COMMUNICATIONS

HAM Radio | A Quick Primer

A Ham Radio

Guest Article by “Minerjim”

Ham radio can provide a reliable independent means of communications in a survival situation. Hams presently provide communications services in emergencies around the globe, usually on a volunteer basis.

While I think many people who live the “prepper lifestyle” have bought radio equipment, I suspect that they have not learned how to use it fully, or have not really investigated all of Ham radio’s potential. It’s a BIG field to investigate!!!

I’ll attempt to outline the basics of ham radio frequencies, their attributes and downsides, and hopefully arouse some to investigate radio communications further.

HAM FREQUENCIES

Why talk about Ham (amateur radio operator) frequencies only?? Why not talk about all radio frequencies???? The main reason is that certain frequencies are blocked out for use by Hams, to practice with and learn about. This has been going on for about 100 years.

There has been lots of data and information written about these frequencies that is available for everyone to pick up and learn freely. Actually, you will find many Hams will love to talk your ear off if you ask them questions about radio. So lets look at what these frequencies are and who has access to them.

Ultra-High Frequency (UHF)

300 Mhz – 3 Gigahertz

When Hams talk about UHF, they are talking about frequencies in the range of 300Mhz to 3Gigahertz (microwave). This includes the ham bands 70 centimeters and microwave communications as well as FRS/GMRS frequencies.   This frequency can be utilized by hand held “Handi-Talkies”, like the Bao Feng, and others.

Communications are mostly done “line-of-sight” and “ground wave” with voice (noted as SSB by Hams) dominating. This means if you can see it, close by, you will likely be able to communicate with it. However, buildings, trees, terrain will interfere with your signal, and communication will become “iffy”.

There is no “skywave” communication with UHF, meaning that you can’t bounce UHF radio signals off the ionosphere to communicate over long distances like you can with other frequencies (“skip” in Ham talk) . If you plan on using these frequencies, expect ‘line of sight’ short range communication only.

If you are lucky enough to have “Repeaters” in your area, this will extend your range a bit. (More on this later). UHF frequencies are open to all Hams with a minimum of the very easily obtained Technician’s license.

(Note here, there are other forms of communication used with Ham radio including data, and computer driven text modes).

Very High Frequency (VHF)

30 Mhz – 300 Mhz

VHF are the frequencies in the range of 30 MHz to 300 MHz. This includes the ham bands 6, 2, 1.25 meters, VHF television and FM Broadcast bands.

Here again the best communications are “line-of-sight” and “ground wave” (out to about 25 miles in good conditions). But radio signals in these frequencies are more robust and forgiving of obstacles than UHF. So communications out to 100 miles or more on flat terrain are sometimes possible, but not always reliable.

Also as mentioned above in the UHF frequencies, if you are lucky enough to have VHF repeaters in your area, your communication distances can be extended a lot farther. Here again, there is no real “skywave” communication of bouncing signals off the atmosphere (Skip) for long distance communications.

VHF frequencies are open to all Hams with a minimum of the Technician’s license.

High Frequency (HF)

3 Mhz – 30 Mhz

HF includes the  frequencies in the range of 3MHz to 30MHz. This includes the Ham bands of 160, 80/75/60, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, & 10 meters.

HF is where Ham radio communication begins to shine, IMHO.  Besides “line-of-sight” and “ground wave” propagation (out to about 30 miles), HF radio signals have the ability to bounce off of layers in the ionosphere (“skywave”) and travel around the world.

HF can even be used to communicate underground! (think caves and mines here) With the right antenna setups, terrain obstacles such as mountain ranges and deep valleys are no match with HF communications. This is why the military uses HF to communicate with its forces.

HF Ham frequencies are open to Hams with the minimum of a General license, although there are a few minor band areas open to Technician licensed Hams who want to communicate with Morse code only (Morse Code communications are referred to as “Continuous Wave” or CW by Hams).  

There are also some specific frequency allotments that are for use by Hams with the higher Amateur Extra class license, as these take more experience and knowledge to operate in.

HF communications offer the biggest array of frequencies and modes to operate in, allowing Hams to utilize these to match the varying operating conditions that might be encountered.

BASICS OF RADIO PROPAGATION

Radio is pretty basic, right? You push the button on your radio mic and talk. The radio sends out signals to your buddy who is tuned in to the same channel, right? Who needs to understand the “stuff in between”?

Well, the answer is we all need to learn how radio waves work. Why? Because there are many factors affecting radio transmissions that can mean the difference between communicating with a distant contact, or not. In emergencies we need to know what we can depend on for communications.

Ground wave

Radio waves do travel along and through the ground. (And you thought they only traveled through the air didn’t you?) Well they do. Depending on the frequency and power level you are broadcasting at, and conditions in the ground, radio waves for our use may be able to travel out about 25 miles.

Line of Sight

This is what most think of when we speak of radio transmission. Radio waves traveling through the air, above the ground, to a distant contact. Depending on atmospheric conditions, and the frequency used, these waves can be used to communicate out to 30-50 miles.

Repeaters

Hams use “Repeaters” to extend their line of sight communications. Basically, this is a special radio relaying system. You transmit your signal on an “Input frequency” which the repeater receives, then it re-transmits your signal out on an “Output frequency” which the receiving station picks up. Repeater Associations across the country locate and maintain these repeaters at high elevation points to extend their coverage area. Most Repeaters are set up for VHF and/or UHF frequencies, and most are open for anyone to use, but they require special operating codes to use. These all can be found online or in a repeater directory that is published by the ARRL (American Radio Relay League, ARRL.org)

A special series of Repeaters involves Ham Satellites that course the skies above us. Yes! Hams can use these for long distance communication in the UHF/VHF frequencies too, but these are not really reliable for everyday use.

Skywave

This is the main realm of Ham radio and is generally referred to as “Shortwave”. Here the radio waves are projected towards the upper atmosphere into the ionosphere. The ionosphere is in the upper reaches of the atmosphere bordering space. It consists of several layers, made up of charged ions that have the ability to bend radio waves along their path. This is Frequency dependent.

Hams using High Frequency radio bounce (skip) their radio signals off these layers and they have a tendency to bounce around between earth and these ionospheric layers, in short traveling around the world.

Skywave transmissions are usually good from 400 – 1000’s of miles out from the transmitter. Note that I said from 400 miles out. Skywave transmission usually creates a ‘dead coverage area’ roughly 400 miles in radius out from the transmitter, an area were the radio waves are all heading up and skip over this area. The size of this area is affected by the antenna type and height. Most Hams want their antennas to be as high as possible so they can transmit their signals over long distances.

NVIS

There is a phenomenon called NVIS, or Near Vertical Incident Skywave transmission that Hams use to cover the normal ‘dead coverage area’ of 50-400 miles (like a doughnut) caused by the gap between groundwave, line of sight and skywave transmissions.

Here Hams direct their radio waves nearly straight up, and they bounce off the ionosphere and come back down all around them. (Kind of like pointing a hose straight up on a summer day with the water falling all around you in a circle.)

NVIS transmission only works on the lower frequencies. 40, 60, 80, 160 meter Ham bands can be used in NVIS mode.  

NVIS transmission is what the military uses for reliable, close in communications with their combat troops. It allows Hams to get transmission coverage in an area about 600 miles in radius around them. Anyone in that circle can receive communications, as the signals are coming almost straight back down from the ionosphere! (so deep valleys and high mountains are no obstacle!).

Hams utilize NVIS by mounting their antennas close to the ground, which directs the radio signals nearly straight up. With this setup to be effective, both transmitting and receiving parties need to be transmitting in NVIS mode.

Caveats, Recommendations, and Conclusions

As you have just read, there is a lot to radio communications. There is a whole lot more that I did not address. There are so many variables that affect radio communications that all my comments above must be classified as “In General”, there are plenty of exceptions to be found in real life!  Amateur radio operators (Hams) spend their time investigating all the different frequencies, operating modes, signal types, as well as a myriad of radio equipment and antennas. It is a broad area of study!!!

So where do you start if you are new to radio??? I would recommend you start first with the American Radio Relay League, or ARRL for short (ARRL.org). This is a group of amateurs that has been around since radio began, and is dedicated to education of radio to everyone who wants to learn. They have many books on the subject available, and also promote education for licensing.

Why get a HAM license??? Because it allows you to legally transmit on the ham radio frequencies. If you want to learn about radio communications, the best way is to get out there and do it!!! Licensing involves taking tests for each level, but not to worry. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that oversees the licensing publishes a pool of all the questions and answers for each test. Easy-peezy!!

The Technician’s License that allows you to use the 2 meter-70cm “handi-Talkies” is only 30 easy questions, and even 8 year old kids have gotten their licenses!! After getting a technician’s license, you can go on and study for your General License. (you don’t even have to know Morse code anymore to get a General Ham License!!)  Having a General license will open up the majority the High Frequency Bands, and also allow you to setup and train on using the very reliable NVIS communications!

Radio Communications and Ham radio is a wide area of study. I hope this primer has encouraged you to investigate it further. Here are a few websites that you can start you on your way.

written by “Minerjim”

American Radio Relay League –  ARRL.org – National organization promoting ham radio communications and education.

eHam – eHam.net   general ham radio website

AMSAT – Amsat.org – AMSAT is the Amateur Radio in Space organization.

AC6V.com – website with lots of HAM radio links.

DXZone.com – another good ham website.

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30 Comments

  1. For those who may not know, the term “Ham” or Ham radio operator was originally used as an insult to amateur radio operators (a very long time ago). “Listen to those hams”, or someone who had “ham fisted” skills. This goes back to the days of landline telegraph operators suggesting that amateur enthusiasts were unskilled.

    Today it has simply adopted into another way to refer to amateur radio and there’s no negative connotations surrounding the term “ham radio”. When I got into it decades ago, I never felt that it was an insult to use “Ham”. Maybe the really old-timers still don’t like it ;)

    (I couldn’t resist making the image at the top of the article)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_ham_radio

  2. Now that “Ham” radio i think i could deal with!
    A nice spiral cut honey glazed ham radio!

    1. I know right?
      I’ve been looking all over for one of those. A kind of multipurpose Hamm radio.
      😁
      Good right up Minerjim

      1. Oops
        Right up=write up
        Kinda like horney=ornery.
        (Sorry, AC)
        Am I rite, right, write…mmmm….correct?

  3. Minerjim,
    Good job!!!!! I’ve been hoping for this from you, or someone. I think you have covered the basics in an easy to comprehend way. Importantly, you stressed the available info. You’re absolutely correct, ham is “a BIG field to investigate.”

    Let me add to your excellent article, from a newbie perspective. When I decided to check into ham, I knew nothing. I had used radio equipment from my years as a paramedic, but my very limited knowledge amounted to knowing which button to push and what dial to put in what position. I didn’t know how it worked, and didn’t care.

    This preparedness mindset, made me look at how to contact family (VIPs). I didn’t know a ham. I’d never used a ham radio. I knew nothing about antennae or coax or anything else. Though I had zero experience with ham radio and the people involved, I had pre-conceived notions about both. I was WRONG. (I hate it when that happens)

    If you need to maintain contact with VIPs, like I do, check out what ham can do for you. As minerjim stated well, ham has so much to offer, it can be overwhelming. Don’t let the amount of info intimidate you. Ya don’t need to learn it all. Very few know much about all of it. I certainly don’t know about much.

    Get online and find a ham club near you.
    Call ’em. They’ll be glad to help. They really will. No kidding, they will.
    Find a study guide online. I used hamstudydotorg but there are many. It’s free. Ya really, free.
    You can likely test at the ham club you’ve already called, when you’re ready.
    You’ll meet folks at the ham club, be friendly. They will help you. They really will.

    As minerjim laid out, you’ll figure out what band/license ya need to contact your VIPs. Then you can concentrate on that little sliver of ham. My main concern, was getting VIPs to buy into the idea of ham. Ya need a licensed ham on both ends of a communication. That had a huge influence on my decision to go with 2m ssb. The easiest license to get, technician. That’s all I needed for both ends, 2m ssb. 200 miles is easy with 2m ssb. Ya need height and a good antenna. No repeaters are needed or used with 2m ssb.

    Your needs are likely to be different, but your new ham friends will help ya figure it out. If ya think about it, your local ham club will be using what’s needed in your area anyway. There are different modes within each band. Each will have it’s own pluses and minuses. There is undoubtedly something, within ham, that will do what you need.

    Minerjim, thanks again for a useful article.

    1. Plainsmedic,

      Thanks for your comments! 200 miles with 2m ssb. Good job! My guess is you are running a base station of about 50+ watts through a directional antenna ( yagi?) You must live in some very flat country.( if I wanted yell at NRP over the airwaves that far, I would have to go High Frequency (HF) and bounce my radio signals off the ionosphere. way too many mountains twixt him and me).

      Maybe we should try and do an article on a simple 2 meter SSB setup. You know, recommend several brands of radios and antennas, along with all the additional accessories you need to make a “ham shack”. Big thing I would wish people would do is get the basic Technician’s license so they can get on the air legally right now and practice.

      1. Minerjim,
        I lack the skills and experience to talk about anything except 2m ssb. It’s all I do and all I know. I saw a need, found the solution, and focused narrowly, to get there. I’ll defer to you and others to expand on ham beyond 2m ssb. I’ve never used a ham repeater. Just seems like a certain point of failure for a shtf. Though it would be a great entry point for hams with only a baofeng. There is NOTHING wrong with Baofeng or any other ham stuff. That’s what makes it great. You get to choose the equipment/license/band/antenna, etc.

        Good guessing on 50 watts and a homebrew 6 element yagi-uda, up at 45′. You did notice, my moniker was not mountainmedic, right?

        Please keep your ham comments coming. I learn a little something from each of them. If ya sincerely want to know, I’ll provide a list of radios for me and various VIPs. All of them have a copy of the homebrew yagi, from me. I did not design it, merely copied with permission from a guy in Canada, m0ukd.

      2. I got my technician license last month. I only have a portable baofeng 8 watt radio but plan on expanding soon and try to get my general license. I have a lot to learn.
        Although I only have a hand held 8 watt radio, while I was listening to a local repeater here on a mountain in SoCal, I picked up a transmission from way up in northern CA. Pretty cool!

        1. JF,
          Repeater organizations have done a great job of linking their units across the states. I know Colorado has done this since the 80s. When I first got into radio around that time, had a friend who had a fuel pump go out in some back country lake in the Rockies. He was able to catch a repeater in Glenwood Springs that linked through a couple of repeaters to Denver. He was able to get another ham there to do a telephone patch for him to talk to his Dad and have him bring a spare fuel pump up the next day.(this was well before cell phones) Without his 2 meter radio, it would have been a very, very long walk to the nearest town to a phone.
          All I can say is get that general license, soon you will be talking to hams in other countries around the world.

        2. JF,
          Good job!!! While studying for the general, (I’m only a tech) check out ALL the things you can do with a technician’s license. Youtube was my go-to teacher. You can do tons of things beyond repeaters.

  4. Minerjim;
    Great Primer for us that have zero idea about this Ham Stuff.

    So, how about a couple of questions???
    1. What do you hear about the Feds shutting down purchasing Ham Radios to those without a License? Sort of like not being allowed to buy a car if you don’t have a driver’s license.
    2. Do you have a particular Book you would recommend for us, a Ham for Dummies sort of thing? Or just stick with the Websites?
    3. On equipment, I know Ken seems to like the Bao Fang, what is your thoughts on both Handheld and Base?
    4. I know a lot of folks think it (Ham) would be the end all to communications “if/when” BUT assuming the Feds are involved would they simply not just jam all frequencies and Black-Out Ham communications?

    Anyways, thanks for the write up Article.
    Looking forward to the next chapter.

    1. NRP,
      I know you directed your ? to minerjim, but here’s my thought. Get the tech license and figure out what you need for comms. Distance? Terrain? That will determine the kind of equipment (radio) you will need. Baofeng will not do what I need (2m ssb). Baofeng will not do HF either. I own a baofeng, but I never use it.

      Save yourself some $$$. Figure out what you need for comms. and then buy the right radio. Ham club members will help you. They are actively recruiting new members. Ham is slowly dying. They will welcome you.

      As far as the gov. blacking out/jamming ham? They use radio frequencies themselves. Ham is just a small portion of the radio frequencies. Could they do it? Yea, probably. Will they do it? Doubtful, because it would impact their own needs.

    2. @NRP (and others),
      I just want to interject a moment regarding NRP having said that I like BaoFeng radios…

      Regarding professional “ham radios”, the BaoFeng is not among that category. I like them for inexpensive HANDHELD 2-way radios for VHF/UHF. Can’t beat the price.

      For good (and excellent) Ham radio gear, you can’t beat ICOM, Yaesu, and Kenwood. My ham gear includes Yaesu, Ten-Tec, and and Kenwood brands (among other accessories including Daiwa, MFJ, and others).

  5. NRP,
    Glad you liked the brief article. in answer to your questions:

    1) There has been some issues with specific radios not meeting transmissions specifications (BaoFeng) that they stopped from being sold in the US. you can still find them if you look. As far as making you show a license to get a radio, haven’t heard much. It would be highlighted on the ARRL.org site if they were trying to do this. Although a lot of older Hams don’t care for the ARRL, but it is like the “NRA of hams”,making sure the government and businesses don’t take our allotted airwave bands.

    2)There are lots of books out there on Ham radio. The one you mentioned gives you a lot of info. If you are looking to get one of the different ham radio licenses, I highly recommend you go to the ARRL.org site and buy one of their study guides. They have all the info you need to learn plus the pool of test questions and answers that will be on the test.( the pool of questions and answers is provided by the FCC.)The same site has many books on the different aspects of Ham, but I really like their “Antenna” books, shows you how to build your own antennas for various situations and bands.

    3) BaoFeng radios hit the ham market and made a big splash. they provide a good radio for a little money, so much so that hams could buy 3-4 and have them stuffed into BOB and GO bags and vehicles. I have two. But really solid radios are made by ICOM, Kenwood, Yaesu, Ten-Tec, JRC, and MJF. I consider ICOM the workhorse brand personally. For 2 meters I have one of their mobile/base stations in 65watts.(new about $250, used a lot cheaper) They also make ‘entry’ level HF radios in the 100 watt range (ICOM 718), run about $600.

    4) Could the “Feds” jam ham bands? yes. doubtful, but they could. But it would be limited areas, a blanket jam across the US would be hard to pull off. (During the world wars, there was no ham broadcasting allowed, but it was a voluntary curtailment). Do the “Feds” have agents listening? likely, but ;has taken against people blatantly violating the law (like broadcasting super high power, harassment of other hams, etc.) and in most cases the ham community comes together to take the “perp” down with the FCCs help.

    I hope to do a couple more basic articles on some of the major topics of ham in the future. If you have any suggestions for these let me know.

  6. Heard fairly recently that BLM was no longer going to allow civilian repeaters on Federal lands. Any truth to that? If so, how big an effect will that have?

    1. Dennis,
      Only thing I’ve read, they want to charge a fee. Who knows the truth? How’s the CB thing going with your neighbors? Might work out well, if everyone will cooperate.

      I read a lot of stuff before buying anything. Poor people have poor ways. To me, the use of repeaters will kinda lull everyone into a false sense of secure comms. Grid-down, well it’s likely repeater down. Some have back-up batteries and even generators, I’ve read. Maintenance on those things????? Prepping is about self reliance, so……..

      I chose to utilize a simplex solution. Radio to radio with nothing in between. If my stuff doesn’t work, that’s on me and mine. Cell phones are easy and handy, when times are good. Ham is a back-up for me, other than the occasional session with a few ham friends or VIPs.

      The radios are small enough to fit in a popcorn tin (faraday). They will operate on 12vdc. Any car battery or better yet a marine battery, will last quite a while with ham. Just consider the watts talked about above; 50 watt radio means 50 watts (imagine a 50 watt light bulb) while transmitting. Significantly less power to just listen.

      The antenna should not be affected by emp/cme. The coax is not very long and the antenna is grounded, so likely no damage as there are no electronics in either.

      I was pleasantly surprised at how well 2m ssb works. It’s actually far easier than I imagined. As minerjim laid out, everyone’s situation, distance/terrain, will dictate what band/radio/mode you’ll need. If I can do it, I know others can, as well. Besides, I found some unexpected fun involved.

      1. Plainsmedic,
        IMHO you are right about repeater operations. It can be a weak link in communications. Simplex is a reliable way to communicate with your VIPs. You should look into direct duplex operations too, which can be more efficient.
        I want to point out one thing you said about “the antenna should not be affected by emp/cme”. Well in a emp/cme, the actual antenna may not be affected, but that antenna will collect energy from the huge voltage spike and send it right down your coax to your equipment, much like a direct lightning strike! This is why it is always a good idea to disconnect your antenna ( and connect it to ground) away from your equipment when not in use. This reduces your chances of damage in the case of lightning/cme/emp. there are ways to protect equipment from lightning/emp/cme and perhaps I will do an article on this, it seems appropriate. Also, you can get low cost insurance for your radio gear through the ARRL that would cover damage from lightning/emp/cme.
        Hey, love your comments, you have acquired a good amount of operating experience to share with others. thanks.

        1. Minerjim,
          Direct Duplex???? I’ll have to check into that. I’ve been so laser focused on comms with VIPs, I’ve missed a lot. Ham is huge and direct duplex is a new term for me.

          I disconnect from my antenna and store my radio in faraday, every time. I just got off the radio this morning. It only takes a minute to hook everything up. Several ham friends are on early every day. Always fun to check in with them and ensure my equipment is functioning well. For the most part, hams are intelligent, friendly, helpful, people.

          On the coax: I assume the coax would not be damaged by emp/cme? I realize, no one knows for sure, but coax is just fancy wire. I’m using lmr-400. Thoughts? I’m sure a direct hit with lightening would destroy things. You can only protect so much, I guess.

          Thanks minerjim. Now, I have to check out direct duplex. I learn something new every day.

          1. Plainsmedic,
            I’ll give you a quick take on Duplex. I misspoke by saying ‘direct’ duplex. Hams just normally say ‘duplex’.
            In simplex you use just one frequency, have to wait for the other guy to finish so you can talk, and hope you do not talk over each other.
            Duplex you use two frequencies. You talk on frequency A, and listen on nearby frequency B. Your VIP talks on frequency B and listens to you on Frequency A.
            Duplex originally was used a lot on CW (continuous wave) for morse code transmissions so the parties would not accidently ‘talk’ over each other. I tends to speed up the ‘conversation’. This is why some radios have the ability to send and receive on different frequencies, an “offset”. Duplex is also used for repeater operations too, obviously.
            Your IMR400 is a good low loss coax cable. Basically replaces RG8 cable. as far as coax not being damaged by emp/cme, I will say the cable is resistant but maybe not completely “emp/cme- proof “. Lot of it depends how close, how big the electrical fields are, how well it is grounded. But you are right that coax will help shield the inner wire pretty well if the outside sheath wire is grounded. I would ground it to your ‘radio ground’, not necessarily to your ‘electrical ground’. ( yes there is a difference, I’ll let you investigate why if you haven’t figure out already.)
            all your talk about 2m has got me fired up to get my ham shack set up again. I have been waiting to set it up in the loft of our canning/butchering kithen/garage/ loft building I am finishing up. Hope to be back on the air pretty quick.
            Wish I could chat with you on the air, but unless you have figured out how to do 2m satellite communications (i’m working on that), the mountains in-between us will prevent it. 73

    2. Dennis,
      There are reports of different States now not allowing ‘free rent’ of civilian repeaters on State lands. Basically they want to ‘rent’ it to make money. I have heard of reports of this in Washington and California. Federal Lands I have not heard, but you could check locally with the agency who oversees the lands are involved. The Bureau of Land Management has moved their main headquarters to Grand Junction, so I may hit them up after the holidays and see what they have to say about this. Truthfully, those repeater stations provide a vital link for emergency operations in the areas that they serve, they are open to government employees and anyone with the proper license. You should know that in most major emergencies (wildfires, earthquakes, floods, etc.), Ham Volunteers setup communications centers to support Federal, State, and local government agencies. This service is given free of any charge to the government, so it would be in their best interest to keep allowing licensed repeaters to be located on Fed lands for free.
      As for the states that want to charge ‘space rental’ for repeaters, I think Hams will just find other locations, Federal land or private, to locate and operate the repeaters.

      1. Minerjim, Plainsmedic.

        Thanks for the come back (a little CB jargon there). Time was that Ham operators were considered an integral part of civil preparedness on federal, state, and local levels, thus the cooperation authorities maintained with local club/individual operators. Sort of a mutual aid agreement. Sounds as if that may be unraveling, or maybe just greediness on the part of politicians.

        My thoughts on community CB networks go back to my younger years when Channel 9 React groups were widely prevalent. Many times, it was local Ham operators who would also maintain and monitor CB band base stations alongside there Ham station. Local law enforcement would also have mobile CB radios in their squad cars monitoring channel 9. These were the days long before cell phones and 911 operators, and these tactics were very effective in connecting folks to people with land lines, or in some cases, directly to a police officer, in an emergency.

        To Plainsmedic, response has been slow to lukewarm. Everybody has a cell phone, the sun always rises, why worry about something before it happens……in other words, normalcy bias. That’s OK, I’m connected to those who I can depend on anyway. The 2meter sounds more and more appealing.

        1. Dennis,
          Actually, CB radio runs around 11 meters. There is some evidence that radio waves in this frequency can be used in NVIS operation, just not in this part of the solar cycle.(its complicated, but during the right time of the solar cycle CB will bounce off the ionosphere, in CB lingo- “running skip” for long distance communication, but not reliable.) A big plus as you pointed out is there is a lot of old CB equipment out there. You are limited in operating power by law though, and that tends to limit range of operations. Hey, it can be a back up to your backups, right??? ( I have an old CB rig out in the garage myself.)

          1. Minerjim,

            Yes, I know CB is 11 meter, the 2 meter comment was in response to Plainsmedic’s success with 2 meter ham and how I might consider that option in the future. Sorry for the confusion.

          2. Dennis,
            No worries, it was i who butted into your line with Plainsmedic. It me who should apologize.

  7. Dennis,
    You seem to be sincerely interested. I slowly made a list of used radios that would do 2m ssb. Most are fairly old, as no one makes a 2m all mode radio anymore. This list is NOT all inclusive. There are many old radios that will do 2m ssb.

    Yeasu:
    FT-225rd
    FT-290r
    FT-857d
    FT-817nd or FT-818 (newer)
    FT-991
    FT-220

    Icom:
    IC-290H
    IC-275A
    IC-275H
    IC-260A
    IC-820H
    IC-7100
    IC-706
    IC-211
    IC-251A
    IC-271A
    IC-202

    Kenwood:
    TR-9000
    TR-751A
    TS-700S

    I’m sure there are many more, but I wrote these down as possibilities. All of our VIPs have used radios from this list. Some are fairly low power radios and require an amp. Used 2m amps are available as well. If ya run across one of these radios, buy it. Especially the 2m all mode radios.
    Good luck

  8. I passed my technician level test last month and have received my license. I feel better knowing I can communicate in case there is a natural or some other disaster. I’m here in CA, so earthquakes are an obvious issue.

  9. JF,
    Congratulations! that is great. Have you gotten a radio yet??? I would suggest you get on the air and get some experience with radio operations. Can you share what resource (books, websites) you used to study for your Tech license?
    When you are ready, I would start looking at getting a general license. Having that really opens up the world of radio for you. You don’t even have to learn code anymore to get it.( like a bunch of us old Hams had too.)
    Having a good 2 meter radio and an emergency power source will really come in handy if you get into a big earthquake. (I was in one in 1972 out there, and people with radios were a big help to first responders).
    Congrats again on getting your Tech. Now get out on the air!!

    1. Yeah, I did my first transmission last month. I have a hand held baofeng 8 watt radio. I want to get home base unit next year and try to get my general,license.
      I used qrz.com and hamexam.org to study. I did practice tests repeatedly until I memorized the answers.

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