work, they can be used for transmitting updated information. Maybe not as instantly as the internet has us used to, but it’s better than nothing.
We have to understand that the only reason cellphones were so widely accepted was the combination of advantages they provided when compared with landlines. One of the lesser-known reasons cell phones flourished is because installing and maintaining a cellphone signal tower is way cheaper than maintaining thousands of kilometers of cable!
(Make sure to check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to learn how to stay fed after SHTF too. Comms doesn’t fill your belly!)
Cellphone towers are incredibly vulnerable. They cannot be relied upon for news post-SHTF.
Mind you, cellphone towers are very vulnerable to weather. When there is an entire staff available in charge of a tower’s maintenance, the tower will do its job. Once that staff disappears, it’s game over for wireless personal comms. The cellphone towers in my hometown were looted years ago, with the solar panels and batteries having long been stolen. So when the grid is down here in Venezuela, most of the cellphone operators are useless.
On the negative side, the connection using dial-up is going to be snail speed compared to our 50+Mbps days. You’re talking 4.5 kbps snail speeds. While this is a tolerable speed for instant PC-to-PC messaging and file copying, it’s not going to allow you to do things requiring fast transfer speeds.
The reasons this protocol of PC-to-PC over phone landlines (Warning: link is in Spanish. Activate your translators.) would work for our intended purpose, is that the news media will keep a record of the incoming number of people gaining access to their server, and that means accurate and reliable intel. If multiple people from an area are all reporting the same thing (e.g. there’s a fire at the factory), the news agency then knows that it’s not just a rumor. One person didn’t report the fire – 45 did. The news agency then knows they are transmitting accurate information.
This way, the readers/listeners will know the news is trustworthy as well. The other reason these PC-to-PC connections via landline are so important is that they permit reporters in the field to transmit via radio to the main station, and this information can then be uploaded to the information agency server in real-time.
Imagine a digital newspaper being available for free.
With subscribers connecting via landline and downloading the “news bulletin” in a matter of seconds, local information would be available every day. It could be even possible to program the news server fax the digital version of a “newspaper” to the subscribers. I don’t know about your area, but in Venezuela, landline services seem to be working without too much trouble, even though the Internet service often fails, or the wide band cost skyrockets. Even when the power is out here, PC-to-PC via landline still works here. I’ve checked.
(I’m not exactly a fan of anything wiki, but this link could provide some clarity to the main issue here: connecting two PCs to exchange information over the phone landlines.)
AM/FM radio broadcasting will still work.
This sort of communication will rely on power supplies. Let’s suppose this isn’t an issue though, as the station has applied the principles of the business continuity after SHTF. The best approach to preparing for post-disaster life is to assume that people will keep running their business as best as they can.
AM/FM radio has survived all of the technological changes through history. It’s even stronger now with the benefit of the interne. Radio broadcasts over the internet serve as a great means for instantly updated information. FM works better in the local environment.
Radio broadcasting equipment is less complex than computers, and doesn’t need the limited lifespan components to work such as a computer requires. In my area, I’ve been inside a number of radio stations, and the newest of them still has equipment which has been running flawlessly since the late 80s. I asked and any small town electronics technician could repair it provided the parts can be found.
The main concern here is the necessary power level to broadcast. However, with intermittent broadcasting, I believe this could be easily managed. In the past, radio stations broadcasted for a limited time as well. I foresee radio stations behaving similarly in a post-disaster future.
Will TV still work?
Practically all of what applies for radio broadcasting is true for TV broadcasting as well. Any local station will still have its transmission equipment. Will you have the power supplies at your house to receive those broadcasts though? What about your TV, will you be able to turn it on? Will you be able to spare vital electricity – perhaps connected to your well pump or deep freezer – to run a TV? Is the cost worth it?
Are there other solutions for accurate information after SHTF?
Yes, there are several solutions to spread information post-SHTF. I won’t get into more details because of space. The possibilities certainly are plentiful, but not all of them are flexible enough to be used for every case. Do your homework to discover what is out there.
I won’t mention HAM radio either. It’s obviously the most universal approach, and has been a preferred communication tool for survivalists and preppers since the beginning. In particular, I believe that packet radio to transmit small amounts of data could be a boon for disaster news gathering.
There is plenty of material out there about the off-grid connection topic, and I recommend starting with learning about how to use your phone without the grid.
Mind you, I´m no specialist in this sort of thing and there are plenty of technical details to consider.
These are just two solutions that work at the local level here in Venezuela. I believe they’ll work in yours as well.
Post-disaster news gathering is a fascinating, extensive topic plagued with tons of interesting details. Those with more information could add a lot to the conversation and help a lot of people by adding to the comments section. Thanks for reading!
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.