HAM Radio for Preppers: The Complete Guide

HAM Radio for Preppers: The Complete Guide

If the grid fails, it will take our ability to communicate with it. Everyone outside walking distance will fade to memories if we can no longer reach out. The convenience of simply picking up a phone to communicate will suddenly vanish. This HAM radio guide for preppers will re-open communication channels around the block and around the world.

HAM radio is one of the few forms of emergency communication for information exchange across vast distances. From simple verbal communication to the exchange of text to the sharing of images, HAM radio can do it all. You just need to know the best type of radio to use especially when the cell phones are turned off and the televisions are silent. Overall, the ability to share information and intelligence could mean the difference between comfort and concern when you are no longer in touch with the rest of the world.

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How Will HAM Radio Be Used When SHTF?

Information exchange is vital to our success during SHTF. Whether it’s knowing what’s happening over the next hill or across the country, information provides a complete picture of the world.

Undeniably, CB radios and walkie-talkies are ok for talking across your property or your town, but that’s the extent of their capabilities. In most cases, especially for “blister-pack” walkie-talkies, their range is severely overstated. In contrast, HAM radios, with their increased wattage, improved antennas, and additional frequencies, can reach the edge of the horizon and beyond.

HAM radio allows you to communicate over various distances:

  • Line of sight distances – approximately 0-60 miles depending on many factors
    • UHF/VHF, also called 2-meter/75-centimeter, also called 144 MHz/440 MHz

These frequencies often use repeaters to extend their range by receiving a signal and then repeating the signal on separate frequency

  • NVIS – approximately 500 miles using specialized antennas
    • HF 6- to 160-meters–some bands are better suited for NVIS than others
  • Around the country and the world
    • HF bands 6- to 160-meters

HAM Radio Modes

First, when thinking HAM, we often associate it to only talking into a microphone. There is value in verbal communication. From warning signals at checkpoints to welfare checks with neighbors, when the SHTF there will be times when sending a runner is too slow or impossible. Without a doubt, HAM wins every time.

Additionally, HAM radios, with the proper equipment, can also trade text messages during SHTF. The advantage of these protocols is they employ error correction. This increases the probability that your message gets through accurately. Unlike voice that can be subject to interpretation, text messages are much easier to understand.

Finally, there are more fringe aspects of HAM radio related to intelligence gathering. Again, with the right equipment, you can not only trade text but images. You can also download NOAA weather maps and satellite imagery. During a grid-down event, what would you give to see tomorrow’s weather? How about tracking down the source of a local broadcast? These are all a part of HAM radio.

HAM Radio Licensing Requirements

Unlike FRS or MURS, HAM radio requires a license. Technically GMRS requires a license, but it’s an easy pay-to-play license.

You must have a HAM radio license to broadcast. If you want to talk, you need to be licensed. You can have all the equipment in the world to listen. But to key up, you need your ticket. One caveat to the licenses. During an emergency, you don’t need one. However, HAM radios have a learning curve, so it’s best to get licensed and practice now before you need these skills.

If you can read and memorize a few basic concepts, then the only thing between you and a HAM license is a few hours of studying. One other note, the requirement to know morse code was removed many years ago.

Technician License

The entry-level HAM ticket is a technician license. At this level, operators may use most “line of sight” frequencies. This includes the 2-meter and 75-centimeter bands. The one high-frequency band where access is granted is the 6-meter band. While this band isn’t too popular, it will grant you long distant comms.

The 2m and 75cm are used for short distances. Often you will find dual-band radios that cover both frequencies. We will get into this in a bit.

General License

The general HAM license is the sweet spot for preppers. With a general license, you get access to most of the amateur-allowed HF spectrum. These frequencies include 10m up to 160m (and a few others).

These frequencies garner you the ability to work long distances and around the world. With the right equipment (radio, antenna, etc.) the communication world is your oyster. Heat up the clouds and prepare to share information!

Extra License

The extra license opens up a few additional radio frequencies for the amateur operator. Once you get into HAM radio, you will need to decide if the additional studying is worth the bands.

radio frequencies

HAM Radio Testing and Resources

The great thing about studying for your HAM radio license is that it’s pretty easy. Each test (technician, general, and extra) comprises a round of multiple-choice questions. Even better, they give you the entire question pool to study!

For the technician and general tests, there are 35 questions and you need to get 26 or more correct to pass. The test pools for each are 423 and 454 questions, respectively. If you have the mind to, you can memorize them.

If memorization isn’t your thing, there are several guides, websites, and applications that can help you study.

First, you can download them directly from the source. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) hosts the test for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They have links to download the question pools directly.

via shtfpreparedness

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