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I remember cruising around some of the blogs I frequent last year I believe and ran into one YouTube channel from a guy who said he refused to get his HAM license for anything. I can’t swear by it, but I think I remember who he was, but that isn’t important. In this video he proceeded to show how you could look up any Ham radio license holders address from several different websites. He did this in response to someone who left very incendiary comments on his blog if memory serves and used this as a lesson in both OPSEC and how it’s bad for the government to have your name on any lists.


In another video this same guy went on to explain and demonstrate his own personal Ham Radio setup complete with a really nice antenna that was suspended from trees and hidden from view with additional comments about how he would not get his Ham license because he didn’t need to be on any government lists and if TSHTF, the first place they would go would be the Ham operators and take them offline.

This got me to thinking a while back and I really debated whether or not I should be like this guy and be a conscientious objector to the whole notion of licensing and just be a rebel with my antenna hanging in a tree. After a lot of thought and some research I decided to pull the trigger and get my Ham license and I want to explain why and discuss why you might want to do the same.

Isn’t Ham something yummy and delicious?

As context, let me explain what Ham is to those of you who aren’t familiar with the term. Ham Radio is also known as Amateur Radio and is a network of radio communications that rely on antennas and individual pieces of equipment to communicate using radio waves. Ham Radio has many strengths but chief among them for Preppers is its ability to be counted on in a disaster. Ham radio is perfect for grid down communications.

Ham Radio operators can still communicate if there is no electric power, satellites or cellular service. That is the primary reason they are the go-to method of communication for preppers as well as emergency response teams in virtually every large city. With the right equipment, Ham operators can talk to people in other countries using technology that was around in the early 1900s. If some disaster knocks out the cell phone service, emergency communications can be routed through Amateur Radio and you can keep in touch with others in your family, group, region or state pretty easily.

Ham radio is a valuable Prepper skill.

Ham or Amateur radios fall under the control of the FCC and there is a licensing process associated with being able to communicate on the radio. In order to speak on the air legally, you must first obtain your Technician level license and a call sign from the FCC. Your name and information will be listed in at least one public database and this information is freely accessible to anyone who wants to look.

Reasons Why You shouldn’t get a license

Like my friend above, I had some initial concerns regarding licensing because like any good Prepper, I am concerned with OPSEC. Even if I wasn’t into prepping, I wouldn’t want my name and address posted anywhere that someone could easily access it and part of communicating on Ham Radio is that you are required to give your call sign. Anyone you are talking to, or anyone simply listening in can look up your call sign and see where you are from. After learning all of this I started to weigh my options with Ham radio.

Like I mentioned above, Ham radio is probably the single best – disaster proof communication method the average person can use. As I began prepping my own family, the topic of communications came up several times. How would I communicate with my family in an emergency? How would we get news from others if for some reason there was a media blackout? The ubiquitous walkie-talkies that everyone has are effective at limited ranges, but what about longer distances? Ham Radio addressed both of those concerns nicely.

The only problem was that darned license.

At this point I could do one of two things. I could either get my license and put my name and address out there for everyone to see or I could simply buy the radio equipment and use it illegally. The thought process for some people is that if TSHTF, nobody is going to care if you have a license so the latter option is one I considered just like the YouTube guy above.

How hard can it be?

Ham radio works when other traditional communication methods are offline.

It turns out that two things influenced my decision on whether or not to be a law abiding citizen. The first and most obvious was my address out there on the interwebs. To get around that, I simply purchased a PO Box in a nearby town and used that for my FCC information. This is perfectly legal and still protects my address somewhat. Could someone look up my name, and then cross reference me in the phone book? I guess so, but who are we talking about here? If you have a psychopath running around trying to find you, chances are there are much easier ways of getting to your house. If this is in a post-collapse scenario, I have bigger problems.

Now, does that mean I should let my guard down and talk about anything on the radio? Not at all. The airwaves are public and anyone can listen in. For that reason alone, you should take great care in choosing what you talk about or divulge when you are talking on the Ham bands.

The second and more important factor that influenced my decision was the learning curve that is associated with Ham Radio. Getting started is pretty simple and once I had a radio, I was listening in on channels fairly quickly, but there is so much you can do that is outside of dialing through some frequencies. To fully take advantage of Ham Radio, I would need to practice and you can’t do that illegally, well without risk that is. Technically you can get on the radio and start talking without a call sign or you could lie, but just because radio waves are invisible, that doesn’t mean you can’t be found. Hams make a game out of finding antennas and it’s called a fox hunt. If you are talking on the radio and

shouldn’t be, someone can report you, they will find you and the fines from the FCC are steep.

Baofeng makes a great, affordable radio for preppers.

On the Radio – Almost

So with all that said, I went and took the exam for my Technician level license and passed. Now, as soon as the Government opens back up, and the backlog clears I will have a call sign and my name will start appearing in those databases. I am looking forward to finally being able to talk on the radio, but more importantly learning about the different frequencies and antennas I can use to communicate to others should our normal method of communications go down. I think of this as a decent trade-off for being able to communicate legally over the radio and besides, it isn’t like my name isn’t in several databases already. I am in the database for prior military service, the firearm database, IRS database etc. etc. If they want to find me they already know where I am and just because I have a radio now, that won’t be much more motivation to come get me I don’t believe. We’ll see.


I remember cruising around some of the blogs I frequent last year I believe and ran into one YouTube channel from a guy who said he refused to get his


Following World War II, the small shortwave frequency bands allotted to amateur radio operators became crowded, and this is still true today. “Ham” operators were forced to switch to “single side band” transmission, which occupies only half the space of the familiar “AM” transmissions used throughout the commercial shortwave bands. In emergencies, the best information available on the radio may be from amateur operators, many of whom maintain emergency equipment for disaster situations.

Many “shortwave sets” do not receive single side band, and I recommend that anyone serious about preparedness consider acquiring one that will receive single sideband signals. Single sideband – capable sets are a little more expensive – typically in the $100 to $200 range, but in a crisis, are likely to be very much worth the extra expense.

A set which is single sideband capable will have “SSB” in the specifications, and have a switch marked “SSB” as well. If those markings are absent, it is almost certain that set will not receive single side band signals.


Single Side Band communications do not have to be complicated or overly expensive.


Let’s start with the traditional AM or amplitude modulated signal, which is standard throughout the commercial shortwave bands.

An AM station transmits a single, strong, steady signal when it is SILENT. That is the “carrier” signal. The carrier is on the station’s assigned frequency, such as 7,490 kilo-Hertz (7.490 mega-Hertz.)

When voice or music is transmitted, that carrier remains constant, unchanged in any way. The voice or music produces two small “clouds” of mixed frequencies on either side of the carrier. These “clouds” of mixed frequencies are each about 3 kilo-Hertz wide for voice, and maybe 6-10 kilo-Hertz wide if music is playing.

You know how every cell in your body contains, in the DNA, the full blueprint for how your body is built? Well each of those two “clouds” of mixed frequency contains the FULL information needed to convey the voice or music. Both “clouds” of mixed frequencies are not actually needed just to convey the voice or music. Even more surprising, that strong carrier frequency isn’t needed either.

Those two “clouds” of mixed frequencies are called “sidebands,” and they are referred to as “upper sideband” (USB) or “lower sideband” (LSB.)

Amateur stations usually just transmit one of the sidebands,and no carrier, and this takes up the least space on the busy amateur bands.


Single sideband (SSB) transmissions require a little fiddling at the SSB receiver to hear the incoming signal as normal speech. Doing this does not require a technical background, though it is like learning a new electronics gadget – it requires a little practice. To begin tuning an SSB radio, the SSB switch is moved to ON. There is a helper knob called “FINE” or “fine tuning” and it’s a good idea to center that small knob.

In a normal AM radio, for best reception, you tune the dial, or punch in the exact frequency on the keypad, so you are CENTERED on that station’s frequency. In SSB, you tune to the UPPER SIDE or the LOWER SIDE of the signal, instead.

Normally, you will not know which side to tune, upper or lower , but once you hear a garbled voice you want to “clarify,” you try tuning the radio to one side, or the other. You will hear somewhat garbled speech, and you use the FINE helper knob to clarify the voice. If that doesn’t work, you tune to the OPPOSITE side of that signal, and try clarifying with the FINE knob again. That’s what it takes to tune an SSB signal.

If the above procedures don’t work for you, it may be that instead of tuning to one SIDE of the garbled voice signal, you have tuned to the center. Experiment and you will soon be able to know how to tune to the sides of the signal. THE “STEP” SETTING Today’s shortwave receivers with keypad tuning, even if they have a tuning knob as well, MUST be set to the smallest tuning “step,” which is usually 1 kilo-Hertz.

Any larger tuning step size will prevent properly tuning a single sideband signal. The radio’s manual will tell you how to set the tuning step, and once set, there should be no need to change it. You will know if the step setting is too high because signals will disappear when you attempt to tune to one side or the other. Watch the frequency readout, and you will see how many kilohertz each movement of the knob or tuning arrow button changes the frequency.


One difference you will notice with a single sideband transmission is that during gaps in the speech, you will hear background noise, as if the station isn’t transmitting. That is normal with an SSB signal, and is not a problem with either the remote station or your radio. Because an SSB transmitter does not transmit a carrier when no words are being said, there is nothing being transmitted.

When your receiver’s SSB switch is on, your set can receive the many amateur radio Morse code stations as well. While this isn’t of interest to many, those who have learned code for some other purpose, say scouting or military service for example, will be able to receive Morse stations with the SSB switch on.


1800 – 2000 kHz (1.8 – 2.0 MHz) … 160 meter band
3750 – 4000 kHz (3.75 – 4.0 MHz) … 75 meter phone
7150 – 7300 kHz (7.15 – 7.3 MHz) … 40 meter phone
14150-14350 kHz (14.15 – 14350 MHz) … 20 meter phone
18110-18168 kHz (18.11 – 18.168 MHz) … 17 meter phone
21200-21450 kHz (21.2 – 21.45 MHz) … 15 meter phone
24930-24990 kHz (24.93 – 24.99 MHz) … 12 meter phone
28300-29700 kHz (28.3 – 29.7 MHz) … 10 meter phone
26,965 – 27,405 kHz (26.965 – 27.405 MHz) … “CB” radio

“CB” operators will sometimes use AM, and sometimes SSB. Valuable emergency information can be obtained from CB operators too.

If you come across an AM station when the SSB switch is on, you will hear atone mixed with the voice. Switch SSB off for listening to that particular AM station.

Unfortunately, at time of writing, manufacturers tend to provide no solar charging or hand crank generator features with their SSB-capable radios. This makes powering the radio when the AC power is down more complicated, but SSB-capable radios are in the price range where an EXTERNAL POWER JACK is available. There are so many variations of emergency power sources that I can’t give an exhaustive list of options here. But I can give a couple of general rules:

POLARITY is CRITICAL. There is no way to know if a given radio is protected for accidentally applying the wrong polarity to the external power jack, so you must be absolutely sure what the polarity at your external power cable plug is before connecting to the radio. An inexpensive hardware store voltmeter is a good investment for preppers, and can show polarity. You don’t want to destroy your radio inadvertently. See the polarity test illustration on the following page.


Testing the polarity on your batteries.

IMPORTANT: See also the TIPS FOR USING METERS in Appendix A below.

VOLTAGE is CRITICAL. Just as with polarity, you must not feed your radio external power which can damage or destroy it. A radio may be able to tolerate, say, 15% over-voltage, but even there, you may shorten its life. The good news is many radios will still operate at as little as 60% of normal voltage. This means that a USB (5-volt) power source can power a 6-volt radio.

(I use “Enersys” 2-volt sealed lead-acid cells to make up the voltage I need for my radios. Using 2-volt cells allows me to make up any voltage needed for equipment which uses a variety of voltages. See diagram below.)


Back up power supply.

SOLAR or HAND-CRANK CHARGER output voltages can be much higher than the batteries they are charging, but are still safe WITH BATTERIES . But solar charger and hand-crank charger voltages VARY, A LOT, and these should NOT be fed directly into the radio’s external power port. This is because their energy output is small and won’t harm batteries, but their widely varying voltages can potentially damage sensitive solid-state radio components.REGULATORS ARE REQUIRED WITH SOLAR OR GENERATOR SOURCES

Whenever the solar cells or hand-crank generator are in contact with radio circuitry. In a radio with a crank, the hand-crank generator is connected to the batteries inside. However, there is an important detail – a built-in hand crank generator or solar panel has a built-in REGULATOR so it cannot harm the radio. An EXTERNAL hand crank generator or solar panel, unless specified by the manufacturer as having regulated output, must be assumed to NOT have regulated output. What this means is, use external hand crank generators or solar panels without certified regulated output ONLY for charging batteries removed from the radio.

Note that standalone hand-crank generators are commercially available. USB SOLAR and HAND-CRANK CHARGERS (5 volts) have literally taken over the emergency power marketplace for small equipment. This means that when shopping for emergency radio power, special attention must be paid to the VOLTAGE RATINGS of a charger you are considering. USB power is always 5 volts. This will work fine with a radio rated at 5 or6 volts, but may not work well, if at all, with a 9- volt radio. It is probably OK for a 4.5 volt radio. USB CHARGERS may or may not charge a 6-volt battery set.


Hand crank generators will give you an alternate way to recharge batteries.

USB’s 5 volts is too high for a 3 volt radio, and there are some scanners which operate on 3 volts. USB’s 5 volts is too low to run a 12-volt radio, or charge its batteries. You can see that a non-technical person is probably going to need experienced technical help with the matter of external power supplies for radios.


With both the SSB tuning issue, and putting together a safe and effective emergency power setup, I recommend contacting a local amateur radio club. If there is none, amateur radio operators will often have unique antennas set up at their homes. Local shops which handle electronic parts in particular (e.g. Radio Shack) are also likely to know some of the local ham operators. Many ham operators are glad to help with matters related to their hobby


This appendix may be a little dense for readers who just want to tune their radios to an SSB station. However, readers who are interested in external emergency power for radios and other equipment will need to have some familiarity with meters.

Meters would include “multimeter” (usually volts, amps/milliamps, and ohms), and battery testers. Both are very important for emergency preparedness and many are not outrageously expensive. Here are my recommendations for buying and using them:

  1. Having more than one of each type of meter is very wise. Meters can fail just as any other equipment, and there are really no substitute products for meters. I recommend purchasing two lower priced models in place of one high-priced model.
  2. Both analog (moving needle) and digital (numeric window) meters will do the job. Analog meters are more sensitive to rough handling or dropping. Try to avoid static electricity when using a digital meter. Frequently touching something that is grounded to discharge your body is one way to do that.
  3. Meters can sometimes be repaired, but in an emergency situation, it’s best to assume meters will not be repairable , other than perhaps repairing broken test leads.
  4. Having both multimeter and battery checkers on hand is highly recommended.
  5. Unless you have a fairly good background in electricity/electronics, I recommend NOT using either the current (amp/milliamp) or resistance (ohm) or “diode” scales. Applying voltage to those scales will at least result in a blown fuse if you’re lucky, or maybe a totally ruined meter. (This causes lots of tears!)
  6. Most multimeter have both AC and DC voltage scales. Take your time and be sure which type of voltage you are about to measure. (If you meter is set for DC voltage, it will give a false reading of zero with an AC voltage source.)
  7. If you have any doubt whatsoever about the maximum voltage level you are about to measure, start the meter on the highest voltage scale, and reduce the scale setting in steps until you get an understandable voltage reading. Meter movements (analog) or digital circuitry can be destroyed by applying more voltage than the scale is set for. Very important for battery checkers when measuring any batteries other than simple single cells. (Such as lantern batteries,and other multi-cell batteries. Also be very careful to set the 9-volt scale for “transistor” batteries which are small but contain multiple cells!)
  8. Some multimeter may be “auto-ranging,” meaning they will select their own scale. If your meter appears to be an auto-ranging unit, read the manual about what the maximum voltage limits are for that particular meter.

  Following World War II, the small shortwave frequency bands allotted to amateur radio operators became crowded, and this is still true today. “Ham” operators were forced to switch to “single