Amateur or ham radio is popular with preppers and survivalists who understand the need for disaster-proof communications. Unlike phone lines and internet networks, a ham radio will keep going even when everything else goes dark.
Not Just for the Apocalypse
Ham radio can be a life-saving tool in any disaster. A tornado, flood, or hurricane could easily knock out power, while frantic cell phone calls can overload networks.
That’s when ham radio really shines. Operators can reach locals, coordinate with rescue workers, and get news from outside the community.
In addition, you may just find ham radio to be an enjoyable hobby. There are plenty of amateur radio enthusiasts out there who aren’t part of the prepper community.
Advantages Over Other Comms
You might be tempted to rely on a CB radio instead since it’s cheaper and easier to set up. The problem is that–truckers aside–there simply aren’t that many operators and you aren’t guaranteed to finding anyone local. CB radios also have a limited range of up to 10 miles at most.
Satellite phones seem like a sexy alternative, and if you have the cash to shell out, they aren’t a terrible choice if you’re boondocking and want to stay in touch with family back home. But in a natural disaster or widespread catastrophe, a sat phone isn’t the most useful thing to have.
Ham radio is the best long-term communication choice, hands down. Although the radios need a power supply, you can run them off of solar power. They aren’t dependent on any other networks or satellites, and there are millions of registered users worldwide.
How to Get Started
In order to be a licensed ham radio operator, you need to pass a test and get registered with the FCC. Some survivalists will argue that you shouldn’t bother registering–who is going to enforce it when SHTF, right? If you’re suspicious of the government, you might also be leery of handing over your personal information to yet another bureaucracy.
But there are pros to registering as well. You’ll avoid any legal issues while you practice your skills and become part of the amateur radio community. The test is relatively cheap, and the license lasts 10 years. As a bonus, you no longer need to know Morse code to get certified as an entry-level operator.
There’s a distinct learning curve to ham radio. You need to learn the ropes, put in some serious listening time, and be willing to invest in decent equipment. The best way to learn is from other radio operators, but you can also find a wealth of knowledge on YouTube and internet commenting communities like Reddit.