Why HAM or Getting started with HAM radio
Hi guys, Ive been inundated with emails lately about the whys and hows about HAM radio so this is a post I did a few years ago on a board Im a member of.
Sorry I haven’t been here much, house had a lightning strike and Ive been picking up the pieces here.
I feel this is needed as there are the same posts being written time after time, and if this is up we have a reference to send the same new comm questions too. Guys if you have any constructive input, sections of the craft you have more knowledge in etc, jump in. Id really like to keep the BS out of this thread so its a good reference for new guys.
First, why HAM? Its just a bunch of old guys playing with radios, right?
WRONG. HAM is what ALL the emergency services in this country use as a backup during emergencies. Because the normal radio system most municipalities use is dependant on the grid to power the repeaters, they all go down at once when there is no grid power. So, the volunteer EMCOMM operators come in with thier equipment and before you know it, the fire and po po have comms again.
OK, I know the next question, what does that have to do with me?
Easy. If you were in the military and ever wanted to know the scoop about whats going on, there were 2 people you asked. The first was the CO’s driver, who was hit and miss. The second and more reliable was the commo guy in the back of the CP, who knew more than god about everything. And in the civilian side that guy in the CP is a local ARES/RACES volunteer with his portable radios set up and operating. And if you are a local HAM with a call sign, you can switch on and dial in, to get real time information about everything going on in your area. First hand, right now, just by listening.
So what do I do? Is it hard? What about Morse code, Ive heard that is hard?
What you do? Another easy question to answer.
A lot from here on in this thread wont make much sense until you at least browse the books and learn what terms are and how they apply. So get the books, its a max $50 total for a pile of info YOU need. Google is great, but is too random for beginning information. It will confuse and frustrate you so take the advice if you are new and start here.
You will thank me.
Buy nothing else, you will have wasted your money.
Get licensed, as you are going through the books you will learn a lot. And you will learn a lot about what you dont need or want but is good to know.
It isnt hard, Tech can be done in a day, and using the QRZ practice exams online, General isnt bad either. Its takes effort.
Morse?, no longer required for any license in the US.
What do I need to buy?
After you get your Tech licence, which is most basic, a good tri band or quad band HT is a start. I like Yeasu, the VX8 is my favorite. Get the extra battery pack so you can run AA batteries, a 12 volt power cord and mobile mag mount antena. A hand mic for this is handy as well. Get all from the same maker so it all fits. Make life easy for yourself.
General Class- you will need this licence to transmit with HF voice also called HF Phone. Get it, its not hard either.
Everything you need to know about antennas for survival use is right here. Its also fun to read. Keep this basic and easy. You can build all of the antennas you need, keep them hidden, and ready for thier call to arms when everything goes to crap.
A HUGE missconception is you need a 100 ft tower and a helicopter catcher antenna rig to make this all work. WRONG again. I use a roll of electric fence wire and talk to flagstaff az from my back yard, and Uraguay in south America. You have a chain link fence? With an antenna tuner, you now have an antenna. If its metal, chances are you can run a current through it and transmit. The roof gutters on my house are a great 20M band ant, and tune up nicely. Bet you already have gutters dont you?
Like to tinker with things and do secret squirrel stuff?
HAM is a great hobby for that. Disguise anttenas in flagpoles, trees, fences etc. Direction find your local PD and practice DF for real in the shtf scenario.
The best sources of info for our uses concerning HAM radio is the EMCOMM (Emergency Communications) web pages a buch of HAMs post. Use your head and think about what they are doing and how well its fits into what we want for comms plans. Since we will need information when emergencies arise, having the same capabilities to communicate and recieve in our own comms plan means we get all the raw intel, instead of what the powers that be want us to know.
Ham radio is a huge hobby, and there is so much to cover. But its not the end all.
Every comms plan should have layers. You need to be able to at least listen to all the most common radio freqs. These include the new semi truthful frequency hopping radios everyone is so enamored with. Reality check here guys. They arent secure. Neither are FRS/GMRS/CB radios.
A good selection of gear for a total comms plan would include;
40 channel SSB CB radio
Digital trunking scanner- get the programming cables and freq guide for your area. The 900mhz band is where the freq hopping radios live. You can listen to them just fine if you lock your scanner to just the 900 band. The optimum would be 3 scanners, one on the 900 band, one on the local ES/Gov channels band and one running in an open scan mode.
A tri or Quad band HT with accessories for each team member- program these for local repeaters , might as well use them as long as they have power. Many have aux power capability i.e solar, battery, wind etc. They will work a long time.
A Marine band radio- these are popular for use other than intended, and good to monitor.
A Base radio, with multi band capabilities, including all HF bands and power supply, with back ups. Also an antena tuner, and diopoles cut for different bands.
Vehicle mounted radios compatible with base and HT will also be a good idea, but the HT will function as mobiles with the right power cords.
Antennas for everything. There are 2 kinds of radio owners. The first are the ones who buy amps and over power everything. They are easy to find too, btw
The second learn to build antennas. Concentrate on learning antennas and you will never have comm problems.
Being able to monitor what is happening around you is paramount to being prepared. If you dont know what is happening you might as well have blindfolds on, because an active listening station is just like having one of your own inside the bad guys camp