Can FT8 be used for Emergency Communications?

Is FT8 any good for Ecomms?

The short answer is no, FT8 is not well suited for emergency communications because of its very short message payload size. Read on for a further explanation.

In today’s world, we are surrounded by different forms of communication. From the use of smartphones, emails, and social media, communication has become an essential part of our daily lives. However, when it comes to emergency communication, we often forget about the importance of having reliable communication methods that can be used in times of crisis.

One communication method that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of FT8 for emergency communications. In this article, we will discuss the suitability of FT8 for emergency communications.

What is FT8?

FT8 is a digital mode that was developed by Joe Taylor, K1JT, and Steve Franke, K9AN. It is a weak-signal digital communication mode that is designed for shortwave radio communication. FT8 is an improvement over its predecessor, JT65, which was developed in 2003.

The popularity of FT8 has increased in recent years due to its ability to make contacts under weak signal conditions. FT8 operates on a frequency range of 1.8 MHz to 28 MHz, making it suitable for use on the High Frequency (HF) band.

FT8 for Emergency Communications

FT8 has been gaining popularity as a mode for emergency communications due to its ability to communicate under weak signal conditions. This makes it suitable for use in emergency situations where other forms of communication may not be available.

FT8 is also a fast mode of communication, with each transmission lasting only 15 seconds. This means that more information can be transmitted in a shorter amount of time, making it a potential mode for emergency communication.

One of the advantages of FT8 is its ability to operate on low power. This makes it an ideal mode for field communications, as it can be used with battery-powered equipment.

It is important to note that FT8 is not a mode for emergency communications. One of the limitations of FT8 is its inability to handle voice communication. This means that it cannot be used for situations where real-time communication is required. In some cases, other modes like voice or digital modes such as PSK31 or Olivia may be more appropriate.

Another limitation of FT8 is its reliance on computer software to decode messages. In emergency situations where power outages may occur, this can be a problem. It is therefore important to have backup power sources and computer equipment in place.

The Best Digital Modes for Ecomms

There are several digital modes that can be used for emergency communications in ham radio, and the best one to use will depend on the specific needs of the situation. Here are some of the most commonly used digital modes for emergency communications:

  1. Morse code: Morse code can be useful in low-power and low-bandwidth communication, making it a popular choice among emergency communications operators.
  2. PSK31: This mode is popular among amateur radio operators for its efficiency and ability to transmit text messages over long distances with low power. It is simple to use and requires only a computer with a sound card and a radio.
  3. Olivia: This mode is similar to PSK31 but offers better performance in poor signal conditions, making it a good choice for emergency communications.
  4. Winlink: This is a messaging system that can be used with various digital modes, including Pactor, Winmor, and Ardop. It is designed specifically for emergency communications and can be used to send email messages over radio.

Ultimately, the best digital mode for emergency communications will depend on factors such as the specific needs of the situation, the available equipment, and the experience level of the operators involved. It’s important to have multiple options available and to be prepared to use different modes depending on the circumstances.



In conclusion, FT8 is not appropriate for emergency communications. Its ability to communicate under weak signal conditions and its fast transmission rate make it suitable for DXing use. FT8 has its limitations, and it should not be relied on as the sole mode of communication in emergency situations.

When it comes to emergency communications, it is important to have a variety of communication methods in place. This ensures that communication can be maintained even if one mode fails. Amateur Radio operators should not consider using FT8 as one of the communication modes in their emergency communication plan.

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