By the author of What School Should Have Taught You and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications.
Ham radio is an incredible tool, and I stumbled across a story the other day that served as an excellent example of why Americans cannot afford to neglect preparing their disaster comms. For far too long, too many of us have grown dependent on the tracking devices known as smartphones, and these are not a reliable means of communicating with others in the event of an emergency.
Getting your license is more important than ever in this crazy world. (If you are studying for your exam – or even considering it – check out this exam handbook with cartoons I drew as mnemonic memory tools!) As you’ll see in just a moment, a ham radio can actually save someone’s life.
This is how you save a life.
To further help to illustrate this point, consider the experience of Bob Griswold of Ready Made Resources.
Bob’s local ham radio club, W4YJ, regularly volunteers for an annual bike race that’s held in the mountains of Tennessee. The race is well over 100 miles in length, requiring up to 6000’ in elevation gain.
Needless to say, it’s an incredibly strenuous challenge for all involved, and the risk of injury is great.
Knowing this, Bob and his son both signed up to help with emergency comms for the event. As the pair hopped into Bob’s truck, they patrolled a segment of a 120-mile loop that had been designated as theirs to watch.
The road they were on was incredibly rugged and difficult to traverse as it wound its way through the Smokies and cell phone service was non-existent. If anybody were to be injured while out in that segment of the race, they would have otherwise had minimal expectations of a speedy and effective rescue.
But thankfully, Bob and his son were out there.
That section of the Smokies is incredibly beautiful, and it’s not uncommon for hikers, cyclists, and the occasional horse rider to meander their way through the mountains. And on this day, Bob, his son, and the cyclists weren’t on the trail alone: a man was making his way down the trail on horseback as well.
For whatever reason, the horse threw the rider off, causing him to hit his head on the ground. Bob and his son happened upon the scene, where they found the rider incoherent with blood coming out of his ears.
Bob and his son quickly hopped out of the truck to administer aid to the man, using the med kit that he always keeps with him. Then, using his truck-mounted Yaesu 7900 radio with a mag-mount antenna, Bob was able to radio out to his radio club back at the base station that there was an injury out on the trail.
The men at the radio club were then able to contact 911, and a rescue helicopter was sent to nearby Rattlesnake Outlook to evacuate the man.
I think there are a number of lessons that we can glean from this story.
- What would have happened to the man had nobody been nearby at all?
- What would have happened to the rider had Bob not had his radio?
- What would have happened had Bob not had regular practice and experience with his radio?
- What would have happened to the man had Bob not always carried a med kit with him?
- What would have happened had W4YJ not established an off-grid comms protocol for the entire area?
- What would have happened if whoever found the rider had no medical experience?
- What would have happened if whoever found the rider hadn’t been willing to help?
- What would have happened had there been no helicopter?
- What would have happened had the helicopter team not been physically capable of carrying the man out of there?
(Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to building a 3-layer food storage plan if you’re new to prepping.)
I think that these are all valid questions that deserve your consideration as a prepper. There are lessons to be learned from history such as this, and we would benefit from learning them.
This is just one example of why you should strongly consider getting your emergency communications gear, skills, and protocol up to speed as fast as possible.
If you don’t have the gear, may I strongly recommend at least looking into the Baofeng UV-5R. They’re $22. That’s a steal. If you don’t have a license, I strongly recommend studying for it. If you have the gear but lack the practice, I highly recommend that you get out there on the air, getting some practice behind the mic with what works and what does not.
Maybe take a few trips to your local ham radio club so you can, at the very least, make a few connections with older ham radio operators that will be willing to help you learn the ropes.
(Want uninterrupted access to The Organic Prepper? Check out our paid-subscription newsletter.)
Comms are vital.
You store food, water, medical supplies, ammunition, and other gear to make sure that your family is taken care of in the event of an emergency. Why not do the same with communications?
We’ve already seen stories trickle out of Florida after Hurricane Ian of ham radios being used to save lives. This is a very practical skill that you need to look into.
What are your thoughts about all of this? Do you have any similar stories? Let us know what you’re thinking and your advice about ham radio communications in the comment section below.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.
I was along I-26 when a car containing two women flipped over several time after the driver lost control. I did not have a cell signal, so I got on my Ham radio and called for help. I was able to make contact with a base station and within 10 minutes a state trooper and ambulance arrived to help the ladies. They weren’t hurt that bad, but they were very lucky in that regard.
I have been somewhat disappointed in what HAM radio can do. But then I live in somewhat unique situation.
I have a general licence, but I live in an area in somewhat of a hollow near mountains. 2 meter and 70 cm radio, as described in the article, needs line of sight or pretty close to that in order to be detected. The only local club repeater that I can access is 50 miles away, all others are blocked by either the mountains or other geographic features. As far as being heard, the small hand-held transceiver like what is carried while hiking can barely be heard at that distance, even when transmitting at full 5 watt power. The local club removed C4FM digital from that repeater “because too few people used it.” (A weak digital signal can still be heard, whereas a weak analog signal disappears.)
The radio mentioned in the article can put out 50 watts of power, but needs the heavy battery of a vehicle to power it. It’s a good radio.
I originally got my tech licence as part of a search and rescue organization in an area where repeaters are just a few miles away, if even that far. There I had good experiences. It was only after I moved that I had this experience. I now recommend getting at least a general licence and a HF rig that will not be as limited as 2 meter and 70 cm.
I mention my experience hoping that others can learn.
When you advise someone to purchase a $22 ham radio hand held transceiver, please advise them that they MUST have an amateur (ham) radio license issued by the FCC to use it to transmit.
IF they are that clueless perhaps they should also be told not to eat the radio or put it in a microwave. 🙂
Husband has his ham licence, we see it as an essential prep. He got his easily but comes from an electronics background. I’m studying to get mine.
I live in southwest New Mexico in a mountainous area of about 3 million acres. Our forest is the Gila National Forest, and if you drive into the forest your cell phone coverage is gone within 7 miles or so from town. The radio club put in a ham radio repeater on our highest mountain at 9028 ft. I can generally can communicate to anyone in town while in the forest. I also used ham radio for search and rescue in the same forest. As far as I’m concerned a radio is a must here for your personal safety. In an emergency it is an absolute life saver. If you’re an avid hiker, fisherman, or just out for a walk carry the radio with you. It really could save your life. Radios are inexpensive, and durable (Check out Amazon.). Enjoy yourselves in the mountains and don’t become a statistic.
Extra license here. I’ve advocated preppers getting their license for a long time. But get your General. It opens up all Amateur bands for your use.
license is like getting a number tattoo on your arm, or like getting on a train to a so-called better place.
license is permission granted by govermin folks.
license permits govermin folks to track folks to monitor or act against them.
license resembles a condom, providing a sense of security while interacting with some one else; the idea seems to be that a license is an indicator of safe operation.
learn the techniques. get the gear. take the fake tests and pass them. do not let govermin folks know that you know how to do something. don’t apply for a license.
For sure they are infringing on a God given right and they have no Constitutional Authority to do so!
BUT what you fail to see are the thousand other ways we are monitored. This conversation for instance is now in an intelligence agencies database and tied to both of our names….
If you understand the enemy you can mitigate some of the spying when needed.
kudos to Bob and his son…………THANK YOU BOB!
Just make sure that your DO NOT depend on a Bivy Stick from The Satellite phone store for your comms. Mine has not worked properly for going on the 3rd month and all Barry Hipple at the SPS has done the entire time is to point fingers at other parties rather than providing the service he sold me.
I am willing to verify everything I have stated.
I know lots of folks don’t wanna hear this but…..11meter (CB) does NOT require licensing, is far more common than ham, is cheap (antenna and radio), easy to use and can cover up to twenty miles easily on sideband. Get that big stick in the air and start talking, always identify yourself by a handle or number and be respectful. You WILL be communicating when the phones don’t work. My $.02.
CB radio has its place, and I have used it. In fact, it may be the preferred comms in certain situations. But let’s look also at its limitations.
• It is limited to 4 watts of power (legally at least)
• There are no repeaters for it (legally at least)
• In hilly terrain its range may be as short as a mile or less
• Yet it’s very useful for short range comms such as along a highway
In contrast, 2 meter and 70 cm
• Can transmit up to 50 watts as in the article above
• Repeaters, many of which are also connected to the internet
• Terrain can still affect its range
• When connected to the internet, I’ve heard 2 meter discussions from as far west as Australia and Japan, as far east as England and Italy, and as far south as the Caribbean.
CB may be the way to go for such as a neighborhood watch group where one doesn’t want the signal to go beyond the local group.
I still recommend getting at least a general licence and the equipment to communicate on HF bands.
Agreed on most points. I don’t like the ham vs CB thing. For beginners though CB is a good intro to TXing. Most beginners won’t know what a frequency offset is for example. To clarify, a CB on sideband transmits 15 watts avg.. The line of sight seems a bit less poignant with CB but my area is flat, so what do I know! I have talked from coast to coast with a standard Cobra CB while in my car and driving when propagation is happening. Idiots and goofballs aside CB is a good prepper choice and ham proficiency is also good. Also, technically it is legal to use ham frequencies in emergencies if unlicensed. I am not licensed but regularly monitor my local repeater. It is very useful when the weather is threatening. Herschel
Been an extra for a number of years. Lived in Mexico in the 90’s. Used to do routine relays of missionary health and human services’ traffic from missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador, Peru and Brazil back to hospitals and doctors in the US as well as being a relay station for the ARRL nets….. points to consider…there are still vast swaths of the Amazon that have no electricity nor cell coverage nor internet nor telephone of any kind. An amateur license plus what little it takes to be able to handle message traffic is extremely valuable. Considering the way the times are now, people are starting to blow up underwater pipelines, cutting fiber undersea cables recently, and the internet is a pretty fragile thing. War or a Carrington event might be the end of comms, so getting the license and rudimentary proficiency might save either your or someone else’s life….
Regards & 73
Hey Bob. Don’t like real questions about your superman exploits, I see. Doesn’t surprise me. Hey, what do we call all half-truths? Yep. Lies. And that’s what sells the store, doesn’t it. Look in the mirror & say hello to “Aden” for me.
Hello, “Ted.” Actually, I’m the one who has deleted your nasty comments about Bob. I guess you didn’t realize when you posted FOUR TIMES under THREE DIFFERENT NAMES in TWO DAYS that…well… I can see your IP address.
We posted this article to bring to light a prepper who used a prepper tool to help someone else. Your personal grudge and overabundant harvest of sour grapes are not relevant to the article. Using my comments section just to trash someone that we wrote about is in poor taste, and it’s just not going to happen.
Please, move on.