Discover Ham Radio for Preparedness and Survival

If you’ve been thinking about exploring the possibilities of ham radio for preparedness and survival, here’s an easy way to get exposed to what it’s all about.

The last weekend in June is set aside by ham radio operators all across the country as Field Day. It’s a time to operate radio equipment off the power grid. It serves as a good demonstration of how ham radio can work during emergencies.

But amateur radio plays a part in our lives every day in ways you may not be aware of. The video below gives a comprehensive look at how we use radio technology in society and the role ham radio plays.

The video was originally published in 2013, and it’s still relevant and interesting today. You’ll be surprised by the many applications for radio as part of our modern technology. It’s not going away any time soon.



There’s a helpful companion site to this video at


Have a Good Radio in Your Survival Supplies During a Disaster

Some years ago the BBC broadcast life-saving information to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by monumental flooding in Pakistan. So many were cut off from emergency aid efforts.

The BBC issued bulletins in the languages spoken most in that region on staying safe, avoiding disease, and how to get food and other help.

It’s not uncommon for this to be done by the BBC and other international broadcasters, including Christian ministries like Trans World Radio. Most international broadcasters have cut back on shortwave transmissions in favor of partnering with local AM and FM outlets who receive designated programming by satellite and Internet.

Though the Internet is growing world wide, and the use of smart phones has expanded, many in lesser developed countries still rely on radio for information. Local and international broadcasters provide a useful and valuable service that can literally save lives.

When there’s a major natural disaster here in the U.S., where do most of us get our information? Though many turn to the Internet with computers or smart phones, plenty of us still turn to local radio. AM and FM broadcasts may be the only option when the power’s out.

A key advantage to listening to radio is you don’t have to be connected to the Internet. No wireless connection required. The only thing you need is good batteries or another source of power, such as a wind-up generator or solar power. Radios have gotten better at stretching battery life, too.

We often turn to radio in severe weather. But think back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Radio stations in New Orleans combined efforts and personnel to provide useful information to their listeners.

People who still had phone service of some kind could call into the stations to report what was happening in their neighborhoods. For me the listener, this was fascinating.

I was able to listen in because, like many, I can hear WWL radio, New Orleans, at night from hundreds of miles away. In fact, WHRI, a U.S. shortwave station, broadcasted WWL to an even larger audience.

When the big earthquake struck San Francisco in 1989, I heard the rebroadcast of one of San Francisco’s stations on WLS, Chicago. Again, for me it made for fascinating listening.

In 1999 during the pre-Y2K jitters, one expert made a list of skywave radio stations available on his Web site. He believed it was important to be able to listen to those stations which could be heard over great distances at night.

You may have your own examples of how standard broadcast radio has been helpful to you in a time of disaster. If so, you already know how important it is to have a simple AM/FM radio in your survival supplies.

Several companies featured in the DestinySurvival Prep Mart offer portable radios meant for emergency situations. Some radios feature weather band capability and are combined with flashlights. Without trying out such radios ahead of time, it’s hard to say whether they’ll meet your needs adequately during or after a disaster.

I recommend getting a good radio–the best one you can afford. It may be necessary to monitor stations at a distance if local stations are knocked off the air. Cheaper radios may not pick up distant stations well.

Unless we have a giant EMP (electromagnetic pulse) one day which takes out all things electronic, you can’t beat an AM/FM radio as an information source when disaster strikes. Make sure you have one or two among your survival supplies. I wouldn’t be without mine.


Observe Ham Radio in Action at Field Day

You’ve heard that amateur radio operators provide help in the aftermath of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires or other natural disasters. But have you considered incorporating ham radio into your prepping strategy?

Observe ham radio in action. It’s time this weekend for ham radio to put itself on display for the public in an annual event called Field Day. Every fourth weekend in June hams all across the country participate in this event.

No crisis is necessary for a han radio demonstration. Field Day takes place throughout the country.

According to the ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League), Field Day is “…the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada.” Tens of thousands of ham radio operators gather with their radio clubs, friends or by themselves to operate as they would in case of emergency or disaster.

Some clubs treat Field Day as a contest to see how many stations they can contact. But it mostly offers the opportunity to practice emergency response capabilities.

Why do they call it “amateur radio?” It’s called that because operators don’t do what they do for commercial purposes, such as do the broadcast stations on AM and FM or TV. It is a hobby which has provided technological innovations over the last several decades.

Many ham radio operators serve their communities by being involved in public service activities. Ham radio often receives praise for the professional way in which operators handle crises, such as storms, earthquakes, etc.

Field Day exhibits the various modes of amateur radio. You’ll likely see operators talking by voice to other states and distant countries around the world–without the use of the Internet. You might see some ham operators still using Morse code. Various digital over-the-air modes are popular as well.

What sets this event apart is that participating stations function generally without electrical power from the grid. Each club handles Field Day a little differently, but you can expect to see modern radio equipment powered by generators, batteries, or even solar power. Many clubs set up a kind of survival radio camp for the weekend to operate in what you might call survival mode.

Morse code is still with us. Using code may sound old fashioned, and you don’t have to know it to get a ham radio license, as in times past. But hams will tell you code cuts through static and fading better than voice transmissions. Plenty of hams still do code. It’s not dead, in spite of all the newer technologies out there. In fact, you wouldn’t think it, but it’s growing in popularity. Lots of young people think it’s pretty cool.

Field Day shows off ham radio for all. Often radio clubs invite the media, elected officials and members of emergency response organizations served by ham radio.

The public is welcome, too. In fact, many clubs have a Get On The Air station, where non-hams can get on the radio with the help of a licensed operator. Click here to find a club engaged in Field Day activities near you.

Listen in. If you have a shortwave radio capable of picking up the ham bands, and you can listen in single sideband mode (SSB), you can eavesdrop in on Field Day communications. Without SSB ham radio talk will sound like Donald Duck with a mouth full of Oreos.

Why not now? There’s no better time than the upcoming Field Day event to find out for yourself whether ham radio should be part of your family’s survival communications plan. Getting a ham radio license is easier than ever.

Besides, ham radio is fun.

Revisiting Survival Communication and Reviewing Ham Radio

What will you do about communication if the big one hits? How and where will you get news and information? Should you include amateur radio in your preparedness strategy?

On this week’s DestinySurvival Radio I’m revisiting survival communication and reviewing ham radio.

On March 10, 2016, I featured an interview with Jim Cobb about Prepper’s Communication Handbook. See what I wrote about it and find a link to the show here.

Since one of the topics Jim discusses is ham radio, I was reminded that I had done a previous DestinySurvival Radio chat on that subject. It was one of the rare times when I had no guest for the show, and I rambled about communications in general and gave an overview of ham radio. I posed the question, Should ham radio be part of your survival strategy?

I’ve pulled that show from the archives and am replaying the essential parts from it for this week’s DestinySurvival Radio. What I said back in early 2012 is still relevant, especially since much of what I said was of a general nature.

It’s kind of a Communications 101 discussion. I’ve edited out little things here and there to keep the information as useful as possible.

Incidentally, a company who has produced several survival skills DVDs has produced a Survival Bug Out Guide. I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out.

Delve into the topic of survival communication and ham radio by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for May 5, 2016 (Right click to download.)

Additional Resources

  • 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.


Prepper Communication – How Well Do You Know Your Options?

Hey, can we talk?

We’d better know how if we’re going to survive.

Perhaps that sounds like silly hyperbole, but how well do you know your prepper communication options? Talking with one another is just one of them.

Jim Cobb joined me on DestinySurvival Radio to talk about communication options for preppers. His latest book, Prepper’s Communication Handbook, covers old and new technologies and includes chapters on interpersonal communication–a vital element often overlooked.


The Author of the Message

If you’ve listened much to DestinySurvival Radio, you’ve probably heard me visit with Jim Cobb because he’s been on a number of times before. But in case you’re not familiar with who he is…


Jim Cobb is the author of several books focused on disaster readiness, such as Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide, Countdown to Preparedness, Prepper’s Financial Guide, and the Number One Amazon bestselling Prepper’s Home Defense. He has been a student of survivalism and prepping for about thirty years. He is the owner of, a rather popular disaster readiness resource.

Jim and his family reside in the upper Midwest and he is currently working on several more books.


The Vehicle for the Message


Prepper's Communication Handbook


To give you an overview of Jim’s book, here’s the publisher’s description, slightly edited.


Stay connected when the grid goes down. When disaster strikes, your calls, texts and emails will not work. After 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy, cell phones were rendered useless when transmission towers were destroyed and networks became overloaded. Having an alternative way to reach family and loved ones at these critical moments is essential.

With Prepper’s Communication Handbook, you learn the best tips, tricks and expert secrets for surviving when phones and the Internet fail. Exploring the best options for every disaster scenario, this hands-on guide features in-depth coverage on a wide variety of life-saving emergency communication systems, including:

  • Satellite Radio
  • Shortwave
  • NOAA [Weather] Reciever
  • GMRS and FRS Radios
  • Citizen’s Band
  • Ham Radio
  • [Police] Radio Scanner
  • MURS Radio
And there’s more. In the last few chapters Jim addresses aspects of interpersonal communications or people skills.

Like his other books, this one is easy to read. You won’t be bombarded by a lot of high tech jargon. Topics covered include…

  • One-Way Radio: Receivers
  • Two-Way Radio
  • Amateur Radio
  • Online Communication
  • Putting a Plan Together
  • Emergency Business Communications Planning
  • Codes and Ciphers
  • Essentials for Effective Communication
  • Body Language
  • Conflict Resolution


The Highlights of the Message

What it is and isn’t – Jim wants readers to be clear that his book provides us with communication options. It’s a good overview, and it’s worth having if you’re new to the subject. But if you’re looking for a catalog of the latest and greatest radios and electronics gadgets, you’ll be disappointed because this isn’t it.

Options – The more options we have in the event of an emergency or disaster, the better off we are. It’s up to us to choose the best options in the time of need.

Prepper’s Communication Handbook is meant to show you and I the communications tools and techniques available to us. It’s not a “how to” book. Follow up with the resources given in the book for that.

Planning – Many books on preparedness discuss planning right away. When I asked Jim why his chapters on planning came later in the book, he said it’s so he could present options first. Then, as you’re planning, you’ll know what options you can incorporate into your plans.

Not only do we need to plan as individuals, but businesses also need to plan how they will communicate. Jim touches on this as well.

Know your tools – After expressing my preference for older, simpler radios in our conversation, we talked briefly about radios with the capability to receive NOAA weather stations. This brought us around to the changing nature of the broadcast media.

Here’s what it comes down to. Know the communication tools at your disposal. Then get familiar with how you can best use those tools.

Look at it this way. If listening to area radio stations for news and weather is part of your communication strategy, it doesn’t matter whether you listen on a pocket transistor radio or a smart phone app. The key thing is, while you seek to acquire information, understand what it is your local stations have to offer–and what they don’t.

Another important point is that every source of news and information has its own bias or spin. Recognize this and compensate accordingly. Get information from as many sources as you can so you’ll be the wiser for formulating opinions and making decisions.

To take this a step further, remember that your brain is the most significant tool at your disposal.

Power tip – One of the clever tips Jim gives when discussing alternative power sources is to use solar yard lights to charge rechargeable batteries. I’d suggest having a simple battery tester on hand to be sure your batteries received a good charge.

Ham radio – I’m glad to see Jim is a proponent of amateur or ham radio, and we talked about it in our conversation. He noted how friendly and helpful ham radio operators are. A number of them practice preparedness as well. That only makes sense, since many hams provide communications assistance for disasters.

Ham radio has something to offer for everyone. It has become very high tech. It’s not like the old days with boat anchor radios. Those are still around, but computers play a big part in ham communications. Software defined radios and new digital modes are part of the advances in recent years.

Online communication – Yes, what we take for granted everey day with our computers and smart phones may still be around when disaster strikes. Of course, in the wake of a disaster, who knows what the status of the Internet and cell towers will be? Thus, the need for preparedness options of all kinds.

Can social media be trusted as a reliable source of information? Jim gives tips on making sure we know how to sort out that which is credible.

Remember, if you’re online, be aware of the need for privacy and security.

Again, put your brain in gear.

Person to person – I’m delighted Jim spends the last few chapters on interpersonal communication. But why did he do that?

Because, no matter what technology we use to receive or transmit information, human beings are on both ends of the message. The better our people skills–especially in times of stress–the better our chances for survival.

If you’re part of a prepper community, or if you have plans to be part of one, conflict resolution will be a crucial skill. No matter how much you have it together with food, water, etc., the people element of the equation could be the most challenging.


The Ways to Explore the Message

Hear my conversation with Jim Cobb by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for March 10, 2016. (Right click to download.) If you miss our chat, you won’t hear the banter about a favorite resource Jim and I both like. It’s not strictly related to communication, but every prepper should know about it.

Get Prepper’s Communication Handbook by clicking on its title wherever you see it linked in this post. You’ll be taken to the page where it’s featured.

As with other survival skills, now’s the time to know and practice your communication options.


Get A Glimpse into Ham Radio Public Service Communications

Whenever there’s a hurricane, monster snow storm, forest fire, earthquake or some other natural disaster, you’ll find ham radio operators pitching in to provide communications for various public service organizations and agencies.

If you’ve considered becoming a ham radio operator to help provide communications in the wake of a disaster, you’ll want to hear this week’s DestinySurvival Radio–a special edition pulled from the archives. It’s the account of one man’s experience in the aftermath of the Joplin, Missouri, tornado in the spring of 2011.

In August of 2013 I interviewed amateur radio operator Joe Casler about his role in public service communications after that notorious Joplin tornado. Sadly, on January 21st, 2016, Joe passed away rather suddenly while undergoing treatment for cancer.

I’m sharing my 2013 conversation with Joe as a tribute to him. But it will also give you a glimpse into what’s involved with public service communications in the wake of a disaster.

Hear my conversation with Joe Casler by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for January 28, 2016. (Right click to download.) Be sure to view my original blog post about our 2013 chat here because it features pictures and important resource links.


Off Grid Cell Phone Communication in Emergencies – Roampod Could be the Solution

If you have a smart phone, what will you do when a major disaster knocks out the cell towers? If only there were some way for off grid cell phone communication in emergencies.

Roampod could be the solution. You can find out about it on this week’s DestinySurvival Radio. I share a conversation with Nik Kitson, cofounder of Roampod.


My Smart Phone Disconnect

I confess. I don’t have a smart phone. And I seldom use the little cell phone I do have. So when you hear my visit with Nik Kitson, you’ll hear your humble host put amazing ignorance out there for all to hear.

But that’s OK. Maybe our Q&A will prove beneficial to others who aren’t up to speed on this stuff.

But how dependent should we as preppers be on today’s technologies anyway?

If you’ve been reading my posts here and listening to DestinySurvival Radio, you know I don’t focus much on technology. I began promoting e-books a few years ago on Amazon’s Kindle only grudgingly. I’ll spare you my opinions on what I believe modern gadgets are doing to us. For now, let me keep the focus on preparedness.

An awfully lot of us are using today’s technologies to our advantage, and that’s great. But in a disaster or survival situation, what do we do when we can’t use our wonderful electronic devices? Will our dependence on our GPS and smart phone apps prove to be detrimental?

On the other hand…

Maybe there will be work arounds that allow you and me to keep using our electronics in ways we’re not now aware of. For example, Roampod may be the solution you need for communicating by cell phone off the grid.

Roampod isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, so to speak; but Nik will explain all that as you listen to our chat. In fact, he explains how you could play a part in making Roampod all it’s meant to be.


I’m Off the Hook

And some would say I’m unhinged, too. But that’s another story.

Seriously, allow me to insert a brief personal disclaimer. I have no affiliate relationship or any other financial connections with Nik Kitson or his company. I’m presenting this information to you for educational purposes.

Roampod is a new thing with great possibilities, but I want to let you know I’m not on the ground floor, promoting some get rich quick opportunity. I am neither endorsing nor discrediting the technologies presented for your consideration today. You assume full responsibility for any purchases of that technology you choose to make.


He Talks Funny for a Texan

Nik told me he’s located in Texas. The Dallas area, if I recall correctly. But you’ll notice he doesn’t have a Texas accent. You’ll understand when you read the following bio blurb.


Nik arrived in the US from New Zealand, where he is an avid windsurfer, snowboarder and outdoors enthusiast. He has been deploying and designing wireless industry for 15 years before co-founding Roampod. The idea behind Roampod is to enable private & secure communications without cellular or Wi-Fi from your smart phone.


Revealing Roampod

Here’s an overview of Roampod. It’s a bluetooth device that you pair up with your smart phone or tablet. It actually consists of two parts–an app and a small, portable device that acts as receiver and transmitter.

Roampod enables you to connect with other Roampod users. It uses a new long range wireless technology which creates what’s called a mesh network. Mesh networking doesn’t use the Internet. It greatly extends the range you can communicate by allowing messages to hop from Roampod to Roampod.

As things stand now, the Roampod app supports two way messaging. You can send location updates and offline maps. Nik’s company plans to add voice messages and other options in future app updates.


Yeah, But What About…?

Privacy and Security – Roampod’s signals are encrypted in such a way that only another Roampod user can decipher them. Several other privacy options exist in settings for using the Roampod device.

Licensing – You don’t need a license to use Roampod, like you would with ham radio or GMRS radios.

Roampod uses millions of channels in a part of the frequency spectrum commonly used by cell phone devices and Wi-Fi. Nik’s company has done what they needed to do to be registered properly with the FCC.

Range – Going from one Roampod to another, you may get up to a mile in an urban area. You may get up to 20 miles outside of the city, depending on terrain. Your message goes a lot further when Roampods connect in the mesh network. Plus, digital signals are clear and static free.

Battery Life – Depending whether you’re listening or doing a little transmitting, the Roampod device may last 3-5 days. Of course, you’ll want to have your cell phone charged as well. You can use the same chargers for Roampod’s batteries as you’d use for your cell phone’s battery.

EMP – Whether Roampod or your cell phone will work depends on the nature of the EMP and whether your devices are on or off.

Jamming – It’s not likely because it would be difficult to do. Nik explains this better in our conversation.

Tracking – When your cell phone is on, it’s tracked. However, it would be almost impossible to track the Roampod device itself.

Target Risk – A friend of mine says terrorists and drug dealers use mesh networks. Does that make you and me a risk if we use Roampod?

Not likely, according to Nik’s explanation. And it sounds to me like he and his company are doing everything openly and above board.

Availability – The off the shelf version of Roampod for consumers is expected to be available this fall or by the end of the year.


Find Out More

This is one of those shows you have to hear to get a more complete picture than what I’ve been able to present here. Therefore, if you want to go deeper, I highly recommend you hear my conversation with Nik Kitson by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for June 18, 2015. (Right click to download).

Also, check out for more info. Sign up for the newsletter to get details on the Kickstarter campaign Nik talked about during our chat.. You have an opportunity to give feedback and save big money on Roampod.

Another way for you to get a quick overview of Roampod is to take a couple of minutes to view the video below this post.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Is Roampod something you’d like to have as part of your prepping supplies? Could you envision your family or prepper group using Roampod when cell towers are out? Why, or why not?