Do you REALLY need that ham license?

Started by Jonas Parker, September 08, 2012, 12:01:09 PM

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Jonas Parker

 Do you REALLY need that ham license?

    I've read numerous posts in various "prepper forums" (thank God not here) on the theme "after the SHTF, a license won't mean diddly" and "I'll just gear up now and wait for things to fall apart before I use my transmitter". Unfortunately, that license will still be important, and familiarity with your rig will be vital.

    Most hams I know have a logging program with a database on a dedicated computer next to their rigs. If I punch in your call-sign, your name, address, and Maidenhead grid location immediately show in my station log. If you don't give me a call-sign, I won't respond to you unless you're calling "mayday", and then it better be a real emergency with an immediate threat to human life!. If you give me a bogus call-sign, you better have the name, address, grid, and location down pat. If I ask for your QTH, the correct answer is not "Huh? Wat?". In other words, the minute you make that first transmission, hams will know you aren't for real.

    There's a learning curve here. Folks are telling me that they'll have the gear and when the SHTF they'll just power up, set the proper band, frequency, and mode, key the microphone, and transmit with no problem tuning their antenna, setting the filters, or adjusting the microphone gain and transmitting power. Great! Then following that logic, I can buy a rifle, a scope, and a few boxes of ammo and leave them all on a shelf until I need them, then somehow strip and clean the rifle, attach the scope, load the magazines, and hit the 10-ring with my first 5 shots! You and I know that ain't gonna happen...

    So why add to the comms problems in a SHTF scenario when you can be part of the solution. Get your license and get on the air now. Get familiar with your rig and the procedures and the protocols in use. Join your local ham club. Check into a "traffic net" and get familiar with passing traffic. Hone your skills. When you really need them, the skills will be there!


"If SHTF, I'll just go down to the XYZ store and steal everything I need!  Like a Hummer H1!"

Don't worry about people who think they can do this with no training, no practice, and gear they've never used.  It's highly unlikely you'd ever hear them on air at all.


I certainly agree on getting a license. It isn't difficult or costly. People often forget how much training goes into prepping. Storing a few key supplies and gear is the easy part. Knowing how to use it all efficiently is another matter. Ever built a deadfall trap for small game? I have.. And no, it didn't work the first time.. When the SHTF, it's too late to start learning. Everything should come as second nature then.



Practice makes perfect.  Practice and test all your preps.  KD0GDV, listening...


As a challange...

Next Friday night, turn off your main circuit breaker, promptly at 6:00pm (1800 hours).

Don't use any tap water and see how well the toilet flushes.

And too, Power up your radio gear and make contact with other hams while you are on battery power.  Those flashlight battries aren't dead, are they?  Do you even know where there is a flashlight in your home?

Eat your meals witout the ais of your stove (electric or gas) and use some other means to heat what you eat.

Oh, and how wonderful you will feel taking that cold shower at six am in the morning!  Oh, wait a minite... you don't have any running water!!!

A tip:

It was either at Lowes or Home Depot, they had some of those solar walk-way LED lights for sale for about $1.50 each.  I bought a half dozen of them and they work wonderful as night lights.  You don't need a lot of light to get from your bedroom to your bathroom at 3:00 am in the morning.  I ended up returning and purchasing another dozento out up as a prepping item.



Jonas I couldn't agree with you more.  The only thing I can add is, when you're a new Ham, experienced operators are very excited for you and extremely willing to help with the learning curve.


This is the same question that is brought-up on every board. That tells us that it's on people's minds, but it generally creates more heat than light.

When the BIG ONE hits, license won't matter anyway, so I'll just buy the stuff (or steal it ) and talk...     -- Let's think about this...

I own a nice shiney field surgical kit and have 'heard about things' like how to cut a windpipe so that a person can breathe, or tie-off a spurting vein (or was that an artery?  Ooooh, I'll figure that out later...)  and etc. In a dire life and death emergency I can cut with the same tools as an experienced surgeon: and STILL PROBABLY kill my 'patient' deader than a bag of rocks. WHY? Because I have never done this before. Please understand: I'm a VERY techincal guy, I am a 'fast learner' and can build & fix almost anything, but you REALLY don't want my on-the-job-training to be inside of your chest cavity.  right?     :o      ...because I have never done this before.

In the same way, communications - REAL WORLD communications requires knowledge and experience to use that knowledge efficiently. Radios and communications systems, I have a lot of experience with. The reason that I do have more than a casual aquaintance with radio communications, all began with my ham license a looooong time ago. Since then it's been special military applications, using what I was trained to do and my ham experience (yes - ham came in handy) in foreign countries and yet I lived to tell about it. Thank God and good training and experience. The reason that I routinely communicate with friends in-state or across the continent (yes - daily) is because I know the how's & why's of radio communications, especially on the HF bands ("shortwave") which can do your heavy lifting in communications when you have lost all infrastructure. You must learn theory, because learning WHY something works is very important in getting it to work properly, then practice, because there is a difference between knowing about something and actuall 'owning your skills'. A few examples are, antennas (#1 importance), radio propagation i/e which bands to use at what times & seasons to reach what distances reliably. Electrical theory AND methods is so that you can power your equipment when you have no commercial power. . .  The list goes on, and you can learn and USE (i/e practice) it everyday, perfectly legally WITH a ham license. 

The ham radio license is a superb way to learn now - when mistakes are nothing more than a tiny Ooops, then to use what you've learned to build your experience level/reliability and then to improve upon your abilities as a communicator. The "I'll buy a radio and use it when TSHTF" is a poor plan, though not immediately as poor as the 'I bought the surgical kit, now let's get cutting so I can gain some experience!...' plan.  The other aspect is that those who you are communicating with on the radio NOW are the persons you'll likely be communicating with in a grid-down situation. Are you talking on a handi-talkie 2 miles, are you sending e-mail over HF radio to someone 100 or a few thousand miles away? We hams are - everyday . . . The ham radio ticket is your open door to LEGALLY and safely learn these skills. Should you ever need to use them, such as during hurricanes, ice storms or when driving to the Piggly Wiggly, then you can do it with zero risk. These ham skills are useful everyday, long before TSHTF.

Your #1 'survival tool' is not your rifle, not food storage & not even your ever present knife: it is your mind. Learn new skills,  use new skills until you 'own them'. That applies for everything from fire making to home canning to communicating and it makes us better people, better team members better at taking care of our families and friends. Other than that, learning new things & growing as a human being doesnt mean  . har! 

TAPRN and American Redoubt are both great websites to learn about applied/practical communications in a grid down situation. There is so much more than pushing the button on a handi-talkie and WOW is it handy!

de RadioRay ..._ ._

"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


Quote from: openhisword on September 08, 2012, 09:31:06 PM

Jonas I couldn't agree with you more.  The only thing I can add is, when you're a new Ham, experienced operators are very excited for you and extremely willing to help with the learning curve.

Not me!
I have already built a solar powered water system, with wind backup, and a geny on the side if that all fails I have a bicycle crank.
rigged into my house plumbing so it keeps it pressurized, supplied from a deep well with 550g storage.
Produces over 2000g a day and has enough extra power to run an AC unit or heater, a hot plate, LED lighting, and my radio gear.
You obviously can't live like you do with utility power but we will survive.


TAPRN is a great resource. Thanks for the link. I didn't know about it. I like their , especially the 7,242kHz frequency suggestion. We might piggyback on that one.



I agree with getting the license.

For most people HAM radio is a "complicated" and "technical" hobby. Just because there are so many things non-licensed [I'm going to use my radio after TEOTWAWKI] thinking people that don't realize what can go wrong; it's much better to get the license and begin to "own that skill" as others have said.

I think any argument I've heard contrary to this pretty much is a moot point after the SHTF... If you are transmitting there is still a chance you can be found. Just because someone thought to search you out in a database of licensees doesn't really mean that much after the SHTF. Your antenna can still be spotted or your position can be made in many other ways; not to mention you may not be there with your portable station. Being in the know about your equipment and the process is still more useful in my opinion.

Yes, I'm terribad at stringing thoughts together on a forum!  :-X


About antennas, there are many ways to make them not look like antennas. Thin wire, green spray paint, flag poles, clotheslines, etc. My 24ft Imax2000 is painted camo green and brown. You can't see in in the trees unless you look very closely... I can string up a wire inside the house on the 2nd floor and use a tuner.. My 40m end-fed has a very thin wire you can barely see from any distance.



Oh - there are so many ways to use clandestine antennas and methods of using a radio. There are many, many articles on-line about 'stealth antennas' and etc.  Government methods for sniffing and analyzing signals are tremendous.  However, if you are on HF, unless you're some sort of high priority radio target , the odds of a government going to the trouble of tracking your signals then doing the area search and eventual man-on-the-ground time to physically locate your station are not likely.  Whether operating 'guerilla' for fun or necessity, guerilla radio means you should look like one fish in a sea of millions; i/e blend in.   You're far more likely to be ratted-out by a neighbor or ex-girlfried and/or your computer.

>>> There is little operational difference between a random wire HF NVIS antenna up 8 feet and an extension cord strung out over fence rails and branches where you like to BBQ at night after work with friends... or what looks like 'cable' for the old TV system, going out to the pole, but which is actially not connected to anything at the pole, but IS a 'slant wire antenna' in the broad sense and both would be fine for at least a few hundred miles and likely more. Not as efficient as a dipole 60 feet in the air, but sometimes it pays to be flexible. The list goes on...

>RadioRay ..._ ._
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


From a "radio prepper" perspective, registering your home with the FCC/DHS as a radio communications facility, while hiding your antenna from your neighbors who could just look you up online if they wanted to know if your a ham, makes no sense to me.   Why bother with a stealthy antenna after you've already told everyone in the world, "I'm licensed to operate radios"?

On one hand we're discussing all the benefits of communications and how important it is to have, but on the other dismissing the idea that anyone else would care.   If it's valuable why would you want to tell everyone, if it's not valuable then why bother having it at all?   I think ham must be the only prep skill that most will argue that you either need to register with the government to use it, or don't to it at all.


The question of 'being on a government list' comes-up occasionally, but something to think of is that being on 'survivalist' and 'prepper' sites is entirely traceable, as is the driver's license, cell phone location, traffic quantity and audio/video - the same for 99.999% of all internet contact. Personally, if the FEAR of being listed is strong enough to stop me from my free exercise of entirely normal and harmless - (even helpful) behaviour, then we might want to consider whether we are enslaving ourselves, because such things are not prohibited by the government.  I mean if I can intimidate myself into stopping something that they have not even mentioned, then have I made myself into a slave of my own imagination?

The question arises why it would be a concern that we have a ham license?  If it is a concern over being on a government list to possibly be harassed by the government during a possible future emergency, then a far more likely list generator certainly would be visiting 'survivalist' sites on the internet, or buying ammunition, or food outside of the 'norm' and etc. because of credit card records.  Driving a car is no longer anon, because of license plate cameras and more.   The internet is thoroughly monitored per sites visited, e-mails sent, and add to that the use of financial intelligence means that, banking and credit card records are sifted for suspicious statistical anomolies, Cell phones are nothing less than personal locator beacons and 'bugs' and travel records in conjunction with other 'persons of interest' , all easily sifted and collated to generate a personal & group profile.  If I were some three letter agency in charge of making lists, I'd be VERY thankful for internet and the cell phone.  When a 'survivalist cell' gathers at a 'secret' location and brings their cellphones - viola!  I have a list of everyone there, probably audio and some video as well,  and the 'secret' location? , due to the cell phone's built-in "911" location requirement, I now can map routes of entry and exit etc.  No - I'd toss out a cell phone and computer before I'd do anything else, IF I were concerned about being anon - which I am not, but that's my personal choice. If I were concerned about such things, a ham ticket is the least of my worries.  If I were a government snoop-agency with such a plan, I'd write software to scan the internet chatter for phrases such as " government list" and log who said it and start collating any remotely associated data... 

>>>>This would make a great discussion around a campfire with lots of rum!   :P
As for neighbors who might go on-line, check through FCC ULS records for any of their surrounding homes to see whether they have a ham license, it's possible.  There ARE some real maggots out there, but  many hams have a license yet no radio station, or are exclusively VHF/UHF  and/or mobile only and most people (neighbors) do not know the difference. Experience has shown me the wisdom of two statements:

1. Out of site is out of mind.
2. Better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.

If there is a concern about where your station is located, use a P.O. box, or your work address or a remailing service.  I have done all of that and more before, because in my case, I did not even have a physical address - I lived on a very mobile sailboat!  My 'address' was the latitude/longitude where I was anchored that week when I dinghied in to shore, yet I worked and had a paycheck. (You should see what I had to go through to get a driver's license at that time...) 

For me, the personal utility of the ham license for everyday use, emergency use and knowledge & skills gained, far outweighs a theoretical threat in a yet-to-be-experienced scenario.  Besides, other than my increasing age (which makes me 'safer' by the minute) , with my internet record, library records, Kindle book record and past service record - I'm already on 'the list' if there is one. 

Just my two cents worth - please adjust for hyper-inflation.

>RadioRay ..._ ._
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


I am not worried about being on "the list," because soon enough EVERYONE is going to be on it.
Growing the databases is how you get your budget increased for the next year...