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By April 14, 2012 Read More →

Why Ham Radio?

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.

Posted in: HAM Radio

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23 Comments on "Why Ham Radio?"

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  1. Estar says:

    Thanks for this information. Communication is a huge issue in a shtf scenario. This is one of those things that has always seemed like a great idea, but I’ve never taken the initiative to seek out the people and info.

  2. John says:

    Good thoughts. I heartily agree on the need for getting a license and learning proper procedures. Don’t worry about being on a government database either because this one’s harmless. I recommend getting in touch with a local ham club to find out about license testing in the area. Check with members to see if anyone has equipment for sale relatively inexpensively. Find out about hamfests (flea market affairs) for buying equipment, too. New multimode equipment can be costly.

  3. Nice write up. The same type of things I am usually telling everyone about the importance of HAMing. I am having a lecture on HAM Radio on 18 April 2012 to celebrate the world Amateur Radio in a School.Hopes your points are useful there.
    Thanks and 73’s


      jayu  vu2jau

  4. Salamander says:

    Any idea on how difficult the test is and/or what the preparation is?  I heard one time you had to learn the Morse code. Eek!

    • No more morse code.  Test is not real difficult, you just need to spend some time studying.  If you go online to you can take the practice tests with the actual questions on the test.  When you start scoring in the 80’s go take the test.  If you have a local ham club they will be glad to help you along the way.  Our club here usually holds 8 week classes which i feel are too long, we just held a one day cram session and most passed the test so its not that hard most one the first test is regulations and frequencies.  

  5. jayant says:

    Thanks for all the comments and the way HAM Radio is taking shape is also beyond expectations. More things which I would like to bring in to the notice of everyone are as follows,
    1  I III year of all Engineering colleges students are doing major projects and most of the students goes to the market bring out a ready made model to show it to the examiners, I convinced a group of students if they want to score more they can do different type of projects which no one is bringing. I suggested them (a) ISDR  (b) Satellite tracking and communication .
    They agreed to this and did these projects with their hands like designing and constructing the VHF/UHF antenna using the software for tracking etc. Assembled the ISDR . All have done a wonderful work and then they realized that they can do anything. Prepared a nice write up on the project.
    After seeing this so many other students approached me, I am happy to see that they got the new direction which their examiners also appreciated.
    This way we can convince people also about HAM Radio.

        jayu   vu2jau.       

  6. RonF says:

    Good Stuff. As for the test, I decided to get the HAM license on a SAT., studied from free online sites for 3 days, took the test and passed with ease. I now hold a Technician Class license. Anyone can get one nowadays. BTW, no Morse code test anymore. The normal cost to take the test is $15.00. One of the study sites is To find a place to take the test in your area go to Hope this helps.

  7. Dave Satterthwaite says:

    Not sure I would do the testing. Learn how to use it, how to set it up, but in times of trouble I think the Gov will want to supress ham’s for the information that they will want to put out. If you have the licence they will know where to come looking. Just saying.

  8. johnny says:

    Well the way I look at it there are over 700,000 hams in the US so how long is it going to take them to visit that many households and confiscate your stuff?  How much would that cost the government and what are they going to do with it when they get it, thats a lot of storage space.  If the shtf they are going to have a lot more important things to worry about.  If anything they will do what they did in WW1 and 2, they put hams off the air until the war was over.  700,000 plus families is a lot of voting power, politicians wouldn’t want well over a million voters upset at them as a group.  Even if they did they would still monitor the airwaves for any signals and find you with radio direction finding.  If they confiscate you will know they are coming just hide a couple of radios.  The benefits of getting your license and using the radio far outweigh the threat of confiscation.  They may know who and where you are but they dont know what equipment you have.    

  9. Dave Satterthwaite says:

    The way I’m thinking this will not be like WW1 or WW2, more like Iran and shutting down the net. They won’t be after the radio’s, they’ll be after you. They will not want any information getting out to the public. I would use the radio to monitor the air waves and only use it for emergencys. And I don’t think there will be any voting. I think there will be a crisis and during a crisis there is no election till after the crisis is over if ever.

  10. Ginger says:

    Can’t you monitor ham radio on shortwave radios? You wouldn’t be able to broadcast, but at least you could hear what’s going on. What frequencies would be best to monitor?

    • johnny says:

      Ginger, If you dont want a ham license then yes the next best thing is getting a shortwave reciever and monitor the bands.  As to frequencies just download a bandplan for shortwave.  As a general rule below 9mhz is night time and most everything above is good daytime.  Of course that is very very general as with the current situation with the sunspots the frequencies above 9 can be good 24 hrs a day.  

  11. JimBob says:

    I just finished the technition test. There is no morse code. The American Radio Relay League will set you up with classes. My cost was $30.00 dollars for the book, classes and the test. There is software provided for practise tests and it was not really too hard. I also downloaded an app on the iphone and practised testing with it. 

    The HAM community is a friendly and knowlegable group who will help you learn. I would suggest joining your local group and attend field day and the swap meets.

    Anyone can own a radio and listen but you need a license to transmit. 

    In a true shtf situation, no one will care who you are or why your transmitting however you must know what your doing or you could step all over other radio operators and keep them from transmitting also and that helps nobody

    Ham can be tracked with a simple antenna and hand held unit, go to a field day event called a fox hunt and see it for yourself. Remember opsec, this is a “party line” and anyone can listen in. Use your head

  12. Dave Satterthwaite says:

    Seems like you’all forget what kind of web site this is….. Preppers. Prepping for bad things to happen from or by the Gov. I just assumed that this was prepping for the worst case and that might be a rouge government. I don’t think that informing the Gov that I have a ham licence and can use it to warn others of problems and or get information out there that might be harmfull to the gov is what I want them to know. I wouldn’t think this would be labled as harmless. Much more like a gov database for future use when wanting to shut down possible ways to get information out to others like…..Look at Iran a couple of years ago. They shut down the net. That is what this will be about. COULD BE HARMFULL

    • JimBob says:

      Im telling you everything that I know. Just cache a few radios that were purchased privately with cash. Records are important, lack of a purchase record is very important! You have to find my radio to take it from me in a shtf situation. Of course that wont be easy even if you do find me.

  13. Dave says:

    You can buy a scanner that will scan Ham freq’s if you want to listen.

  14. VetMike says:

    Some good information here. However, I was taken aback by some comments concerning being in the database if one gets a license. Unfortunately, the Federal government has many databases and many of us are in quite a few. Prior/retired military, gun purchases, drivers’ licenses and so forth. It is likely that every person here is in at least two Federal and/or state databases. But most of these are computer based and would not necessarily be available in a SHTF situation. Stop being paranoid over it and get the training, license and so forth that you need. We have enough to worry about and plan for without going crazy over stuff we cannot control.

    • Sath says:

      VetMike, I would beg to differ with you. If we are talking about a Big Govermnent thing, they will try to shut down two things. 1. The dissemination of information. 2. The movement of their people. And look at the Agencies they have implemented. Homeland Security, and the TSA. They do have the resources. Error on the side of caution!

  15. Joe says:

    You guys that don’t want to get a ham license don’t get it. This isn’t CB. You don’t just hook the radio up and talk to your buddy down the street. There is a learning curve involved. You have to actually practice with the radio in order to get any kind of half decent results.

    You can’t practice using the radio without a license. On the ham frequencies, nobody will even talk to you without a valid call sign. How are you going to practice using the radio by yourself?

  16. Mark says:

    First of all if the Government wanted to stop you, they would just obtain the website visit logs concerning this website and you all would be targeted…. If you are worried about your address being known for heaven’s sake get a PO Box or use a UPS drop box as a address… Dont let the FEAR of a Government FCC witch hunt bother you… trust me if they were going to do that they would obtain more information on the application forms… LOL I have Been a Prepper long before Prepping was Popular…. and a Amateur Radio Operator for just as long…

  17. Buck says:

    Links: testing*** radio info*** radio info

    Best thing to get into Ham radio Google “ham radio” or “amateur radio” clubs for your local area. Example “ham radio clubs Dallas TX” Find your self an “Elmer”. This is someone that has been in ham radio for years and will help you along the way.

    Getting equipment:

    Jet stream

    There are some cheap Chinese radios but PLEASE avoid to poor quality. Like any Electronics you get what you pay for.

    “HT” handy talky looks like a frs radio but should have a number pad. plus side they are portable easy to conceal. Down side have limited range, limited battery life. mostly used for VHF,UHF

    Mobile/Home: radios for cars or home. These are most high powered 50+watt radios of the newer generation. yaesu ft-2900 good vhf radio
    yaesu ft-8800 vhf/uhf I have both and are very good quality.

    HF: High frequency

    Operates close to shortwave frequency’s. Best for long range communications. Icom ic-7000 very good radio

    Most Ham radio clubs:
    Will offer classes, testing. “Training”
    CPR, First aid.
    ARES – Amateur radio Emergence Serves
    As a prepper you would be able to offer your prepping education back to the club.

    Best of luck 73′ Buck
    Seen the TV show Doomsday Prepper.
    an thought so there is a name for what I’ve been doing all these years.

  18. RadioRay says:

    For those who would like more information and bit of feed back from those who are doing this type of communications and prepping hands-on, a fellow made a website just for Radio Preppers. Naturally, the address is:

    It’s a helpful place and seems like it’s right on target for this discussion.

    >RadioRay …_ ._