How to Get Accurate Information After SHTF

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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!

Do you have some other thoughts on this? How do you plan to gather information after the SHTF? Share your ideas in the comments.

About Jose

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.

 Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on PatreonDonations: paypal.me/JoseM151 or the BTC address 3QQcFfK9GvZNEmALuVV8D6AUttChTdtReE

How to Get Accurate Information After SHTF
J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose 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 a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. 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. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151

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  • Well, I’m not in Venezuela, I’m in Kentucky. So my mileage varies from yours.

    I wonder something, as long as we’re talking about connecting computers using landlines. Does anybody still sell POTS (plain old telephone service)? Maybe it’s just where I live, but my apartment complex doesn’t seem to have POTS available, only VOIP (voice over IP). It’s provided using the same box that connects my computers to the Internet, so if that were to go down, we wouldn’t have phone service either (if cell service went out).

    At least I’ve got 3 HAM radios (one HF) with portable power (though I need to pick up a solar charger to ensure they continue to work), as well as several AM/FM/SW battery-operated radios. It’s better than nothing, and probably more than most people.

    • “provided using the same box that connects my computers to the Internet, so if that were to go down, we wouldn’t have phone service either”

      it’s that way pretty much everywhere in the u.s. now. wire connections are more expensive than wireless so the “land lines” transfer over to transmission towers first chance they get. the only exceptions are remote rural areas, but those will be slowly disconnected as equipment ages, to be replaced by towers.

  • Hi, I remember when businesses had a ‘power outage’ phone – one you could “dial” without AC power. Today, most phones are actually operated using modems on your internet connection; will they still work in a major power outage?

  • One of the more reliable sources of info post SHTF will probably be CB radio. I know you may think I am nuts and maybe I am. But it is the Peoples band.
    The ham band is great but the military and government will probably use it for ” propaganda broadcasts” , for as long as they are still around. Certain private groups that may have less than honorable intentions may also make use of either one.

    So beware that you properly vet and intel you receive from there.
    The same would go for any internet sites that might still be up and running.
    Just because the original owner was good, it does not mean that they would still be the ones operating the site. Hackers or other groups might take control of or create fake sites to be malicious or to trap you.

  • I live in a rural area in the Appalachian Mountains. We have had to keep our landline telephone and through it our high speed internet. Cell service is skitchy here at best. We have a cellphone but you have to use it outdoors for phone calls. Texting and data hitch up to the wifi and works indoors. But we have to maintain our landline service. For phone and internet it averages around $110 a month. We were told if we opt out of the landline, we will never be able to get it back. We and the next door neighbors are the last landlines on our dirt road.
    We have an old CB radio in the garage and are going to see what we would need to get it into operation for emergency use. What is amazing around here are the Amish. They find out things fast than we do.

  • Here in Miami, we will rely heavily on the ‘Coconut Telegraph’.
    We. will. always. find. a. way. to. communicate.

  • I’m having a hard time getting “accurate” information now.
    EVERYONE has agendas and I can’t believe ANYTHING without serious verification.
    I can’t even imagine listening to some person from somewhere on a radio and trying to figure out if it’s real

    • Matt in OK,
      Right?
      Can you imagine all the various Arizonas’ out there, spinning tales of Army lab grown dogs, trained to hunt down and eat our children?
      Or how other countries are going to nuke all our major cities, and then have some 200 million of their troops come into some of those very same, now radioactive cities, but just before Planet-X tears a third of North America (but not the rest of the world) apart.

  • I retired from the largest phone company in the world after working there for several decades and I have an Extra class Ham license. I know a bit about this subject.

    First, do not stake your future and family’s safety on the terrestrial telephone network. If the grid fails the phone network is going to die soon thereafter. Wireless and wireline BOTH. Even if it is up for awhile the people in the affected areas who work there are going to quit showing up to take care of their families. Without regular DAILY maintenance and monitoring the network WILL die.

    Secondly, AT&T owns CNN who lies to us daily. Even if commercial TV and radio are still up and some information is getting through are you willing to bet your life that they will present the facts? Do you remember in 2020 when they told us masks didn’t work so the public wouldn’t exhaust the supply for first responders? If you get the shot you won’t get Covid? Government and media are not our allies.

    The digital modes mentioned in the article do have a LOT of potential. However, unless you become HAM proficient how are you going to know how to integrate your computer to your radio, what frequencies to find people on and how to operate the equipment? For it to be useful then you will need to know how to do it when the disaster strikes. It’s not rocket science but you are going to have too much to do to just survive to spend days and weeks learning how to do it WITH NO INTERNET OR OTHER INFORMATION SOURCES AVAILABLE TO HELP. It would be like learning to garden after you run out of food…

    Communications and the intelligence you gain from it are vital to your survival. You need to be building your local and national intelligence network now. Everyone needs a battery powered radio that has NOAA weather channels. As long as the government function you can rely on your local NOAA station for reasonably accurate weather. With an AM/FM, short wave, NOAA capable receiver available on Amazon for under $100 you can get local regional and international news by simply listening. Kaito and lots of other people sell them.

    HAM radios should play a part in your preparation. Your local HAM club probably gets called out now in weather emergencies and other disasters. They know how to respond and communicate when the grid is down. It is what they do! It is legal for anyone to listen to HAM frequencies. Also HAM radios are legal to operate, both transmit and receive, by anyone in an actual emergency. It takes no skill to listen BUT unless you practice operation now, your ability to have two way communication will be almost non-existent. You can buy a dual band hand held unit with 2M / 70cm capability that also has NOAA channels for a couple hundred dollars. That device will connect you to people within a few miles even if the repeaters are down. You can find your local radio club and they will help you get a HAM technician license so you can use it and practice now. You will also be building an active communication network of other HAMs who will have long distance two way radio capability up and running when the SHTF.

    These clubs gladly work with people for free. Go take advantage of their knowledge and generosity.

    • Yes, I left Mother Bell in 2008. What was once the greatest communication company in the world, has been bastardized and ripped apart in the name of cash. The old dial for dial, which had counters for each number was incredible. You could flood the damned switchroom and everything still worked. Then, we “progressed” to #5XB (crossbar). It would work if the switchroom was partially flooded for about 4 hours. Then the ESS system showed up-Electronic Switching System-which was finicky and demanding and would never tolerate water in a switchroom. We have now progressed to 1’s and 0’s and that system has ZERO tolerance. There are few, if any real wire connections; it’s all in the cloud of virtual reality. My point being, 1935 phones had a greater chance of working than what we have now. The entire system has literally redundancy, and no tolerance for anything outside of its norm. Various cell companies have virtual connections to other towers and other systems. The old Bell System was on schematics with actual engineered drawings and they were guarded against intrusion: theft, war, etc. The new stuff? Frankly, most “technicians” have no idea beyond “their part” that they keep up. I advise everyone to do HAM or be prepared to do without.

  • I was a big fan of shortwave and HAM radio as a pre-teen back in the 1950s. Still am today. (see Jose, you now have a hint at my age). 🙂 I have AM/FM/SW/LW radios at principal residence and BOL. Both battery powered and have been thinking about solar panels and batteries for both. I have a CB in my primary vehicle (rarely on). Power inverters to convert 12 Volt DC to 120 Volt AC. Been considering a 2 meter no Morse code required FCC license. Most classes of US FCC HAM license do not require Morse code. (although I was fluent in Morse way back in the day).

    All the best to you and Kiddo!

  • While the power grids are still up and working …

    Use that time to learn the reputations, URLs, radio frequencies, and people who report and analyze topics of interest to you. Some will be consistently trustworthy and useful. Some may be partly reliable but occasionally distrustworthy on topics that would cross swords with governments, medical cartels, globalists, oligarch-controlled media, etc, that would pulverize them if they deviate from the “official” narrative.

    The wise ones you depend on often post alternate access methods to reach them in case their primary websites, radio broadcast frequencies, or other venues get shut down by the DemSheviks and their thugs. Record on PAPER (and maybe even flash drives as well) those alternate access details.

    If you pull up an online directory of search engines you’ll learn there are several hundred of them, even if you only regularly need one or two. Don’t bother with the government-compromised Google class types, and stick with DuckDuckGo.com or swisscows.com, for example .. unless you really need a special purpose SE.

    If you need to explore the so-called deep web that ordinary search engines can’t access, you might need to learn how to use TAILS and the TOR system. That’s an easy lookup if you have a need.

    It was mentioned above that HAM radios could be used in emergencies. It should be understood that in the US in such cases a government license is not needed. I can’t claim to know the laws in other countries.

    Other communication methods not mentioned above could include satellite phones (such as Mike Adams last week of NaturalNews.com sponsored in a freebie webinar with audio and video so awful that he will feature a re-do in a few weeks) which appear to be one comm device which could still work as long as you can keep it charged even when the power grids and the internet go down. Charging might involve solar, fuel-powered generators, or even hand crank power generators, eg.

    Another such alternate comm method could be the Elon Musk sourced StarLink satellite system. The only gotcha about it is that its’ equipment requires 110vac house current — OR your own generator (whether solar powered, fuel powered or whatever) or an inverter plugged into your vehicle’s 12v DC cigarette lighter socket to provide that 110vac power.

    The crypto currency people also have a challenge. Their blockchain method of communication might have to be routed over a satellite link to maintain reliability during grid down or government oppression conditions. How far along that technology is progressing is a whole different topic. Such possibilities are definitely worth monitoring — not just for crypto usage but for a zillion other kinds of business uses that will dwarf the crypto business.

    We’ve come a long way since the thousands of years of using homing pigeons to carry messages. I’ll leave you with a very funny road sign that ties together the very old and very new technologies. It said “I just sold my pet homing pigeon on eBay for the 23rd time.”

    –Lewis

    • I’ve never used ham radio myself although I’ve had a couple of friends over the years who were devotees. Unfortunately, all I know about Morse code is that users, speaking aloud, say “dah-dah-dit” and never “dash-dash-dot.”

      So (considering you a trusted source), I’d like to ask something. Is it worth my time and effort (as a prepper and survivalist) to learn Morse code?

      If you Google for “Morse code translator” you will find many devices for sale that will convert Morse-to-text or text-to-Morse using either sound or light or vibration. Hence, given that I can buy a mechanical translator, is it a good use of my time to become a human translator? (Or is my time better spent writing another book on non-electric lighting LOL?)

      OR, perhaps, as you imply, homing pigeons are the way to go. I already have a chicken coop . . .

  • Common home routers and almost any wifi device also have a peer to peer capability and neighbors could create “mesh networks” that could connect to other neighbors “mesh networks” and on and on. Some neighborhood tech geeks could set it up and set up some servers with basic bulletin boards like PhpBB for a neighborhood social network / trading post / news venue. I’ve used PhpBB before, and it’s very simple to operate and has a lot of potential. I’m not sure if bushcraftusa.com/forum/ is PhpBB, but the look and function is very similar, and you can see how a neighborhood/town could use it to function even without any greater internet. This is one quick example of a mesh network incorporating multiple wifi devices, including cell phones – https://www.survivalistboards.com/threads/basic-info-on-using-mesh-networked-cell-phones-to-communicate-when-the-grid-is-down.976023/ Additionally, once the neighborhood servers were set up anyone with digital books or videos could deposit them onto the server to share with the neighborhood and create libraries of books and videos for leisure/school/or instruction that would be accessible to all, just like today.

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