In my discussions with other preppers on the subject of communications, I am almost always asked the question “why ham radio?” There is an old saying, when all else fails ham radio gets through. Ham radio is unique in the radio communications field. All other communications are confined to specific channels in one specific frequency band, low power limits, and are confined to one mode (except for CB and its confined to two modes.)
What makes ham radio work is its flexibility. It is not tied to channels(except for one band). There are blocks of frequencies, and in those frequencies, multiple modes can be run. Ham radio also has another thing going for it: The operators are trained. For the most part, these operators are self trained and active hams are very knowledgeable. Active hams usually have multiple radios, antennas, power supplies, and other sorts of communications-related odds and ends in their shacks and vehicles.
There is no other radio service where you can build your own equipment. Many hams have low power (QRP) rigs that use very little power and are able to talk hundreds of miles. No other radio service even comes close to ham radio in providing so many different choices to fulfill communication needs.
The problem with most preppers thinking about ham radio are the tests. If you spend all this time prepping and learning things you need to survive, what is the problem with studying for a little test? I have had preppers tell me they would just buy a ham radio and when they needed it in a shtf scenario it wouldn’t matter about a license. That is not a very thoughtful method to obtain knowledge and be prepared. One can’t do that with the ‘radio-in-the-box’ waiting on it to all go bad.
If that time ever came, these people wouldn’t know the capabilities of the radio or how to use it properly. Get your license, train, and get proficient at communicating. One need of the prepper community is an organized national communications plan. I have seen a few local groups working hard on communications within the group and with other groups. Our local group is working hard in this area and we have several new ham operators from the group. Once people see the value of being able to operate with multiple frequency bands and modes, it is not hard to see the value in ham radio in a disaster situation. One of the most valuable things in an emergency situation is information, plan for it.