Modern technology has made communication effective and largely effortless. This is primarily due to the use electronic communication devices which have eliminated the constraints of distance so as to allow for real-time communication.
However, power blackouts still occur, and during each blackout, no matter how long it lasts, electronic-based communication is severely disrupted unless there is a power backup on standby. Most people who use electronic gadgets for communication do not have power backups, and the same applies to most businesses.
Imagine electrical power generation is impossible for whatever reason, maybe it is EMP from the Sun, maybe it’s societal & infrastructure collapse, and electricity cannot be supplied to the people, cities, and factories. How will people communicate, especially considering their reliance on electronic-based communication?
Will long-distance communication temporarily cease, or are there any non-electronic communication modes that people can use? The answer to these questions is that any sustained power black-out would create total radio silence in some areas, but this cannot prevent people from communicating with each other over long distances using alternative communication systems during disaster or any survival situation.
Alternative Communication Methods
Below is a description of how people can communicate in radio silence, or when there is no electricity. Some of these communication techniques are also handy when there is need to operate in total silence, for instance during hunting, and when issuing tactical commands in the battlefield. Ability for emergency communications without electronics is essential part of emergency preparedness. For preppers, disasters and the issue of operating from an off-grid location compounds the need for an alternative communication technique that does not rely on electricity. Therefore it is important to learn some of these alternative communication methods that allows silent, non-electricity-based messaging.
Morse Code alphabet
Morse code was previously used, almost exclusively, in ship-to-ship communication, as well as ship-to-shore communication. Nowadays, it is associated with radio use. The key advantage that made it quite useful for ship-based communication was its ability to use light blinkers to relay messages.
Flashlights support light-transmission of Morse code if their circuits integrate a rapid on-off switch, which allows users to create light blinkers, or flickers. However, what can you do if your flashlight, or torch, does not accommodate rapid switching on and off? The solution is quite simple; if the torch or flashlight is small enough, just switch it on, and then use your hand to cover and uncover the light rays.
If the torch or flashlight is large, a book, aluminum cover, or any large opaque and light-weight object can be used to rapidly cover and uncover the light rays in a pre-determined sequence so that a Morse code can be relayed. This allows for easy and fast communication over long distances, so long as the sender and the receiver both understand the Morse code, and how to interpret it.
This technique of covering and uncovering the light source can be used with laser lights, lit candles, battery-powered torches, and kerosene lanterns. The only thing you needs to do is to carefully cover the entire lantern or candle without turning the wick off as this could lead to misinterpretation of the Morse message.
Morse codes can be sent also using sound, if radio isn’t available, you can try whistle or even hitting something that creates strong sound.
This works by reducing the size of light beam into a small light ray. This can be done by covering the torch with a cover containing a pin-hole. Also, a laser light can be used.
This technique works best in dark places, or during moon-less nights. The reason for this is that darkness allows light rays to travel further as there is no interference from other light waves. Therefore, the green-red-blue light that is emitted by the small laser light can reach considerably far, hence making it very effective as a tool of communication. You can for example use powerful pen sized pointer laser, which is also easy to carry.
If you don’t want to reveal your exact location, you can direct the light ray to a nearby tree, wall, or fence. This way you can still send the message, but your location still stays unknown for the observer.
Communicating Using Ship Flags
Sea-faring people have used cloth-bound signals since early times, with patterned mast flags or uniquely-shaped cloth pieces being hoisted when they are at visible distance of another ship. This lead to the creation of signal flags by sailors. Presently, there is a large compendium of signal flags that have been agreed upon by different sea services, and these flags are called international signal flags. Nowadays, they are conveniently called ship flags, and each ship flag does convey a specific meaning. Each meaning is stipulated based on internationally-agreed maritime conventions; and consequently each flag does have a phonetic name that identifies it.
For preppers, the flag can be painted on any flat object such as an aluminum plate, wood-board, or plastic board; or be drawn on any fabric material, including windsocks and head banners. Many types of flags can be made this way, and then waved or hoisted when another ship comes into view. Still, it is advisable that the most important flags be painted on the materials so as to avoid exhausting the paint or materials on not-very-useful flags.
These flags can also be modified for land-based use, for instance during floods when houses are submerged and the surviving inhabitants need help, they can wave a flag to alert any search & rescue team nearby.
This technique combines the attributes of bright visual signaling of signal flagging with the alpha-numeric message relay capabilities of Morse code signaling. During semaphore flagging, the signalman holds two bright flags (and if these are not available, cone lights will do), and then using their hands to wave the flags into fixed positions
Each fixed position represents an alphabetical letter, which can be decoded by the positions of the arms in relation to the body. For instance, fully outstretched arms positions the flags as far away from each other on a horizontal plane, and this represents the letter R. Therefore, the observer first sees the two flags, and then notices the positions of the arms to decipher their meaning of the flag signal being conveyed. This allows for communication between a stationary signalman and a moving object, such as flying planes.
If there is only one flag, then a special type of semaphore flagging called wigwag signaling can be done. Still, having two flags is better because it provides a bigger line-of-sight as compared to using a single flag.
Established Shorthand Codes
There are shorthand codes that have been developed purposely for conveying messages quickly in dangerous situations, such as fighting in the battlefield. Two of the most useful shorthand codes are the 10 Codes and the Radio Q Codes. For example, when a soldier says the words ten-thirty seven (10-37) to his fellow, it indicates that a suspicious vehicle is approaching their location.
The 10 Codes are quite useful as they can be transmitted via whistles, clicks, blinkering lights, and hand signals.
Below is an example of Radio Q Codes:
|Code||Question||Answer or Notice|
|QRA||What ship or coast station is that?||This is ____.|
|QRB||What is your distance?||My distance is ____.|
|QRC||What is your true bearing?||My true bearing is ____ degrees.|
|QRD||Where are you bound for?||I am bound for ____.|
|QRF||Where are you bound from?||I am bound from ____.|
|QRG||What line do you belong to?||I belong to the ____ Line.|
|QRH||What is your wavelength in meters?||My wavelength is ____ meters.|
|QRJ||How many words have you to send?||I have ____ words to send.|
|QRK||How do you receive me?||I am receiving (1–5).
1 is unreadable and 5 is perfect.
|QRL||Are you busy?||I am busy.|
|QRM||Are you being interfered with?||I am being interfered with.|
|QRN||Are the atmospherics strong?||Atmospherics (noise) are very strong.|
Military Hand Signals
These signals aid in conducting silenced operations such as armed raids. The fingers of the hands can be held up in special positions which serve action-information signals, or signals that convey either troop number information. For instance, clenching the fist and then holding up the little finger indicates the letter I, while holding an outstretched arm at 90 degrees angle to the body indicates that the troops behind the signaling soldier must assume a line formation.
Soldiers are required to be ready for battle at all times. This is regardless of whether their electronic communications devices are working or not, maybe due to sabotage or electronic jamming. For this reason, frontline soldiers in the battlefield rarely rely on the effectiveness of electronic communication, especially when they are engaged in close-quarter combat which considerably reduces the effectiveness of electronic-based communication. Expectedly, soldiers have found their way around this limitation, and their innovative non-voice-based communication method relies on a set of hand signals collectively designated as military hand signals.
Military hand signals allows a company of soldiers to conduct a house raid without alerting the inhabitants. The use of hand signals preserve the element of surprise, and it can also benefit preppers during crises when their team is bogged down by attackers as the preppers can still communicate with each other using military hand signals, and therefore be able to coordinate their defense maneuvers without any noise alerting their attackers.
Military hand signals can broadly be divided into two; action-information signals and number signals. Regardless, both the signaling soldiers and their audience need to understand what specific hand signals means, and requires a conventional agreement. However, this agreement must remain a secret so that enemy combatants cannot decipher your military hand signals. Therefore, the soldiers of different camps can use the same hand signal to convey totally different messages because they each use a different convention to interpret the signals. Appreciation of this fact is important for preppers because they would need to quickly formulate a set of hand signals and their corresponding interpretative framework, within a short time period before they disperse to counter the threat facing them.
The number signals exclusively rely on positioning the fingers of one hand, usually the free hand as the other hand holds the rifle. This also means that the five fingers are used to denote numbers one to ten.
The action-information signals are meant to relay commands, and they rely on position of the fingers, hands, form-arms, and arms relative to the torso. For instance, swinging the arm to and from the torso does relay a command to the soldiers behind the signalman to assume a V-shaped formation before they can be given further instructions. There are hand signals for assuming a single line formation or for the soldiers to hold their positions.
Sometimes, soldiers combine military hand signals with whistling, hand-clapping, and window tapping depending on the situation. This is usually done when soldiers are occupying different rooms during a search mission inside an apartment, and they cannot see each other but need to communicate stealthily with one another. Preppers can modify such signaling methods, and customize them for their local settings.
American Sign Language
It relies on single-gesture shorthand signals to allow deaf-mute people to communicate with each other. Likewise, the American sign language (which is abbreviated as ASL) can be applied during times of distress when silence allows the distressed, but visible victim, to remain unnoticed by an attacker. It can also be used to communicate with non-English speaking people who understand ASL.
The American sign language (abbreviated as ASL) can be compared to military hand signals, as both communication methods rely on hand signals to convey message and facilitate communication. The main difference is that military hand signals allows for stealth communication, while ASL allows for open communication among deaf-mute people.
The basis of ASL is single-gesture shorthand signs that signify nouns, verbs, and other word categories. This sign language allows deaf-mute people to hold sophisticated conversations with each other. This makes the sign language useful for preppers who strive to communicate silently over short distances.
Relatedly, knowing this sign language increases your chances of employability, especially in emergency relief settings, as you offer a unique talent of being able to communicate with deaf-mute people, something that is critical when conducting an emergency relief effort to save trapped deaf-mute victims.
The aforementioned hand signals can be drawn on paper, cards, or posters; and then flashed for the other party to see. This reduces the risk of misinterpretations as both the signalman and observer see the same signal, and are required to interpret it the same way.
During World War 2, the Germans wrote down military hand signals on cards and posters, and then flashed these posters during battle to relay message to their fellow soldiers. The use of written symbols offered a unique advantage over using military hand signals, as large posters could be seen by soldiers located far away while hand signals can only be seen by soldiers located nearby. The Russians and Americans also developed their own written symbols during the course of World War 2.
For preppers, it is recommended that written symbols from different nations should be used so as to ensure that ordinary military guys cannot decipher the message being sent across. Preppers can also create their own unique written symbols as they see fit for their situation.
Written symbols also allow preppers to annotate maps, as well as mark important spots on the map. This way, they can locate resources or areas of interest.
Limitations of Non-electronic Communications
Non-electronic communications allows preppers to communicate when there is no electricity. However, this advantage comes with several remarkable disadvantages.
First of all, non-electronic communication rely heavily on sight. This means that all parties in the communication loop must be able to see each other, or to see the signals being flashed or waved across the field. This makes the use of military hand signals almost useless in dark rooms or during moonless nights. This means that signaling as an alternative communication method is only effective during the day.
The second disadvantage of non-electronic alternative communication is that light-based methods such as blinkers of Morse codes and use of contained light; are effective mostly at night. This is because daylight simply submerges the light being emitted by torches and flashlights, hence making them unnoticeable to people located far away.
Another disadvantage pertains to flag and hand signals which can only be seen during the day, and only people close enough to the signals can see them. Thus flag and hand signaling are severely limited by distance constraints. Even so, this distance limitation can be eliminated a bit by using binoculars. This will allow to see signals being hoisted at a relatively far away place.
However, binoculars cannot overcome the third key limitation of non-electronic communication, the need to learn the alternative communication method before using it. Some of these methods have a steep learning curve hence making them impractical for preppers who need to acquaint themselves with a non-electronic communication method within a short time period.
Communicating without electricity is severely limited by distance between communicating parties, but anyway there are plenty of effective communication methods that work well in closer range. SurvivalGearArmory.com’s recommendation is to learn at least Morse code as it could be used for messaging many different ways, and code could be transmitted using light, voice and even smoke.
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