We’ve probably all seen stories at one time or other about ham radio operators providing communications during crisis situations. Times such as 9-11, Hurricane Katrina or the tornado that devastated Joplin, MO, come to mind.
But should ham radio be part of your prepping strategy? Ultimately, that’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. What I tried to do yesterday was give a nontechnical overview of various communication methods and put ham radio into the mix for consideration.
I’m not a ham radio purist. I’m a pragmatist. We should use whatever means of communication to get and share useful information.
I spent a few minutes describing the difference between ham radio and shortwave. Sometimes people refer to shortwave when they really mean ham radio. The most commonly known ham radio frequencies are in the part of the radio spectrum where shortwave broadcast bands also exist.
Amateur radio is such a diverse hobby, and you can choose your level of interest and involvement. It includes means of communicating worldwide or locally. You can spend $100 up to $10,000 on equipment. You can use a computer and not have a radio at all, if you so choose.
Becoming a ham operator does require getting a license though. You’ll need to learn some electronics theory to pass an exam. However, learning Morse code is no longer necessary to get licensed.
Even though ham radio is called “amateur,” in truth a certain level of professionalism is called for. That’s especially true if you become involved in providing emergency assistance or public service.
Certain protocols must be followed when providing communications assistance to government agencies or other organizations in time of disaster. Training materials are available to help prepare you for what’s required.
I’m a firm believer in listening first. It’s good practice whether you’re a ham operator or are simply sitting at home listening to the local news. If you’re a ham who participates in nets, it’s important to know when to speak and when not to.
On DestinySurvival Radio I touched briefly on having a police scanner, using various other two-way radios, as well as CB radio. The idea is to be familiar with different modes of communication which will serve your purpose in a survival situation.
Radio communication is important for survival because we may not have access to local news sources. The Internet you and I depend on today may not be available. And that will have animpact on the radio and TV stations we count on for local news.
Be prepared by having lots of alkaline and rechargeable batteries on hand. Have solar battery chargers, too. You’ll need a way to charge batteries for electronics or for car and deep cycle batteries.
In a worst case scenario, if there’s an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), all of this goes out the window. Electronics at all the media outlets and government agencies will be fried, unless they’ve taken precautions beforehand. Likewise, your home electronics won’t survive, unless you’ve put some of them in Faraday cages or other metal coverings.
Hear my discussion on communications topics when you listen to DestinySurvival Radio for January 12, 2012. During the show I mentioned several resources and said I’d give links here. Click on the highlighted names below for more info.
- The national association for all things ham radio is the ARRL (American Radio Relay League). Their member publication is QST magazine.
- If you have a disability and want to get into ham radio, check out the Handiham System.
- A magazine devoted to amateur radio is CQ magazine.
- To find out more about what’s currently happening on shortwave, check out World of Radio. There’s plenty of web content in addition to the weekly radio program, which can be listened to online or downloaded.
- Two good sources of communications equipment are Universal Radio and C. Crane company.
Give communications for survival serious thought because the regular media we depend on now may not be reliable when disaster strikes, or it may not be there at all.