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Ham Radio as a Prepping Skill

January 18, 2012

Communications, Ham Radio, Skills

ham radio for the prepper

“Why not just get a couple of tin cans and a long piece of string? Or better yet, use smoke signals? Baaahahaha!”

That’s the reaction that some people have about ham radio. In a world of cellphones with unlimited long distance, voice over ip (VoIP) that allows you to talk with someone 1/2 way around the world for next to nothing, and Instant Messages for real-time chat sessions, why would someone consider going back to the technological stone ages of communication?

But then again, that’s the way many people react when you mention any kind of prepping. “Why do you need to store food? There’s a grocery store just down the street. Why stockpile water? Just turn on the faucet.”

They fail to see the wisdom of being prepared for times when the grocery store shelves are bare and the water pipes are empty. They can’t fathom a circumstance when help isn’t on the way.

But preparedness minded people, consider these possibilities and take actions to put themselves in better situations should those things occur.

Why I’m Learning Amateur Radio

That why I’m studying for my Amateur Radio License, more commonly known as Ham Radio. What if communications are down or are just unreliable? What will you do then? What if there’s a national emergency? How can you help?

I’ve decided that it would be in my family’s best interest for me to learn how to participate in the community of amateur radio enthusiasts. Why?

Provide Communications During Localized Emergencies

Ham radio operators are notorious for offering and providing assistance during and after emergencies. There are entire networks, such as the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), that go into action in times of great need. They come to the aid of their communities by offering their equipment and services.

ham radio operatorFor example, after Hurricane  Katrina in 2005 when cellular networks were down and landlines were completely destroyed, over 500 ham radio operators provided emergency communications services to affected areas throughout the Gulf Coast region. Lives were, in fact, saved due to their efforts. During an event when a lot of thing went wrong, amateur radio operators helped to make things a bit better by providing much needed communications.

Information in a Post-TEOTWAWKI World

We’ve all heard the saying “Information is power.” Those that control the information typically accumulate the power. They hold information close to their vest and disseminate it sparingly to increase their own importance.

There may be a time in the future when mass media is a completely unreliable source, where the “news” is little more than a propaganda machine for the government or for big multi-national companies who seek to influence people’s perceptions and “control the sheeple.” Some may even say that we’ve reached that point already. We know that some newsworthy items don’t seem make the evening news.

With a ham radio, you are not dependent on an top-down organized source for information. You can communicate directly with others over a long distance. You don’t have to rely on reporters or official sources. You can hear from others, just like you, who are close by. And that is empowering.

Earning Your Keep After TEOTWAWKI

In a post-TEOTWAWKI world, some skills will be highly sought after. Medical personnel, organic farmers, and those familiar with operational security and wilderness survival techniques will likely be in great need. I believe those who are knowledgeable in long range communication devices, such a ham radios, will also be able to earn their keep among their peer communities.

Other professionals, including many who currently earn a great deal of money, will have a hard time justifying how they can contribute. I don’t believe ham operators will have that difficulty.

Learning New Skills

Like many worthwhile endeavors, learning ham radio is much more about the journey than it is about the destination. It’s not about getting a license; it’s about learning the electronics, the techniques, and the equipment so that in times of adversity or need, you can help out. It’s about expanding your core knowledge so that you’ll be better prepared should a time arise when the skill is needed.

Are you licensed for Amateur Radio? Have you found it useful?

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26 Comments on “Ham Radio as a Prepping Skill”

  1. HomeShalom Says:

    Hmmm Ham radio….who-da-thunk? It makes sense though! It makes sense!

    Reply

    • AJ Hillbilly HAM Says:

      I was out of Ham Radio due to life busyness ,but minimal Prepping skills brought me back, helped convince my DW , (xyl in ham terms) , got one radio with low Batt Drain, will run on solar easily , i will build an Amplifier with Solid State small components for a big boost just in case. have a simple Wire ,”OCF”, off center Fed Dipole , looks a a “T”, hung up in a couple of our Tall Trees, i hear all over the world and some bands are for local and State communication – it is a Friendly and Family orientated Hobby, we are having a Hamfest in Branson ,MO, all for Fun, learning and Prizes , at low cost , our Club 4SQRP- 4 STates low power radios – has no dues , a web site , and members from all over the USA and a few from other Countries . There is a 4×4 off road Ham Radio Club as well which interests me as well . You can start off like me buying a used nice Transceiver , join a local Club they will give you good advice and guide you with a mentor if you wish . I am so glad i got back into Ham Radio , oh by the way , they have discontinued the requirement of CW =Morse Code -(means continuous wave mode),, so you can go online and there are free test questions on two or three sites that offer it , easy to get started , learn and practice your skill, keeps your winters busy , and in summer months you can go out portable and set up while hiking ,camping, portable in a park or Mobile. there is a scheduled Field Day in June where Hams all across the USA set up portable stations and make contacts with Voice (phone Mode term), CW, Data, and Video modes . Yes bottom line if the SHTF why worry about a license, BUT, if you learn now and practice these skills then you will be prepared, an example, i learned there are 12 Volt and Butane Soldering Guns or pencils , so in an emergency i will be prepared to repair Radios etc- for those inclined to keep their minds busy , this is a Great Family Hobby that presents Challenges and keeps Kids out of trouble , it helped me as a Teen, cause believe me i was a Wild Child ! lol. GOD Bless America ! Another Hillbilly HAm

      Reply

  2. Ridgerunner Says:

    Ive been a Ham all my life. I recently passed my extra class license exam. It will be an indispensable tool for both personal communication and as a bartering skill. I am also a mid-level medical provider, reload my own amo, mechanic, builder, and solar energy enthusiast as well as several other skills. Learn as much as you can. You will need this information for both persoanl preservation and to valuable to others. People will need you. Remember, when people can’t communicate or have access to information they get a little crazy. Know morse code. It travels farther with lower power.

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Congrats, Ridgerunner! After I pass my technicians exam later this month, I’m planning to continue on with the General exam.

      Joe

      Reply

  3. Robert Evans Says:

    I’m a licensed ham radio operator (N4VRC),
    And I do believe having communications can be of great help. But depending on the situation, you may just want to listen to others. Here’s the deal, it’s called Radio Frequency Direction Finding. It’s old technology, easy to do, and many agencies have very sophisticated systems that can pin point your location very quickly. So remember, anytime you key up the radio, you’re telling folks where you are. I hope that’s not a scenario we have to deal with, but it should be one we consider.

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Great point, Robert. When using a radio, you’ve must remember 1) there is no expectation of privacy. People can hear what you have to say even without you knowing it, and 2) you can located pretty easily if you transmit anything.

      Joe

      Reply

  4. Kat Says:

    Great article. Just enough info to get people motivated. I am KC2ANE. I brought the wonders of ham radio to my husband, who is now a General license class. We are both ARES members and I was Net Control at a time where disasters here happened almost every week. I have retired from that due to health reasons, but we are both active on the radio. It’s an absolute must to know and use, and use correctly. We also have a scanner that runs 24/7 for what’s happening in the county and nearby surrounds. Needless to say, anything we SHOULD know, we are not being told, therefore, be prepared in all aspects of life and living. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Thanks, KC2ANE! I’m really looking forward receiving my license and being able to participate on the radio waves.

      Glad to hear that you’ve had a good experience with ham radio. I think it could of great benefit during times of emergencies.

      Are there other resources that you’d suggest?

      Joe

      Reply

  5. Roy Patterson Says:

    Remember, what ever you say on Ham Radio is public. The FCC or even Home Land Security my be listening.
    More people need to get their license.
    Roy- KI6DZI

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Good point, Roy. You are transmitting information for anyone and everyone to hear when you use a ham radio. And, with just a little ingenuity and a few easy to come by tools, you’re position can be triangulated pretty easily.

      Reply

  6. J. Kent Hastings Says:

    I’ve been a ham operator (WA6ZFY) since 1978, got my Advanced a year or two later, and have sometimes had HF gear and usually some working 2 meter VHF HT since then. Now I’ve got HF 160-10m, 6m, 2m and 70cm all in one rig, the FT817ND. Behind it in a small backpack is a battery bag that opens to be charged by two large solar cells providing 4 watts to the 10 AA rechargeables. There’s also a pouch with two homebrew radios, a 100mW tuna can and a 1 watt Altoids tin, both on 7.030 MHz (the international and now U.S. standard QRP CW calling frequency).

    I agree with you completely. http://resfree.org/2011/02/14/egypt-ham-radio-beats-internet-outage/ is my article about how hams got messages out of Egypt during the kill switch outage there. As you can see, it was read with interest by Libyans forwarding the link on Twitter, who were going through the same thing in their country.

    If you want “difficult to trace” privacy on radio, you have to abandon the open ham rules and use military modes like spread spectrum, directional antennas pointed at remote transmitters and many decoys.

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Sounds like a great rig you’ve got set up.

      Thanks for sharing the link to how the ham radios helped in Egypt. Good stuff.

      Joe

      Reply

      • J. Kent Hastings Says:

        Another example besides Egypt is the tornado that hit Joplin, MO. A local blogger wrote, “Congressman Billy Long co-sponsored HR607, which would take away the very frequencies HAM radio operators use…”

        As the town in his district was flattened and hams in SkyWarn watched for more funnel clouds and hams in ARES linked up hospitals when all other communications were down, Long changed his tune and the legislation was eventually defeated.

        The feds wanted to take away much of the already deployed 440 (70cm) band and give it to “federal broadband for first responders.” Police and Fire already have their own frequencies and their departments seem to like having ham radio volunteers acting as unpaid dispatchers and helpers, thank you.

        My conspiracy theory, not backed by any hard evidence, is that they were going to use the stolen ham band for TSA porn scanners like at the airport, but at every bus stop and random private car checkpoints.

        Maybe I’m an optimist. It could have been for something worse.

        Reply

  7. James Says:

    Don’t forget another reason, it’s a fun hobby! Sure, it has it’s uses in times where communications is needed in addition to teaching valuable electronics skills that could be useful beyond communications. It’s a great hobby to be involved in and there is no shortage of fun things to do.

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Yes, that it is, James. That it is.

      Thanks!

      Joe

      Reply

    • paul Says:

      I’ve had my license since 1955. How things have changed. Have the original station down in the basement — my father and I built most of it from scratch (from scavenged parts from other radios). Assume it still works.

      We did it for fun, for a hobby, for interest sake (it was fun to learn and build from scratch). Wind your own coils, etc. Spoke (often by Morse) with fellows from across the state and across the world (when this was generally not possible otherwise). I have mixed feelings about how it has changed into something of a survivalist mentality here. It was fun and educational and very do-it-yourself.

      Reply

      • Joe Says:

        Hi Paul – Good point. Yes, ham radio is indeed a fun hobby. It’s one that can still be enjoyed by tinkering and putting together a rig on your own, or by purchasing a complete system built from microelectronics.

        I don’t think that ham radio as a survivalist or prepping tool detracts from its fun/hobby side. It’s an added benefit.

        For example, owning a pre-1980 jeep built for off-road use is fun. You can take it out on the weekend and enjoy riding around. But it’s also a good vehicle for preppers who are concerned about the likelihood of an EMP. Just because a prepper may buy it as insurance against an EMP, doesn’t mean it cannot be fun in the meantime.

        The same is true for reloading and target practice. A prepper may learn to reload and become proficient in shooting as part of “preparing for the worst”. But even if the worst never happens, he can have fun with the hobby.

        So, from that perspective, having ham radio identified with prepping actually may be good for ham radio. More people may become interested in the hobby who may not have ever considered it otherwise.

        Thanks for the comments, Paul.

        Joe

        Reply

  8. Gil Says:

    Also, have a look at radiopreppers.com
    Dedicated to radio prepping!

    Reply

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