Remember the 70s? Ok, me neither. But, I do remember that my Dad used to have a CB radio. So did all of my uncles and all of their friends. Back then, everyone had to have a license. CB was so wildly popular that movies were made about it and an entire Pop Culture rose up around it, complete with it’s own lexicon and lifestyle.
Then, cellular phones arrived. Radio enthusiasts drifted away from CB and into the Amateur bands as more interesting parts of the radio frequency spectrum were opened to civilian use. The popularity of CB waned and it nearly died. Nearly.
Today, CB is still very popular in the transportation sector, with truck drivers still using the traditional Channel 19 for the majority of their conversations. The intelligence you can gather just from Channel 19 is a good enough reason to have a CB included in your preparedness supplies. The fact that it no longer requires a license is another plus.
Listening to truck drivers, you will hear about road conditions, accidents, police activity, and weather. Maintaining a listening watch on Channel 19 is good start to a Signals Intelligence program and you’ll be surprised at all the information you will gather.
That brings us to today’s Tactical Wisdom, from Matthew:
Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Yes, I know Matthew was talking about listening to God, but it applies. You have ears to hear, and listening to communications is a great way to gather information.
CB is a great medium for preparedness, as long as it is part of a larger communications plan. For example, CB is HF, which means that it is very susceptible to interference and doesn’t penetrate structures very well, so it would not be a good medium in an urban area. However, range will increase when traveling outside an urban area.
As far as range, CB is limited to 4 watts, whether vehicle mounted, base station, or handheld. In open terrain, range is typically 4-5 miles, with about 1 mile being common in urban areas.
SSB or “Single Side Band” is an operating mode that pushes all the energy to either the upper or lower end of the frequency, allowing you to get better range. SSB can typically get up to 3 times the normal range. Any vehicle CB radio you get should have SSB capability. I use the Bearcat 980, linked below.
The features you want in a vehicle or base station CB are SSB operation and a scan function. In a WROL situation, having a CB scanning all frequencies will result in you developing great information, and that’s without even broadcasting.
Consider this: If the internet and cell phones go down, thousands and thousands of people will dust off old CB units stored in garages and start trying to find others and share information. Tap into that.
Another consideration is that the AMRRON Channel 3 Project covers CB. Monitor CB channel 3 at the top of every hour to listen for calls from other preparedness-minded people. You can also reach others for information and assistance that way. Anyone who is aware of the Channel 3 Project is someone who would be willing to render aid or assistance to another preparedness group.
My recommendation is to use CB radio for your group when moving in a vehicle convoy. CB is uniquely positioned for exactly this use. Your team members will each have their own VHF/UHF radio, while each vehicle will have an SSB-capable CB for convoy operations. I recommend always using SSB, for security purposes. No, it’s not secure, but it will prevent anyone who doesn’t have an SSB-capable radio from receiving you. It’s a numbers game.
Each vehicle should also have a CB handheld unit. The reason is that if you approach something like a bridge, or other chokepoint, you can send out a small foot team to recon the chokepoint. They will use their VHF/UHF radios to communicate with each other, but will call back to the convoy on the handheld.
The only issue with this is that handhelds that operate SSB are virtually non-existent, so you would have to make sure to switch to regular AM mode for this. After checking the obstacle, the foot team would adopt a security posture and wait for the vehicles to move up to them.
As far as handhelds, the Midland 75-822 is an excellent option because it allows you to scan and add 5 memory channels for quick access. It also receives the NOAA weather channels, but I doubt those will see much traffic post-WROL. When buying any handheld CB, immediately buy a longer and better antenna (research on the inter-webs).
A lot of concerns I hear from people are that “just anyone can use it”. That’s true, but virtually no one is. I drove around Metro Detroit the other day scanning. I heard highway traffic on 19, as expected, and local truck yard operations on 7, 14, and 30. That’s 4 channels, out of 40. That leaves 36 other channels with NO TRAFFIC. In a WROL situation, those truck yards won’t be running. I imagine outside of a major metro area, there will be even less traffic.
Every once in a while, you’ll find some weirdo who just rambles on, taking up the airwaves. Now, it’s just an annoyance. Post-WROL, though, those types won’t be around very long to be a problem. For now, make a note of their areas and channels, and just plan around them.
To recap, CB radios should absolutely be a part of your communication plan, at the very least as a medium to gather information.
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