Smartphones for Survival Scenarios and Covert Operations

SMARTPHONES FOR SURVIVAL AND COVERT OPSA phone is a powerful tool and most folks only think of them as helpful if you have cellular coverage or WiFi but in reality, 90% of it's capabilities can work without internet or data. I wanted to highlight an excerpt from our Smartphone for SHTF Prepping Guide and discuss some of the survival themed uses. However; first I wanted to share this step by step method for converting any phone (or a new phone) into a burner phone. You know, an untraceable means of communications. This could be used by those in fear of a domestic retaliation from an ex-spouse, someone in Witness Protection, Agents in high risk investigations with Criminal Informants, or for the Grayman in all of us.

ANONYMOUS PHONE USAGE (semi-burner): Much like a burner phone, the idea is to have a smartphone that can't be traced to you via Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This doesn't mean it cannot be tracked via GPS but rather it can be operated with anonymity.  

  1. Buy an unlocked phone from a retailer using cash. (Don't buy from a service provider). Do not enter a contract nor provide PII.
  2. Unbox, leave phone powered off. Insert a microphone blocking plug. Place an adhesive  camera blocker over the front and rear cameras, (duct tape, foil tape, etc).
  3. Go to a public WiFi access. Power on phone.  Setup accounts using a new email address and again providing no PII. 
  4. Disable all invasive features such as device error logging, GPS, NFC, bluetooth, location sharing, health tracking functions, etc. Delete all bloatware apps.
  5. Purchase a data SIM card. Not a standard SIM with cellular phone plan. Use apps for communication over internet protocols.
  6. Power phone off, remove battery if possible, and place in Faraday bag when not in use.




SURVIVAL USES OF A SMARTPHONE - Thinking outside the box, there are endless ways your phone can aid in survival.

    • Survival Library - Download eBooks, PDFs, and files with guides and tips related to bushcraft, navigating, wilderness survival, urban survival, food preservation, fire-starting techniques, identifying wild plants, foraging, SERE, etc. You may want to add detailed manuals for rebuilding after an apocalyptic scenario such as building a gasifier, wiring and setting up a solar farm, processing grains, rebuilding an engine, etc.
      • Consider adding our other guides to your phone by downloading their PDFs for offline use.
    • Communications - A phone is inherently designed to communicate. Calling, texting, apps, and email are at your disposal. You are only limited by loss of cellular and internet capabilities.
  • Pro-Tip: Identify out-of-town emergency contacts (OOTEC). If you are trying to use “spotty” and “overloaded” internet/cellular signals to get a message to someone else in your same area, you will both be struggling to send and receive. Instead, contact your OOTEC first then allow them to relay messages from the safety/comfort of their unaffected area.
  • Pro-Tip: First Responders and Emergency Management may be eligible for preemption/priority services.
  • WPS - Wireless Priority Service is a DHS program that supports national leadership; federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments; and other authorized NS/EP users. It is intended to be used in an emergency or crisis situation when the wireless network is congested and the probability of completing a normal call is reduced.
  • FirstNet - is an extension of AT&T that enables priority access to cellular and data services when towers are congested. A federal contract allows sharing of other network towers to ensure increased coverage.
          • Calling - First and foremost you can use your phone to call others. When SHTF happens, make a call earlier in the event as cell towers will quickly become overloaded. Assess then react and decide where and when you will regroup. Use ICERS to aid in your bugout plan. 
      • Pro-Tip: Any phone can dial 911 even if there is no service plan or minutes on the phone.
            • Texting - As cell towers become overloaded using your phone to dial and call out will be disabled. A text is more likely to be sent and received. Your phone and cell provided will continue to attempt to send the message. Hang up, and send a text if you can’t get your call out. 
            • Comms Apps - Use 3rd party messaging, phone, and radio apps, (if available, use the built-in PTT walkie-talkie). Apps like Facebook Messenger, Zello, Skype, WhatsApp, etc; can be used when an internet connection is available but cell/data is down.  This provides another alternative for making contact.
              • FM Smartphone Chip receivers are already present in most smartphones, but not all smartphone makers activate them. If your phone has one you can use an app as a tuner to utilize the built in radio. You'll need an antenna but luckily your headphones double as one
                • This uses less data and battery power than connecting to radio apps, though of course, there’s less control over what you listen to. Aside from the nostalgia factor, FM radio broadcasts can be life-saving, especially in emergency situations when information is transmitted via radio waves. If the mobile internet is down, having access to local radio stations through an FM chip would be an invaluable asset.
                • HTC, Samsung,  LG, Motorola, and many other phones typically have an activated chip but Apple has refused the FCC's request to activate the iPhone’s hidden FM radio to aid public safety.
                • How to get started?
                  • 1. Download NextRadio.
                  • 2. Plug in headphones, speaker cord,  or earbuds.
                  • 3. Open app, share location or enter zipcode.
                  • 4. Want to go total offgrid? Click settings in the app, then interface, then switch to tuner mode only.
              • Mesh/Network Apps - there are many pairable devices that extend the capabilities of your phone my using it's capabilities such as bluetooth, IR, Radio, and NFC. See our apps guide below for more info.
            • Email - again internet is required but this is the best option for establishing contact with someone that may not have a smartphone (or who’s phone was lost/destroyed during SHTF). This is basically a message drop in the digital world and since it can be accessed on all devices such smartphone, flip phone, desktop, tablet, smartTVs, etc.
          • Mapping and Navigation - Your phone can act as a compass and a map. You can plot points, get directions, download satellite imagery, and more. 
            • Maps - As you’ll see in the APPS section below; there are many mapping apps available and many work while your phone if offline. You can download maps to your phone. Plot rally points, caches, message drops, and Bug Out Locations (BOLs). Your phone can aid in creating multiple routes as it displays highways, firebreaks, wooded areas, bodies of water, etc. 
            • Self-Locating - If you are lost or unaware of your whereabouts, you can use your map and GPS function to self-locate and then find your way. 
            • GPS - It’s highly likely that GPS will still work post-apocalypse. Satellites are in high geosynchronous orbit and earth based attacks such as an EMP would not necessarily render GPS useless, (if your phone was Faraday protected). The military may turn off or encrypt GPS if the event is deemed a threat to the US. If GPS is still active, use it is sync with your maps app as needed. 
          • Binoculars - A phone equipped with a telephoto optical lens offers an opportunity to use your phone camera as binos. As of Feb 2019 the following phones have this option,  iPhone XS, the XS Max, the Galaxy S9+ and the Note 9 . You’ll want a 40MP camera or higher. You can also buy aftermarket attachable zoom lens. Whatever you have, once the picture is taken, open the photo in your gallery and pinch and zoom to see areas in greater detail. 
          • Flashlight - There is no greater tool that a light in the dark. Nearly all smartphones have flashlight capability that uses the front facing cameras flash. Not all phones have a built-in app so you may have to go to your app store to download a flashlight app. If you have hardpress buttons you can remap the flashlight app to your button using the settings in your phone or a third party remapping app. Having it as a button makes it easier to activate and use quickly.
          • Firestarter - Yes, your phone can start a fire. 
            • Use steel wool or even a gum wrapper to start a fire by rubbing it against the removed battery’s contacts. 
              • Use gum wrapper that has waxed paper with aluminum foil. Cut  strip from wrapper to be ¼ inch wide on the two ends and 1/16 inch wide in the center. Attached ends to the two battery contacts and it will ignite in the center of the wrapper.
            • Find wire inside phone pry it loose from where it was soldered. Strip off insulation in the middle area of wire and both ends. Attach one end to the positive and one to negative contacts. The wire will become hot enough that you can then tough tinder to the middle bare section to start a flame.
            • You can also simply puncture the battery. This is very dangerous but it will start a fire. 
          • Signalling and Improvised Comms- If it’s dark, simply use your flashlight as a signalling device to signal to a rescue team or friendly. You can also use the reflective surface of your phone screen to signal. With these methods in mind, you can also use it to send messages using Morse Code. 
          • Cutting - The internal components of your phone can be sharp and can be improvised as a blade. The green circuit board can be sharpened on a rock and used as a knife or arrow/spear head. 
          • Compass - The speakers of all phones have a magnet in them. Find and remove a small wire about the size of a needle. Magnetize the needle by rubbing 20+ times across the magnet in the same direction. Place wire on a leaf, place leaf in still body of water like a puddle. The wire will align with North/South. The end that was swept across the magnet will be the end that points North.
          • Morale Booster - Save books, the Bible, movies, music, and photos to your phone. Having these items can be a great way to take your mind off the disaster around you, raise your spirits, find encouragement and meaning, laugh, and pass the time. 
          • Alerts Weather and Emergency - Sign up for alerts from various sources. You may be able to get the news of a pending disaster before others and get a few minutes headstart to the gas pumps, grocery, or even down to your bunker. 
          • Fishing - Use the reflective and metallic items in your phones to improvise as a fishing lure. Thicker gauge wire or even the circuit board can be shaped into a gouging hook.
          • ICE & Medical ID - If you phone is lost it can quickly be returned to you if you have ICE information either physically written/engraved on the phone, as a tagline/caption on your lockscreen, or as a background/wallpaper. Simply add a phone number, email, or address so that police or a helpful bystander can get your phone returned to you. With the same methods above, you can also list any allergies, bloodtype, or medical conditions on your phone so first responders can properly treat you during an injury.

          Download the entire guide on smartphones, here.

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