After the four basic necessities of existence (shelter, water, food, and fire) have been addressed, the next most important components are protection and communication, which are intertwined. Communication is an important aspect of your toolkit and skill set, and this section is dedicated to it. One quick remark to get this out of the way… This section has a lot of high-level amateur radio information. We are not certified ham radio operators, but we are knowledgeable in ham radio and radio technology in general. This is merely meant to provide background information on the subject and pique your interest. We encourage you to think of this as an important tool in your toolbox and to do your research so that you can be more informed.
We’ve all become completely reliant on our cellphones, and most people prioritize having one in their pocket over nearly anything else. The problem is that the cell network works wonderfully on a typical day, but when a disruption occurs, the network’s availability begins to dwindle as the disruption event grows. We’ve probably all been in this circumstance… Take your pick of any natural disaster: a strong storm, a wildfire, or an earthquake. You go to make a cell phone call and you can’t get through. You try to send a text message, but depending on the severity of the issue, it may or may not be received.
The simple explanation is that each mobile tower can only handle a certain amount of calls, text messages, or Internet connections. You will no longer be able to connect to the network after it has been maxed out. Add in the fact that the tower has a limited capacity for backhauling traffic; the more traffic it handles, the slower everyone’s connection becomes until it reaches the point where you may have an internet connection between your phone and the tower, but the tower backhaul is overwhelmed, and you can’t make a phone call, load a web page, or send a text message. Have you ever experienced something similar? What if there’s a power outage?
Most cell towers have diesel or propane-powered backup generators. They usually have enough fuel to last a few days, but what happens if the electricity goes off for an extended period of time? It is unrealistic and potentially dangerous to your safety and security to rely solely on your cell phone as a means of communication.
The folks who fare the best, as with any aspect of surviving difficult times, are the ones who know that it is up to you to create the safety net you require to weather the storm. Even a high-level assessment of the safety net reveals that the majority of its components harken back to simpler times and the pre-digital era. Just because cell networks, as well as possibly TV and radio stations, are down does not mean you should be without communication. Over a century ago, amateur radio, also known as ham radio, began as a means of long-distance communication between individuals or groups that had previously had no way of communicating.
Large blocks of radio spectrum were allocated to ham radio operators by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in collaboration with other governments around the world for use by private persons to communicate. The majority of this radio spectrum is reserved for licensed users. Today, getting a license is easier because you don’t have to show that you can communicate in Morse code, but you still have to study and pass an exam to get your license so you can converse on those bands.
You can legally own a ham radio without a license to listen if you don’t intend to talk. There are several reasons why some people choose not to get licensed: they don’t think they have anything to say on the radio but want to be able to get information; within the range of frequencies supported by ham radio, you will find public safety users, weather information, and commercial users, all of whom are valuable sources of information; also within the frequencies of standard ham radio are public safety users, weather information, and commercial users, all of whom are valuable sources of information; also within the frequencies of a standard (FRS & GMRS).
Some people may not want to put forth the work required to study for and pass an exam, and others simply do not want to be included in yet another federal government database. It’s worth noting that FRS channels don’t require any licensing at all, whereas GMRS does. To maintain this high level, radio frequencies are divided into chunks for ham operators based on the radio wave size, which is measured in hertz. Consider an ocean wave… The longer it takes for radio waves to travel from the top of one wave to the top of the next wave, the longer it takes for them to reach you.
The lower the frequency, the greater the gap between the tops of the radio waves; for hams, this is denoted as MHz and stated in megahertz. This is all part of what you learn when you receive your ham license, and it can get complicated. Again, to keep things simple, we’ll limit ourselves to VHF and UHF frequencies for the sake of this page… VHF ranges from 144.000 to 148.000 MHz, whereas UHF ranges from 420.000 to 450.000 MHz.
Important Note On Licencing
On the more complicated side, you might wish to communicate across the country or even over the world; it’s doable, and if you’re interested, start working on your deep education and licensure. Line of sight, with no obstructions, including vegetation, between you and the person you’re conversing with, is optimal for maximum range in local and regional conversations. You can communicate with someone kilometers away with a line of sight between the two radios, depending on the power (wattage) of the radios being utilized. Passing your amateur radio exam is a lot easier now, not only because the Morse code requirement has been eliminated, but also because technology and commercial classes geared to assist you in obtaining your license make the process easier than ever. If you’re interested in learning more about ham radio, the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is the organization that promotes the hobby in the United States. Go to the App Store or Play Store and search for HAM Test Prep to get a feel of what the exam is like and the terrific use of technology on your smartphone to get you prepped for taking the exam.
You may find a wealth of study resources, apps, classes, and exam venues by doing a quick Internet search on Ham Radio Exam. We’ll defer to you to continue your research on this subject because there is so much useful material available.
With ham radio, what type of range can I expect to converse (two-way or lust listening)? Depending on what you want to do, how you want to communicate, what level of amateur radio license you have, the sort of equipment you have, and the weather conditions at the time you want to talk, this is both a simple and a hard issue to answer. You’ll be conversing locally (within a few miles) or regionally on the easy side (within your county or more).
The shorter the distance between two points, the more greenery, hills, houses, and so on there is between them. Let’s look at the concept of radio repeaters to increase the range on a more regional basis. Using radio repeaters that have been approved and constructed in key areas, licensed amateur radio operators can dramatically increase the distance they can communicate. The ability to have a line of sight from your radio substantially expands the geographic area that you can cover by placing a repeater on a mountain, high building, or radio tower.
The repeater is set up to receive signals on one frequency and then relay them out on a different frequency. As a result, your radio is set up for that repeater, and you can automatically receive and send on those frequencies. As a result, you don’t need to have a clear line of sight to the person with whom you wish to interact. You may considerably expand the area you can communicate as long as both of you have a line of sight to the repeater.
What Can A Radio Cost You
So, how does a basic ham radio appear and how much does it cost? A portable (walkie-talkie-like radio), a mobile (usually for installing in a car, but some people use them in the house or shop), and a base unit are the three types of radios (a large desktop radio). We’ll concentrate on the portable radio for the sake of this article.
Portables are incredibly versatile because they can be worn on your belt, but their power and range are limited due to their size and antenna design. Portable radios are the cheapest, and you can get surprisingly decent quality for less than $100. Of course, you can pay more, but for a starting point to familiarise yourself with the technology, the less expensive radios are a perfect choice. If you do any research, you’ll find that Baofeng is the most popular choice for balancing low cost and high quality.
No, they aren’t up to the standards of a high-end product, but for about $25, you can have a ham radio delivered to your home in two days from Amazon. At the conclusion of this section, you’ll discover links to radios and accessories… You might wish to explore a mobile if you want a less portable solution where you can fix-mount the radio and pair it with a better-performing antenna. There are numerous brands to pick from, and Baogeng also provides low-cost options.
Antennas are a complicated topic, and we’re obviously no experts in this field, but based on our research, we can provide a few antenna recommendations in the links area as well.
Programing Your Radio
As previously stated, vast chunks of radio spectrum have been set aside for public and private use, and you can use them for two-way communication or listening solely. Nothing will be programmed into your new radio. You can use an MHz to walk through the frequencies that appear on the radio display. There are tens of thousands of channels available to ham operators because each step is 0.001 MHz per click.
As a result, you should conduct a study to identify which stations are of interest to you, and then program your radio to allow you to readily access only those channels. An Internet search for channels of interest will yield a wealth of information. For example, public information channels are used by your local or county police and fire departments to communicate. You may only be able to hear the dispatcher and not the mobile unit in many circumstances, but this will provide you with important information about what is going on in terms of public safety.
These will all be listen-only frequencies, and you will not be able to transmit on them. You can also look for ham groups in your area to see what frequencies their repeaters operate on. They will usually provide information on the frequencies and hours of public talks known as NETS, which you can listen to if you are not licensed or participate in if you are.
A programming cable, a laptop, and a programming application are required to program your radio. The application is tailored to a certain radio manufacturer. We utilize Baofeng radios, and programming is done with a freeware tool called CHIRP.
We chose Baofeng radios because of the high quality at such a low price. There are higher-quality radios available, but unless you’re serious about ham radio, the Baofeng radios can’t be topped for the price. A battery, charger, belt clip, and earpiece are included with the radio.
Antennas are essential for getting the signal into and out of the radio as quickly as possible. The antenna that comes with the Baofeng radios is adequate, but you may upgrade to a higher-performance Nagoya antenna that has been tested and authorized by Baofeng; just keep in mind that it is a longer but more flexible antenna. If you wish to acquire this antenna, be aware that there are cheaper knock-offs on the market that do not perform as well as the original.
The Nagoya antenna can be found at the URL below. If you want to extend your range by placing a fixed antenna on your house or shop, there are many different types of antennas to choose from. If you’re interested, please shoot us an email and we’ll send you further information.