Make Your Base Station/Emergency Power Station

Sooner or later a time will come when the electrical grid will cease. It may be a short time or it could last almost forever. When the grid fails, many things will cease to function. No lights, no heat or air-conditioning, no water, no sewer, no internet, no cable or satellite TV, and last but not least, no communications.

It is important to at least establish a communications link to the outside world, be it across the street, across town, across the region, and even across the globe so you, your family, or members of your group can learn of adverse conditions and further prepare for hard times.

One way is a "dual band" VHF/UHF mobile transceiver powered by a 12 volt deep cycle battery like used in trolling motors for fishing. The reason for a deep cycle battery is because it will withstand long deep discharges without damage to the battery. Typically these batteries are FLA (flooded lead-acid). You can find these at most auto stores and retailers like WalMart.

Available from Walmart around $75.00

A simple smart charger to run off the AC house current will keep it charged. An outside 100 watt solar panel and charge controller will keep it charged if the grid fails. A word of caution: lead-acid batteries give off hydrogen and corrosive gasses when heavy charging. They should be kept in a well ventilated area and at least enclosed in a plastic battery box.

You will also need a good outdoor dual band antenna and feed cable to get to the radio. A lightning arrestor is imperative to keep any lightning or possible EMP pulse from damaging the radio. See "How To Hook Up A Radio".

Dual band mobile radios can be found new or used on ebay or from ham radio retailers. Used ones are also plentiful right now on the used market, hamfests, and ebay. Used ones can be had for around $50 with basic features and maybe $100 with many features. Most of the "features" that full featured radios have you can do without. They are all powered from an external 12 volt power supply. Even new base stations all use 12 volts external power. Some of the name brands are Kenwood, Alinco, Icom, Yaesu. There are a lot of new cheaper Chinese radios flooding the market with too many name brands to list. This author recommends older used name brand over the new ones because they are time tested and reliable. You don't need some of the fancy features the new Chinese radios have to offer. They just make it harder to program and use. Also getting service repair on these Chinese radios is next to impossible.

I would also recommend staying away from all the newer digital DMR radios because they rely on the internet to use and you don't want to lean so much on the newer and more complicated technology.

Once you have your station operating you will be able to put it to the test and see how many people you can reach and how far your radio will really work. Obviously you will need at least a Technician Class Amateur Radio License and an authorized call sign. You can study for the test online here. Also study the page on this website for more ham radio etiquette.

Also, when you establish a good base or mobile station, listen to some of the conversations and nets on the repeaters. They help you hone your skills in communication. Remember, your base station with the battery backup gives you another valuable status. You can consider yourself an "emergency power" station. Meaning you have more than one means of powering your station. You will be moved to the top of the list if you volunteer for communications. When you check-in on the net you suffix your call with the term "emergency power". Example: "This is KO4XYZ, emergency power, no comments".

Of course you can use your power management system to power your HF station once you advance to the General Class ham radio ticket.

How long will your battery system run if left on 24/7? Assuming a duty cycle of 5% transmit you could get over ten days before the battery quits. A good battery management system will disconnect the battery before damaging the battery. Having a solar panel and charge controller guarantees your battery will be topped of and ready to use.

Below are some suggestions and links for a recommended station.

Recommended dual band antenna

5 ft tall. approx $105.00   

Diamond X50NA available from Diamond and Amazon has a low loss N connector jack.


There are many new and used transceivers out there ranging from $50 to $1800.


Battery and case


Go to and do a search for "trolling battery case" for many options and ideas. Make sure you go with a deep cycle battery and make sure the case will accept your battery. Other things you can do to improve your battery system and safety is to use a "Power Pole" fuse block and a USB charging port. Since power is going to be a major player in any short or long term disaster you may want to design and build this power management system.

Solar Panel

Typical 100 watt panel

Smart Charger or charge controller


Amazon and other retailers sell an all-in-one Portable Power Station in one box as shown below that will do everything but you will eventually run into failures which you won't be able to repair if you didn't build it from scratch.


Always use good low loss cable if running any longer than 50 ft.

This is a 50 ft RG8x with PL-259 connectors

LMR400 is a good choice for rugged longer length cable. LMR400 is available with N connectors on both ends from Ebay and Amazon. Typical length is 100 ft with N connectors. You will need an N female to PL259 adapter in some cases to connect to your radio or lightning arrestor.

Lightning arrestor

Lightning is something you should not ignore. A good arrestor hooked to a reliable ground should be used to protect your radios and prevent fires. See this page to fully understand lightning.


Of course these are only suggestions and there are many other brands, options, and configurations available to you. Consult a local ham about your needs. He may even give you all you need to get you on the air. There are many ham clubs around the country and the world. You should become a member and then be able to share your experiences and make new friends. Youtube has thousands of "how to" videos on getting your station on the air. There are a few national retailers that sell high end high quality ham gear, antennas, and towers such as Ham Radio and DX






Copyright 2021 Rick C. Ver 0.04 Oct 27 , 2021