Michigan Citizens Band Radio Network
A volunteer "ad hoc" network of citizens maintaining two way communications during an emergency or blackout using unlicensed radio frequencies in the citizens band, multi-use radio service, family radio service and WiFi bands. In addition to emergencies the network can include activities such as neighborhood watches, events, encampments and gatherings.
Citizen's band and higher frequency FRS and MURS bands are under utilized forms of communication and although these radios are limited in range and quality, they can still be used locally and no license is necessary. Michigan CB Radio Network is an open source project that anyone can participate in. We offer you the plans and information needed to set up emergency communications in your local area and participate in a larger network. We believe in making 2-way radios a part of survival prep.
FAQ about CB Radios In Emergencies - Answers to Common Questions
Q: Using two-way radios doesn't interest me and seems unnecessary. I have no intention to talk on a CB or get an amateur operator license. Why should I care about using the unlicensed radio frequencies?
A: When nothing else is available, you're going to want something to talk with. All anyone would need is to have some 2-ways on hand, along with batteries and some accessories. You don't need to know anything that isn't in the manual for your radio to use it. That is one of the main reasons to have the unlicensed radio frequencies to begin with. With little knowledge about 2-ways, and no license required, you can open the box and start using it.
Q: Do CBs have the necessary range and clarity for emergency use? Will anyone "official" be monitoring in case I need help?
A: Range and clarity depend on many factors and emergency use depends on the type of emergency. With good CB setups at home and in your car, it is possible to communicate with a family member as much as 20 miles away. While driving, you can talk with other cars traveling with you or to others ahead of or behind you. In an extreme emergency scenario, there are enough people who use CBs that there would likely be someone on the air that can help. This would be esp. true on major highways and in higher population areas as there are at least truck drivers on the CB.
Q: There are many government agencies and amateur radio clubs that can handle emergency communications, why should the average citizen re-invent the wheel by doing the same?
A: It is true, an unlicensed citizen's radio network is reinventing the wheel, but only to the extent that it is a prepper redundancy. More important is that it's an alternative to standard emergency communications. In a crisis the official emergency networks will be too busy to give anyone personal attention. They might help verify the safety of loved ones if possible, or direct you to further help, but you would have to go to them if other communications were down.
Because the unlicensed 2-way radio frequencies are not used for emergency communications by civil authorities, it is perfect for dealing with personal issues outside of licensed operators and government authorities. The unlicensed radios are good for keeping track of your personal situation in an emergency or disaster.
Network Guidelines and Organization
While participating in the network, members must obey all applicable laws, use proper twoway etiquette, and accurately relay messages and information while operating in the system. The MCBRN is divided into cells 50 miles in diameter. Cells are designated by a number within their region inside Michigan (click MCBRN Cell Map link below). Each member station in a regional cell is considered a sub-cell with it's own network of stations. Any member station can organize their networks in any fashion that works for them as long as they participate in the greater network.
There are many networks that can be linked to MCBRN and it is the goal of members to include as many as possible. Some well established networks, like amateur radio clubs, and loose associations, like truck drivers or CB radio groups, may be incorporated as affiliates. By associating with available groups, a large area can be covered by just a few members. The first priority of start-up stations is to monitor the radio until they have identified local operators and their locations. Once members know who is talking, they need to introduce the network through friendly conversation.
Reporting to the network
Members are to report any information of significant importance to the network from personal accounts or other sources.
Information of importance is to be reported to the network as quickly as possible. Your priorities should first be to people in immediate threat or danger or police and emergency responders if necessary, and then the network.
Message and information relaying
Messages should be relayed in a timely manner and may involve any form of communication necessary for final delivery.
Network announcements take priority and must be relayed immediately to all stations within communication distance.
Messages will be communicated primarily by standard 2-way codes including, the MCBRN 10-code (standard 10-code with Police Extended APCO Codes), the Q-code (for SSB and SW bands), NATO phonetic alphabet, and common use radio jargon (click the communication card link at the bottom of the page). When a relayed message is sent, the message is written down or recorded. The copied message is retained until it is confirmed as delivered. Once confirmed, the message is relayed to the next station.
Frequencies of Operation
MCBRN frequencies are based on the "Channel 3 Project" developed by AmRRON (American Redoubt Radio Operators Network) and TAPRN (The American Preparedness Radio Network) and are commonly used by community groups, preppers, survivalists and unregulated militias. They are suggested as contact frequencies, MCBRN members are not restricted to their exclusive use.
Citizen's Band HF
MCBRN will use citizens band Ch 3 (26.985 MHz) AM, and lower side band Ch 16 (27.155 MHz) FM as contact frequencies.
Shortwave Bands UHF and VHF
Because of less interference from "skip" and other sources, and to communicate with licensed Ham operators, unlicensed UHF and VHF frequencies will be used in addition to the Citizens Band.
The Family Radio Service has 14 channels in the UHF band that are commonly used for walkie talkies, and the Multi-Use Radio Service has 5 in the VHF band. MCBRN will use FRS Ch 3 (462.6125MHz) and MURS Ch 3 (151.940Mhz) as contact frequencies.
Network call signs
For the purpose of identifying network members and maintaining privacy, we developed a call sign system. Call signs start with region initials that are followed by a cell number and a 3 digit unit number. Example of region initials; for the Southwest Michigan region, the call sign initials are SWM (Sierra Whiskey Mike), the Northeast Michigan Region would be NEM (November Echo Mike). For region initials and cell numbers, download the MCBRN Cell Map by clicking the link at the bottom of this page. Use the number substitution alphabet below to create a unique 3 digit unit number from your own initials.
A=0, B=1, C=2, D=3, E=4, F=5, G=6, H=7, I=8, J=9, K=0, L=1, M=2, N=3, O=4, P=5, Q=6, R=7, S=8, T=9, U=0, V=1, W=2, X=3, Y=4, Z=5.
Example using my call sign: My region is SWM (South West Michigan), my cell number from the map is 0 and my initials are encrypted as 640, so my call sign is SWM-0640 (Sierra Whiskey Mike Zero Six Four Zero).
Note: AmRRON has developed a call sign system and it should be recognized when communicating with the Ch 3 network.
Operation Times and Meetings
Under normal conditions, it is recommended members be on the air when possible and in the afternoon and evening on Sundays. Stations should regularly monitor channel 3 in order to keep in contact with the larger network. A local meet and greet "coffee break" should occur when possible and organizational meetings as needed. During an emergency, AmRRON and TAPRN have a protocol in which you do small broadcasts within ten minutes of every hour until contact is established.
Network base stations operators should have a log book for keeping notes and making a record of station activities. Log books should contain useful reference info such as 10-codes, Q-codes, highway exits and towns within communication range, etc.
Recommended Setups and Practical Ranges
The base station should be a side band unit with a modulated microphone and a base antenna as high up as legally possible. Extra equipment would include a MURS VHF transceiver, an AM/FM/SW receiver, a police scanner, and a computer. Hooking up your base station to a computer will expand it's capabilities with free software like VOX recorder, Morse code to text, and simplex/duplex repeaters. Your computer should be WiFi capable and networked with your other computers and devices. Equipment should be operated or backed-up with batteries and an off-grid charging system such as a solar charger.
Communication distance depends on the frequency used, antenna height, terrain and power output. The following distances apply to line of sight signals broadcast across flat open terrain with legally allowed wattage and high gain antennas in use by both stations. Actual distances vary with each situation. In my wooded and rolling terrain, one watt of power is good for about two miles. A 4-watt AM CB for a mobile and a 12-Watt SSB CB for a base station should be able to achieve the distances specified.
Because of the curve of the earth, a line of sight signal from a 6 foot tall (tip to ground) antenna will be zero feet at the 3 mile horizon line. Therefore a base antenna with a total height of 12 feet would be in alignment with a mobile antenna with a height of 6ft at 3 miles and then with another 12ft antenna 6 miles away, and an 18ft antenna at 9 miles, etc.. A rule of thumb would be every two feet of added height extends your horizon line another mile.
- An antenna with a height of 12ft the line of sight for mobiles is 3 miles and other 12ft antennas 6+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 18ft the line of sight for mobiles is 6 miles and other 18ft antennas 12+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 20ft the line of sight for mobiles is 7 miles and other 20ft antennas 14+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 24ft the line of sight for mobiles is 9 miles and other 24ft antennas 18+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 27ft the line of sight for mobiles is 12 miles and other 27ft antennas 24+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 30ft the line of sight for mobiles is 15 miles and other 30ft antennas 30+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 36ft the line of sight for mobiles is 18 miles and other 36ft antennas 36+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 42ft the line of sight for mobiles is 21 miles and other 42ft antennas 42+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 48ft the line of sight for mobiles is 24 miles and other 48ft antennas 44+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 50ft the line of sight for mobiles is 25 miles and other 50ft antennas 50+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 54ft the line of sight for mobiles is 27 miles and other 54ft antennas 54+ miles.
- An antenna with a height of 60ft the line of sight for mobiles is 30 miles and other 60ft antennas 60 miles.
For communication of 30 plus miles, we suggest using a side band CB and a high gain directional beam antenna 36' to 60' off the ground. Certain antenna designs can be utilized to reach (and exceed) the legal communications limit of 155 miles, a 310 mile radius, and that will cover the entire topography (details for members only).
It is also suggested to use the MURS frequencies with a MURS radio or modem and a high gain directional antenna. With this system, the 2 watts allowed can achieve good distances with a clean signal and greater privacy. Also, MURS can be used for transmitting Morse code and digital data signals, something that is not allowed on FRS and CB frequencies. Digital data can be sent on a MURS modem at a maximum data rate of 19.2kbps to link computers and sending text messages, documents or files.
Under most situations mobile to mobile communications have a distance of at least 3 miles. Mobile to walkie, from 1 to 3 miles. The FRS walkie-talkies have a range of 1 mile. Transmitting with high gain antennas in open topography, increases range.
Other Communication Media - "Ad Hoc" and "Meshnet" WiFi Networking
All available communication methods and media should be used while those methods and services are practical and/or available, so use the internet or your cell phone while they work. If the web goes off line and internet connections become impossible, an "ad hoc" or "meshnet" wireless network can be created. An ad hoc network is a temporary connection between computers and devices used for a specific purpose, such as sharing documents or playing multi-player games. You can also share an Internet connection with other people on your ad hoc meshnet who don’t have their own connection. Each wifi unit is a link in a chain of others to create a wireless local network. Wifi is limited to one watt output, but with a high gain outdoor antenna at good height, a 2-3 mile range is possible. Special antenna designs can dramatically increase ranges, however, such range isn't necessary when you live in an area with many wifi users living close together. Information for creating an ad hoc meshnet network is available to MCBRN members.
Network Overview and Summary
The optimum sub-cell network would have the following; a SSB CB radio base station, a MURS radio and/or modem, a mobile car CB, handheld CBs and/or FRS radios, a WiFi transmitter with outdoor antenna, and WiFi capable computers and devices in a local area network.
On foot, handheld CBs and FRS 2-way radios can communicate with each other, as well as their base and mobile stations, up to a mile away. That information can be relayed further to another base station and their mobile units using a CB or MURS radio. The base station's local area network can be linked to another station's LAN though a MURS modem or wifi transmitter. Anyone within a mile or two of an optimal base station that has a FRS walkie or a wifi device can connect to the network. An optimal base station would be able to communicate with mobile CBs and MURS radios 5 or more miles away and communicate with other base stations up to 30 miles. Specialized antenna setups can increase the range to the 155 mile F.C.C. broadcast limit. An ad hoc wifi network will extend out as far as the most distant user.
There you have it, the license free means, methods and plans to establish voice and digital communications when normal systems are down. Not everyone has the means for a basic set-up, much less a base station set-up as described, but most can afford a few FRS Talk-Abouts or a used CB and participate when and where they can. Others with no interest in two-way radio communications can still participate with WiFi devices by creating an ad hoc wireless network linked to MCBRN. Most important is to have and share this information in order to setup and utilize the network model when a crisis or disaster strikes at the local, regional or global level. Make plans, get ready to join this grass roots network and keep connected in grid-down scenarios.
Got any ideas for network operations/guidelines? Please send a message with the email form or forum link on our contact page.