Survival Communications – HAM RADIO

Ham RAdio

When the power lines go down, radio stations stop transmitting and the internet stops working; there is one line of emergency communication that will still be alive and well.

HAM Radio

Ham Radio is something that’s not often discussed on survival websites, but in my opinion, it plays a key role in your efforts to be prepared.

In a survival situation, knowledge is a very valuable asset. The ability to know what’s going on around you will be extremely important in just about any survival situation you might find yourself in. Having this knowledge will definitely give you a leg up in a survival situation.

Communications Equipment

A good survival plan must include some type of emergency communications equipment. The ability to send and receive information in a disaster is vital to being able to survive that situation.

In my opinion, there really is only one way to go, and that is to invest in some top quality HAM Radio equipment. Forget about those crappy emergency walkie-talkies or anything that’s marketed as a “Survival Radio”. In my opinion, 99% of these things are complete garbage and are almost completely useless in a real word survival scenario.

The ability to send and receive information, from just about anywhere in the world, is far more valuable than anything you will be able to get out of a so-called “Survival Radio”.

Why choose HAM Radio for your Survival Communications?

I’ve been a HAM since I was about 10 years old. I’ve talked to people from around the globe with radios that I could literally operate with a couple small batteries and a wire antenna. In a SHTF situation, the ability to communicate with such a small amount of power is going to be extremely important.

When the power grids go down during a natural disaster, it’s often HAM Radio operators who become the only line of communication available. In fact, during Katrina the early responders all relied on HAM Radio Operators to relay information out of the city. It played a vital role in search and rescue efforts and without it we likely would have seen many more deaths.

Why you need to be Licensed:

ham radio with a bug out bag

I often have people ask me if they really need to go through the hassle of becoming a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (HAM). Some people argue that during a SHTF situation having a License is meaningless. While this may be true, the knowledge that you’ll obtain while studying to get your license is well worth the time and the effort.

You will learn the basics of how to operate your radio, which bands are open during different atmospheric conditions, how to reliably use your radio during an emergency and how to build a variety of basic antennas. In my opinion, studying for the test and going through the process is the only way to ensure you’ll when it counts.  You will be far better off learning these skills now instead of haphazardly trying to figure how to use your radio during an emergency situation.

If you are serious about survival I strongly suggest that you look into becoming a HAM Radio Operator.

Further Resources:

Shirts of Liberty

OFFGRID Survival book



    • I took my Technician test this morning and passed. I used the website “” as it was easier for me to navigate and wasn’t stuffed with distracting advertisements.

      • Hi I used the and passed the test 100% for tech and missed 4 on the General a few of the questions were not in the practice as stated but very few. If you read the information, then hit the study cards then do the practice tests works well did both exam studies in two weeks while watching tv in the evenings. I was the only one of 5 that passed both tests in a single evening.

        • All the questions ARE posted however, you may be using a practice test that is outdated. In this case they are only worded differently. This is why it is very important to pay attention to what the question is asking and not try to interpret the question.

    • I suggest downloading the question and answer pool for a Tech, General, and Extra and read everything twice. I only read once and it hurt me. Then take the practice exam 5 times for Tech or until you score 90 percent or better, the General 5 time or until 90 percent and 8 to 10 times for Extra. Also use the resonance formula which divides 1000 by 2 times Pi times the square root of L times C where L is in microHenrys and C is in picoFarads. All the problems are in microHenrys and picoFarads. There is problem of gross precision lost on cheap $13 TI-30XIIS calculators unless you use the formula above. I took all three exams in an hour and 15 minutes. The volunteer examiners were amazed. But I have 3 years of electrical engineering and the commercial General Radiotelephone Operator license. Amateur radio is for doers not for theory eggheads. Amateur radio is for genuine can-do operators, with design and construction skills. Sadly most never even open their Chinese radios (appliances) to look inside.

      • The Wouxun Dual Band HT (2 Mtr/70cm) is a pretty good hand held for about $100. I know several people use them and are happy.

    • Agree on the 2m comments. Spent less then 100. For a great icom v80 delivered. Tutorials all over YouTube on how to operate and program. Also you can build a cheap, and effective 1/4 wave antenna to supplement the rubber ducky that comes with most hand helds. Once the wife and I master the icom (which is built to military standards) I will get one of the multi bands from Baofend which are incredibly cheap and effective, love the site thanks

    • 2 meter is NOT limited to local only. This “myth” is perpetrated by those who never use higher power and external antennas.
      First off, s directional antenna mounted at a height above the roof line of your home can easily extend your range up to and over 100 miles. Next, adding an external rf power amplifier between the handheld and the antenna can increase that range even further. The problem with the handheld 2 meter rig is not the frequency or the power output of the handheld, rather, it is the complacency of the user, not trying anything, and saying that’s all there is. I live on the western shore of Lake Michigan, and talk to a station on the eastern shore on 2meter simplex FM with one watt on any given day of the week, regardless of propagation conditions with a simple 4 element Yagi beam. Every Ham needs to learn these facts and how to build these antennas. The principles are the same for HF as they are for vhf and uhf. 2 meter is an ideal and to learn them in due to compact size and are less critical in measurement than uhf is. Not learning these skills on 2 meter is handicapping yourself, when you will need them on HF.

  1. Don’t forget your Morse Code, took me 4 days to learn it and pass my Tech Plus test when I was 13.
    -.-. –.-

      • Well, there is, but only if you want to get your Airline Transport Pilots license or going attending Nav/Pilot training in the Airforce :)

        • the discussion is about Amateur Radio, and the code requirement was completely removed. With that said, More and more hams are getting their general and extra class licenses, and then, due to contact with morse code alone are learning it than in the past when they were stalling at technician.

    • The best thing about Morse is that very few people know what it is. You don’t have to have encryption devices, just use Morse. Less than 10% of the people on this planet understand Morse Code. You can communicate in the clear and no one will know what you are saying.

      • It’s more important for people to be able to understand me in a SHTF situation. Morse is cool to know but useless if I’m the only person left who knows it

      • Even better: it’s the most efficient transmission mode (in terms of attainable distance for your power). When receiving a weak signal, it’s much easier for both your receiver and your ears to make out “dits” and “dahs” than to extract intelligible speech.

  2. good article, but prepping is also living frugal in your own means, without spending allot of money, those manuals you described can be downloaded via bit torrent without spending money. and those whom are also worried about having themselfs tracked by thier isp addy they can use a proxy

    • SORRY HISBILY while I agree that being frugal is smart stealing is just plain wrong no matter how you want to justify it. Yea I can save a few bucks stealing it on a torrent site but I could also save money on gear by stealing it from walmart. Both are the same and both are equally as wrong.

      And even if you don’t consider it morally wrong I would caution anyone from downloading anything from one of those illegal sites. They are filled with all sorts of nasty crap that will do more harm to your computer than the $10 bucks you might save. Me I’ll be safe and stick with buying the book.

      • very true but ten again, your totally correct especially if most users use Windows or Mac. Not many people are aware of using Linux OS, it is more secure and immune from those things you just spoken of. and ISP hiders can also CYA, but then again not everyone is HAM radio, internet, security or alternate OS savvy.

        as for equipment, is concerned I wouldnt buy it i would rather modify or trade it to fit my needs.

        • The problem with modifying radio equipment is it wont do what you NEED. Ham radios are designed ground up to cover the band spreads they do, and to do so cleanly, without receiving massive amounts of interference other radios do when modified to work in ham bands. This is why they cost more. The so called “export CB” radios do not have the noise reduction and receive characteristics of a true ham radio. add the cost level vs features and there is no savings in the end.

      • I am amazed that some FOOL is saying “Morally Wrong” to use bit torrent. Are you actually saying the Government’s MORAL RIGHT to SUPRESS information TRUMPS “YOUR” right to “POSSESS INFORMATION TO SAVE YOUR CHILDREN from ROVING BANDS OF CANNIBAL CITY SLICKERS & YANKEES?” Har har har! Get a LIFE, om.

        NOW, as to HAM RADIO, I am a licensed (Since 1958) Radio Operator, and I will tell you out front, YOUR RF SIGNAL when Tramsmitting will PIN POINT your QTH and the BOOGY MEN will Come and GET YOU!

        In fact, ALL Modern RECEIVERS use SUPERHETRODYNE RECEIVERS with a BEAT OSCILLATOR at 455 KCs, some again at 5 MCs, etc. WHICH PUTS OUT a FAIRLEY STRONG SIGNAL, again, the BOOGEY MAN will find you.

        “BUILD A CRYSTAL SET!” Use a 1N54 Germanium Diode, as a Detector. A Ferrete Coil as a Frequency Tuning System. Wind several coils for different Frequencies. THERE ARE NO BATTERIES. THERE IS NO EMF RADIATION.



        My FAMILY Marched off to be SLAUGHTERED in the CAMPS during the Holocaust! We were German Jews, from Hamberg. SOME SURVIVED by TAKING TO THE TREES & SUFFERING until we WALKED OUT to FREEDOM!

        I am proud to say, I WOULD NOT BE WRITING THIS if MY GREAT GRANDFATHER had not STARVED HIS WAY to freedom.

        • pure bull manure. As an author who spent the time and money doing the research to write the manuals, it is MY livelihood that you are stealing from, NOT the Government. Next there are NO RDFs that can locate a radio by it’s picowatt mixer signal, Especially since they are shielded internally and externally to prevent them from remixing with the local oscillator signal and throwing it into uncontrolled feed back.

          Your ranting in the mixed Capitol letters shows your lack of maturity, and it mixes with the fallacies you are spouting. You claim your great Grandfather Starved his way to freedom, you claim your family were Jews, of the Holocaust era, and you had your ham license since 1958. Well, Son those items DO NOT ADD UP. the comment of your great grand father and the camps puts you in the under 30 crowd… the license date of 58 puts you in the 60s age bracket, an over 30 year discrepancy… your writing puts you in the middle school bracket that is under 15 years old, and when views with the discrepancies is the most probable age bracket.

    • Thanks HisBilly. It would have been wonderful if I could have found a lead to a torrent file for any of the Amateur Radio test training books or a recent version of the ARRL Operators Manual. I had no luck. Point is passing the exam does not require good depth of
      knowledge of the information or technology. Its like the response of a prize fighter concerning his success. He said, “I knocks the #&*@^~ out!” So it is with the exam, just
      match the answer with the question. A lot of the material is just worthless, like the question about the Jones filter. Where is that in the 2017 Amateur Radio Handbook? And some of the answers are hilarious, sometimes 2 answers of the 4 possibles are obviously wrong, giving you a 50 percent likelihood of the right choice. Like when I took the General Class Radiotelephone Operators exam and the smart-ass lady said I just barely squeaked by. Who cares? It’s a lifetime license, so I won’t be taking that exam again in this lifetime. Also much of the material was on vacuum tube technology replaced with transistors in the 1960s, 20 years earlier. Almost all hams operate commercially made equipment, even though the amateur service was envisioned as a means of developing fully qualified technical repairmen as well as operators.

  3. Another reason to actually get the license is so that you can practice. Practicing the skill of handling traffic can become an art form, and unless you have at least a rudimentary understanding of how to pass and handle traffic, you’ll be very confused when the need is real and you’re attempting to pass some emergency info to someone that actually has practiced.

    He’ll be frustrated, and your info might not get passed accurately.

    Of course, there is the aspect of being a help to your community in times of need, and it can be just plain fun!

  4. Nathan – thanks for your comments, logical & insightful and confirms my perception about the license requirements as meaningless. It’s just another way for the Government to monitor its subjects. In a true emergency or God forbid disaster – I believe those of us who have the equipment & means (i.e. I’m lucky to have an Electronics tech degree) can forgo the formal “traffic protocol” crap and quickly come to an understanding in communication using the English language. I have all the local police, emergency, HAM freq’s and communication charts & documentation needed to know who’s out there ( isn’t the internet great!), I’ve visited my local amateur radio club and have witnessed how they run it and people involved – my only interest is too have equipment ready and operational should an event occur that demands it use. I’m not interested in joining a club and spending time sitting down with a bunch of old men & other radio head zombies that love their hobby and are good little law & rule abiding Subjects for the Government – God bless them for their service. I have my own hobbies in other areas that allow me an excuse to be obsessed.
    Bottom line – I want to purchase equipment that is not the cheap crap you buy everywhere – but quality high end stuff including mobile VHF radios (I know – only for water) with 6 watts of power for local communications – if SHTF. I’m not worried or I don’t think authorities will be worried about prosecuting those without a license or improper radio usage. My communication will be strictly limited & brief, using codes I have already set up with my connected friends/family – while monitoring all the channels with a mobile base unit using portable batteries with solar charging capabilities. When I say off the grid – I want to be off the grid in numerous ways without worring about all the 10,000 plus BS regulations/laws our Govt has been putting out there – it’s overwhelling and its done so on purpose to limit our freedoms. Like everything, balance is the key for me.

    • Well unless you have given up your drivers license your social security card and your birth certificate everything you just said is meaningless.

      Yes the FCC sucks but becoming a ham has more benefits than you can imagine. And without the licensing it would become like CB radio which is complete crap.

      • While I agree with the premise that in a life and death situation that communications by any means necessary is allowed, I also agree with posters who state having a background in ham (not HAM as it is not an acronym) radio is essential for efficient communications on both V/UHF and HF frequencies. If you are not aware of how to communicate properly, the bands will quickly become inundated with people screaming for help and as a result, will be rendered useless. There is a reason we hams are so strict about protocol. Its not just because we are “sheeple” as some would suggest, but it is because we have a long standing tradition of doing things the right way “When All Else Fails…” I also agree that going through the licensing process will give you useful skills in the areas of operating procedures, antenna designs and an understanding of how it all fits together to get the message out. Bottom line, it is an irresponsible assumption that you can pick up a microphone and expect to get to get a message out. A quick example for you: What if you hear someone talking on a frequency, having no background in ham radio and you pick up your microphone and start calling for help and nothing happens? Is it your station not working? your antenna not working? Or is it because the station your hearing is using a repeater and what you are hearing is the repeater output frequency? What then? How can you even tell if it is a repeater being used? Do you know what the offset for the repeater is? Where is the input frequency? If you figure that part out is there a pl tone? What the heck is a pl tone? I think you get my point :)

        • Ive had my time on cb band,and had the whole hams are too uptight mentality as well. Then I gaot my license nad Joe is very right on the money about protocol. I love it, no idiots acting like children etc. Im just a blue collar g.e.d. educated man and easily passed.From what I read here,there seems to be a idea that anarchy and survival are the same,and some,only some seem to sound like there hoping shtf as is soooo worn out in these posts. Enjoy a hobby, enjoy life. Cause really,when it all ends…. it all ends. 73’s

    • RS can you share the frequencies we need please? I heard police are all being switched to govt freqs?

      • the Police always HAVE BEEN ON government frequencies. they are now using spread spectrum radio equipment, which regular radios can not work with, it effectively splits the transmit frequencies up so no single frequency is used by one transmission, Doing so, allows multiple transmitters to use the same frequency bundle at the same time, allowing hundreds od transmissions to operate on a frequency spread that only a few would be able to use in the normal methods.

    • I would check with AARL and find a local ham club. They can help you get your license. Start out with a handheld two meter unit.The Technicians Exam isn’t too hard. Anyone with half a brain and study can pass the exam.

    • Like Roy said. Also,If you go to, youll find sample tests and resouces as well. I picked up a Boafeng uv82, and a slim jim antenna for a starter and have less than 150 in all..(the uvr’s are lil cheaper yet. Plus local clubs and hamfests youll find that it isnt as overwhelming as it might first seem. Yes, you can pass just memorizing sample tests, BUT, youll find that most of “tech” knowlege is needed for on air and radio aspects and understanding it will pay off the first few minutes you key up and onward.
      Bottom line. arrl plus and there links as well will show you all ya need, free,on your time, and pretty ez.:) take care, 73

  5. Sounds like allot of people showing off their knowledge. Keep it simple for us who just want to read and understand. I do agree, the importance of knowledge in HAM radio for the near future. It can make an individual an important skill if you are going to be involved in any group of like minded individuals. I being in the food industry see a fast change in the ability to be able to get food. I don’t believe it will be long before we are gonna see a total collapse here in the country. Food, water, shelter, communications and alternative energy, and don’t forget to have something to protect what you have. This country has had God’s hand of protection until 911. I know he has now turned his back on this nation and we will reap havoc soon. Anyone heard of the 9 harbingers. What insight. Good luck all. Thanks for info. Gonna go study so I can be talking with you all when the SHTF. And for goodness sakes stay off google. I use secure search engines as well.

  6. Unless you plan to “fly solo” in an emergency, it would be best to plug-into a smart, communications savy group. I find the Amateur Radio community (in general) to be a moral, knowledgable and prepared group of folks. They don’t project a “beans and bullets” mentality (why advertise)…and they are willing to give the shirt off their back to help get you self sufficient. As pointed out earlier, if you have a SSN, DL and have an email, you are already “out there” and getting an FCC license can be done with a PO Box. So…OPSEC can be minimized, but put you into a solid group of like minded folks. Nuff said.

    • Good advise… getting to know some local users and get your license… just do not display /post your call-sign in general… unlike SSN, DL and email accounts… online and credit card purchases… sure ‘big brother’ knows more about your lifestyle probably more than you think, but if you display your call-sign, that will give your address as listed with the FCC, unlike the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles with a more secure access, knowing someones call-sign, you can easily find their listed address… not so secure, so be careful when posting a call-sign.

  7. my ol man was a ham forever hes an ol timer (in his 80’s now)and i did learn a lot from him. unfortunately if we ever experience TSHTF i am not gonna worry about havin a ham license. havin the gear is expensive. cb is very limited. while listening is all well and good you better understand that as soon as you hit the transmit button they can find you. license or not

  8. It isn’t just about power loss. Remember that phones, cellphones, internet, etc. all require service providers. If an EMP or violence takes them out, how will you communicate? My first morse code contact was coast-to-coast using only 100 watts of power and a wire dipole antenna. Even as a ham, it seems hard to believe that it works! I’m hoping steel garbage cans will protect my gear from an EMP.

  9. haw can I be sure that radio is not gonna be cut off like the rest of the communication.? I am sorry but I am pretty new to this stuff, that interested me and I am just curious

  10. Good introductory article. Its so easy and inexpensive to get a ham ticket these days, there really isn’t any reason to not do so.

  11. Another thought… In many countries retailers won’t sell to non licensed persons.
    Re; Wouxun radios. Great gear but.. if you can get the earlier models [pre UV6D] you can modify them to transmit on UHF-CB negating the need for a short range radio. Great site peoples, Kudos!

  12. I am an Extra class amateur operator, and also have over 20 years in fire/ems service. I have used equipment ranging from a homemade transmitter that fits into a Altoids tin (google it) to rigs costing over $1000. I own over 30 different radios of varying capabilities, all the way up to 800 mhz. IMHO when the fecal matter hits the air movement device, ANY type of comms is going to be a serious necessity. With amateur radio, I can transmit AROUND THE WORLD (I have heard my own voice come back to me) as well as bounce sigs off the moon, communicate via the repeater on the International Space Station, in addition to any public service freq’s. We regularly transmit digital comms in text format using radios and laptops in interactive chat formats, send emails via radio, as well as television images.

    While in the current day and time we need to be licensed (cost is less than $20 and the question pool AND ANSWERS are provided for your study, and search for it, I suggest you download the question pools, remove the incorrect answers, and study the questions and correct answers.. takes about a week of 20 minutes a day to learn it), it provides a great learning base of how stuff works, WHY it works, and which freqs are typically available during which times of day.

    One must realize that 2 mtr/70cm (VHF/UHF) radios have a line of sight contact distance typically no more than up to 50 miles, the repeaters that they customarily employ to reach a wide range will be out of service when the grid fails and the generators run out of fuel. 50mhz radios have a slightly longer range, but until you get down into the 10 meter (28 mhz) range and below, you wont be getting the cross state/country/around the world range.

    One must also consider the MARS (Military Amateur Radio Service) of the Army and Navy. They operate on freq’s outside the amateur bands (Search for HAM BAND PLAN to see our range of frequencies) and serve the military as back up comms for some of their needs.

    I suggest that yall research ARES ( Amateur Radio Emergency Service ) and see just how vital amateur radio comms are during disasters. Joplin Mo. the first comms out were from amateurs… Katrina, again, first comms were amateurs… There was an incident in California where a fiber line was cut and several hospitals went dark and amateur radio picked up the need relaying information and communicating with EMS and other hospitals…

    A decent multiband HF/VHF/UHF rig will sell for around $400 to $600, both new and used. The Yaseu 857D and 897D are both excellent radios, 100 watt 12 VDC, as well as the Icom 706MKIIG line … They are about the size of a CB radio, and can talk around the world… Search for your local amateur radio club and talk with them at their meetings, visit some hamfests (or go to Dayton Hamfest for the granddaddy of them all) but get a license, use the equipment, become intimately knowledgeable with it, and learn how to take a piece of coax, 100 feet or so of house wire, and be able to toss it into a tree and talk to anyone who will listen…

    Sorry for the length, but I am passionate about being able to not only get out my messages, but to be able to learn whats going on as well. If you are serious about being able to either shelter in place or bugging out when the SHTF, you will need a go-box setup with an HF radio, power supply, tuner, and digital comms adapter at the minimum…. I would suggest also getting at least 100 feet of good quality coax, several PL259 connectors, solder, butane soldering iron, and at least a hundred feet of #12 stranded wire. Another thing to get would be a decent quality solar charger that can charge a car/marine battery (you would be using the second one you have acquired ) so you can keep the batteries charged without relying on the grid or a generator.

    In anything there are 4 things that every human must have to survive. Food, Clothing, Shelter, Knowledge … If you can’t obtain all of them, you will not survive long.


    • Thank you for your reply. Since I’m just now finished with nursing school I’m looking into taking the ham radio operator test soon. I’ve been to the arrl website and scoured it. You sound like you’re a good person to talk to :) I hope I run into you on the waves one day.

      • Just got my ham license KD0WBU.
        Can you tell me what kind and make of a quality solar charger to buy ?
        Thank you for your information.
        This probably won’t get to you since your comment was back in 2012, just hoping it will. Thank you

  13. I forgot to mention Amateur Radio Field Day is this weekend 23 & 24 June 2012 (Always the last full weekend in June) … Find your local club and where they are setting up, and you will see just how well amateur radio works, we’d love to see ya.

    Amateur Radio – When all else fails, It Works!


  14. is anything way to survival for deaf people to keep commucation ? as hearing have ham radio and what about deaf ?? Laptop will work ?? hmmmm please feed it so I like to know and be prepare pack it too.. thanks

  15. Living in Alaska, we have a very large area filled with villages that can only be reached by air. When we had the big quake in 65, the only communications that worked in Alaska, was ham radio. No one knows for sure what the next disaster might be, but the Alaska ham’s are prepared with home stations or go kits that can be set up anyplace to communicate traffic involving health needs along with any other needs required. Last year I was involved with installing ham radio’s in our three Kenai peninsula hospitals in case communications should be lost between these locations during a disaster. We feel that safety and health issues are a top priority during disasters and it is our goal to be prepared to help wherever we can.
    Getting a ham licence is not difficult and a very rewarding hobby to be involved in. As a ham, I respect the FCC rulings and have studied hard to get my license that I do not want to lose by not operating in a proper manner.
    Just a few thoughts to ponder for those that might be interested in disaster preparation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.