04.12.20

Communications Monitoring Workbook V2.0 now available for download.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=17VS5_N8PHs4066pjWCcBdf4Q8JZgIZ9x

Changed the formatting to landscape and added a couple more fields for user/agency identification. enjoy!

04.5.20

A Connecticut Yankee Talks About COVID-19 – #3 – Guns and Police Scanners

Guns

It comes as no surprise that gun and ammunition sales are up. Here in Connecticut, potential first-time owners are stymied because of a combination of shutdowns and the requirement to first possess a permit in order to exercise a fundamental civil right. So, for those of you who up until now didn’t think you needed a gun, and can’t get one because the process to get a Certificate of Eligibility is on hold, remember that come Election Day.

For the rest of you, I’m going to assume you have not owned a firearm before, and just want to get something for a little piece of mind. Congratulations, you have made a step towards self-reliance, preparedness, and self-determination. Now under normal circumstances, I’d tell you to start with a handgun, and get some training in how to use it for self-defense. However, in many places, handguns are more difficult to rapidly acquire compared to long guns (ie. rifles and shotguns), and require time to become proficient in their use. Long guns, especially in the Northeast, have less restrictions on purchase and/or ownership, and are easier to learn how to safely handle and shoot well.

https://www.stoegerindustries.com/side-by-side-shotguns

My recommendation is to get a shotgun, specifically a short, double-barrel side-by-side known as a Coach Gun. If you are of smaller stature, get a 20 gauge, otherwise go with 12 gauge. For ammunition, get a few boxes of buckshot. You are set. In most states, you can simply walk in, buy a shotgun, and leave with it that day assuming your background check goes through OK.

This is probably the safest, most effective home defense firearm for a beginner. It is very easy to check its status (loaded/unloaded) and make safe. Open it up, and look at the chambers. You will either see two shells in them, or not. Since you are a novice, you will want to keep it unloaded until you need to use it, in which case, it only takes a second to insert two shells when the need arises. If you maintain proper situational awareness and security at home, you will have plenty of time to make your shotgun ready if you need to. Finally, those two large diameter barrels are often intimidating enough to fix most problems without firing a shot.

There’s my 11th+ hour gun advice. As always you should check your local/state laws regarding self-defense, castle doctrine, reasonable force, duty to retreat, et al and consult a proper lawyer (not some Internet expert) if you have any serious legal questions.

REFERENCES
https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/gun-shots/2013/08/twenty-plenty/

Police Scanners

There has been a fair amount of discussion, mostly private, regarding an earlier post on National Guard communications monitoring. Based upon the information received, National Guard units are using dedicated talkgroups on their state’s trunked radio system, old-fashioned analog FM the VHF-Low band frequency ranges of 40-42 & 46.6-47.0 MHz, and P25 on 380-400 MHz. So, lacking any other open source information to supplement this data, those are the frequency ranges I would concentrate on.

Now, being that solitary outside activity such as hiking is still considered an acceptable activity in most states during the Coronapocalypse . If I knew of a temporary installation set up somewhere, and there was an open space with hiking trails and few to no people within a 1/4-1/2 mile of said installation, I might go for a hike with a Spectrum Sweeper to see what I could hear. Google Maps is your friend.

Whistler TRX-2

Since states are getting on the trunked P25 bandwagon, it makes sense to get a scanner that has that capability as your first receiver acquisition. My recommendation would be either the Whistler TRX-1 or TRX-2. They are a handheld and desktop scanner, respectively, with P25 and trunking capability. Other than their different form factors, they are the same radio. Which one to get would depend on how you’re going to use it. The desktop has better ergonomics and audio, and if it was going to stay on a desk and never leave home I would go with the desktop version. If you are going to run it in your vehicle, go hiking with it, listen to it in the back yard while working on stuff, et al then get the portable.

Whistler TRX-1

03.31.20

Communications Monitoring During The COVID-19 Emergency – National Guard

Frequency Ranges, Spacing, and Modes

30-88 MHz., FM and FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum), Usually 25 KHz. spacing, but can be as low as 5 KHz. Often encrypted. Unencrypted FM will have PL tone of 150 Hz. (Will decode as 151.4 Hz.) The usual frequencies in this range are:
30.000-30.550
32.000-33.000
36.000-37.000
38.000-39.000
40.000-42.000
46.600-47.000
49.600-50.000

138.000-144.000 MHz.
148.000-150.775 MHz.
AM (aircraft), FM, P25 Modes. Encryption possible, esp with P25

162.000-174.000 MHz.
Shared with other Federal agencies. FM and 25. Encryption possible.

225-380 MHz.
Military aviation (AM) and SATCOM (FM). FHSS and encryption possible.

380-400 MHz. – FM and P25. Possibly some aviation activity on AM. Encryption possible.

406-420 MHz. – Shared with other Federal agencies. FM and 25. Encryption possible.

Additionally you may see National Guard units on their state’s trunked radio system, interoperability, and DHS/OEM frequencies.

My initial advice would be to first sector search the listed sub-bands in the 30-88 MHz. spectrum, 138-144 MHz., and 148-150.775 MHz.

REFERENCE: https://lvassembly.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/consolidatedfreqs.pdf

03.29.20

Communications Monitoring, COMINT, and the COVID-19 Emergency

So many of you are home and have broken out those police scanners and shortwave receivers in a decision to listen for information on the current COVID-19 emergency.

You should concentrate on the VHF/UHF scanner frequencies, because that’s where all the emergency workers with their boots on the ground will be operating. Sites such as Intercept Radio (http://www.interceptradio.com/) and Radio Reference (https://www.radioreference.com/) are your best bet for information.

There have been lists of shortwave (HF) frequencies circulating certain prepper sites and blogs. The lists are 10+ years old, and may have incorrect data, especially for Federal government agencies. Federal government radio license data, as opposed to State/County/Local agency (and non-government) license data, is deemed unclassified but sensitive, and exempt from the FOIA laws. That determination was made in the 1980s, so much of what you see online is that old, and just copied from data that Grove Communications managed to get before it became restricted.

Something to think about is when you have a whole host of communications system capabilities like HF, VHF/UHF, landline, satellite phone, Internet, why would you use (HF) radio for communications when you can, at present, pick up a phone and make a call? The answers are:

  1. Radio is used for group communications (base/HQ->mobile/field units) that are not practical to do via telephone.
  2. HF is a backup for when your other systems are down, or when the communications range exceeds that of your VHF/UHF system.
  3. When you are doing daily/weekly/monthly radio system tests to make sure everything still works.

There are hobbyist web sites that I have mentioned previously where listeners have been doing an excellent job collecting data, https://www.hfunderground.com/ and http://www.udxf.nl/ are two that I like. And with that, I’m going to give you a warning: these are international sites for worldwide SWL hobbyists who specialize in a particular aspect of the hobby: non-broadcast (aka utility or “ute”) communications on the HF bands. Many, perhaps even most of them, don’t give a shit about American prepper stuff. So, if you follow Dean Ing’s (and mine for that matter) advice about treating this like a hobby, you’ll be just fine. If you act like certain members of a few prepper-oriented FB groups I monitor, you’re probably going to get your ass kicked off the site, and lose a potentially good source of information.

Now, with that said, you might not find what you’re looking for if other hobbyists haven’t found it, or aren’t particularly interested in the same service/agency as you. That leaves you to do your own research. In this instance, the FCC is a useful resource.

Regardless of whether the frequency is HF, VHF, or UHF, a state department of homeland security/emergency management agency will still need a license to legally operate on a particular frequency. There might be an exception for a primarily Federal interoperability system, but I don’t know and those who really do aren’t going to say anything publicly because they like their job. Yes Virginia, when I worked in the LMR biz my fellow employees and I were flat out told that disclosing radio system information, even if it was just commenting on publicly available information would be grounds for termination, and we were more or less encouraged to spread disinformation.

Anyway… I went over to the FCC General Menu Reports Site/Market/Frequency Menu to see what I could find. I searched for Private Land Mobile – Public Safety Pool, Conventional (PW) licenses from 2-30 MHz. in the Northeast US, specifically Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. When I found a particular license, I further examined the details to see if it was for the state’s department of homeland security/emergency management. Here is what I found:

Freq. (MHz.)States
2.3274NYCTMARIMENHVTNJPA
2.4124

MARI

VTNJ
2.4154

MA
MENH


2.4204
CTMARI

VT

2.4724







PA
2.5884






NJ
2.8134NY







3.2024NY







5.1364NYCTMARIMENHVT
PA
5.1934
CTMARIMENHVT

5.1964






NJPA
7.4784NYCTMARI

VT

7.8064
CTMARIMENHVTNJPA
7.9334







PA

So we have some data here, and know it is factual in that this frequencies are currently licensed to the states listed. We also see that some frequencies have multiple states licensed to them, while others only have one or two. It would be safe to assume (although one might still be incorrect) that the former might be used for interstate communications and the later for intra-state. Listening to them would help prove or disprove what right not is onlt a theory.

This data is only for the Northeast US, but you can put together your own information by visiting https://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/General_Menu_Reports/engineering_search.cfm?accessible=NO&wild_select=on.

For those of you who might want to look for stuff that’s not licensed by the FCC, a sector search will be useful. Allocation data is available from https://transition.fcc.gov/oet/spectrum/table/fcctable.pdf, and by examining that table, we find the following ranges of interest. (Frequency ranges are in KHz.):

2000-2065, 2107-2170, 2194-2495, 2505-2750, 3155-3230, 3230-3400
4000-4063, 4438-4650, 4750-4995, 5005-5450, 5730-5900, 6765-7000
7400-8195, 9040-9400, 9900-9995, 10150-11175, 11400-11600, 12100-12230
13410-13570, 13870-1400, 14350-14990, 15800-16360, 17410-17480
18030-18068, 18168-18780, 19020-19680, 19800-19990, 20010-21000
21850-21924, 22855-23200, 23350-24890, 25330-25550, 26480-26950
27540-28000, 29890-29910

Under normal circumstances, HF frequencies below 7 MHz. best work at night, those above 15 MHz. work best during the day, and 7-15 MHz. is good 24 hours a day. This is not a hard and fast rule, but instead a good guideline to go by.

Like I said previously, any activity having to do with this COVID-19 thing is probably going to be on VHF/UHF, but moniotoring that traffic is simply a matter of programming your scanner and letting it run. There is less hard data available for HF systems, so those of you looking for a challenge or who are out of the affected area and want to see if you can hear something have the frequencies below 30 MHz. to try. Those of you in the Northeast have a list of frequencies to try, and the rest of you have some information on where to start looking.

Should you feel the need to share your findings, please send me an email to ticom.new.england@gmail.com. Your contributions are much appreciated!