Thursday, February 23, 2017

News and information after TSHTF

After TSHTF, be it local or national, there will be a need for staying up to date on some news stories. Weather reports and forecasts will help you decide what to wear and whether or not travel is a good idea. Reports on road conditions and traffic can help you decide which routes are safest if you need to travel. Government activities like relief stations and the various restrictions put into effect for “safety” are good to be aware of. So how do you plan on getting the “news”?

I, for one, am reaching a point of saturation when it comes to “news”. When I was a kid we had the three main networks and the “news” came on at 6:00pm and 10:00pm every night. Radio stations gave highlights at the top of each hour, with a few AM stations providing news reports all day. In-depth news coverage was provided by daily newspapers that weren't 90% advertising.
With the invention of CNN in the 1980s we were given “news” coverage 24 hours a day, and the various other all-news channels now allow us to pick our form of bias in the “news” we get. Along comes the Internet and the Drudge Report and now we have “news” available whenever and wherever we go. Most of what is now reported falls short of being actual news and is mindless fluff, used to fill in the gaps between commercials. The worst are the commercials disguised as news shows. In disgust, I have stopped listening to most of it (especially during election seasons) and have narrowed my sources in the last few years.

How do you get news after TSHTF? For any large-scale crisis, I doubt the Internet will be available. Even in local emergencies, the electrical and phone/cable infrastructure can be damaged enough to shut down your access to the web. The Internet was designed to be resilient and will route data around damage, but it may not be able to get route it all of the way to your device. Local radio and TV stations will try to stay active, but they rely on outside sources for most of their content. Here are a few sources for you to think about:

As much as I hate rumor-mongers, they can be a source of information. It may be incomplete or incorrect, but it's information. Small towns and distinct neighborhoods still have a few people with nothing better to do than keep track of the folks who live around them. These local busy-bodies can be handy if you need to find someone or check on them, since they'll know quite a bit about local conditions. I have a standing policy of not passing on unverified rumors, but I make exceptions for disinformation purposes. Sometimes I want people to believe things that aren't true, for my own purposes.

Any gathering of people will provide an opportunity to gather information, especially if it is peaceful. Churches, water sources, and informal gatherings will likely provide better quality information than a press briefing or “stump speech” from a politician.

People will pick up news of their surroundings as they pass through, which means that sitting around a campfire swapping stories with folks who have come from or through an area you're interested in could be a good idea. Travelers may be able to trade information and current conditions of other locations for the things they need to keep moving towards their destination.

A subset of travelers would be someone on a route that passes by you. The mailman is going to see a lot of local conditions as he travels his route, as will food or fuel delivery drivers. Law enforcement and military will likely be under orders to keep their mouths shut, but medical and maintenance crews probably won't.

There are a lot of options for news available to anyone with a good short-wave receiver. I prefer digital tuning on mine, but the older analog tuners can be very good at picking up distant stations. Short-wave is Amplitude Modulated (AM) radio, so it will bounce and carry further than Frequency Modulated (FM) radio signals. Sources like the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) and Deutche Welle (DW, it means “German radio waves”) still broadcast world news in English on frequencies that bounce to the far corners of the world. They are also good practice at picking out the bias in any news source, since they have completely different views on events that happen here.

Blending with the travelers from above is Citizen Band (CB) radio. Truck drivers still have them in their trucks and they do still chat with each other as they wander about delivering things. Very short range if you stay within the legal boundaries, but there are places that sell amplifiers capable of boosting the power 100-fold or more. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) frowns on boosted CB signals and has been known to track down stationary ones.

For local radio communications, the Family Radio Service (FRS)/ General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) bands are used by the little walkie-talkies that you can find in any electronics store. FRS/GMRS radios are very low power and short range, but they are cheap and easy to use.

If you want to be an active participant in the news system, amateur radio (Ham radio) is an option. We posted a guest article on the subject a few weeks ago, and there will be more to come. Trying to track down a testing location so I can start the process of getting my license is being a bit of a challenge. There are disadvantages to living in small-town America, but I have already found relay stations in my area that will allow better coverage around the hills. One more license to add to my collection of government-issued paperwork, but it shouldn't be too difficult to get.

Treat all information and news that you hear as questionable until you can verify it for yourself. Trusted sources should be designated now, before TSHTF, and even those may be compromised so take it all with a grain of salt.

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