Alternative forms of communication are imperative when traditional systems are impaired or shut down completely. Below you will find a range of options to assist in disseminating information and enabling correspondence during an emergency response situation.
Contact our resident Ham Radio expert,
Rich Lippuci, with any questions!
Why this form of communication is important now?
Ham Radio was the original electronic social media and is an essential
communication device when all other reliable systems are down.
What Radio Should I Buy?
This is the first question everyone asks. This is about as simple a question as asking what car should I buy? It really depends upon what your needs are. All ham radios are NOT the same. However, lets take a swing at it! I tell new hams, the best ham radio for most local situations is a dual band VHF/UHF mobile radio. They put out about 50 watts of power and can run off of your car battery for quite some time, while your car charges the battery. For this set-up, you will need to buy a mobile antenna). For use it in your home, office etc., you will need to buy a 13.8 V power supply or lug around a battery. You can find a less expensive power supply than the linked below. Most modern mobile radios have built in cross band repeaters.
An HT (handy talkie) is a less expensive option. It has a built in antenna and battery, but it only puts out between 5 and 8 watts of transmit power. They work great on repeaters, and will be fine for small groups working together without hills or buildings. The same is true with a mobile radio, but with much higher power output it helps mitigate some of these obstructions. VHF & UHF signals from all radios require a line of sight to work but signals do bend a little and can bounce a bit, so the extra power helps. These radios are very handy. I use one in my car, on my mobile antenna and talk on repeaters. Both the mobile and HT radios should be at least dual band. Dual bands are 2 meters and 70 centimeters. Explained in frequencies, UHF range of 400 MHz - 470 MHz and a VHF range of 136 MHz - 174 MHz.
An antenna is as important as your radio. Receiving signals is easy, although for efficient radiation, transmitting a signal requires a properly tuned antenna, as well as a good ground plane (and an FCC license-I can get your for free). Commercial dual band antennas can work both bands and can be magnetically mounted on your vehicle. The dual band mobile antenna I use does not require a ground plane under it. Unlike other mobile antennas, you can put it on a pole and it works as well as it does on your car.
Below is a list of most new ham radios that are currently being offered with links and prices. Used radios and equipment are available as well. Pre-owned radios should be checked out by a seasoned ham to make sure everything is working and it's putting out its rated power.
Some things we can do with ham radios:
Voice: Peer to peer or to a wider audience (on repeaters), and even over great distances via radio linked and/or internet linked antennas (we don’t rely upon internet)
Digital communications, peer to peer text, local, regional, and beyond
Send emails on the HF band (short wave); both voice, digital text and email can be transmitted over a mountain or around the world
Hams have AREDN internet via a radio mesh network, with a modem and a laptop when a node is connected to a satellite internet connection.
Local mail boxes for digital radio texts, sent and retrieved within a local group at any time, similar to leaving a cell text. Radios require commercial or alternate power, and some other equipment for some of these functions above, but they make radio communications a very robust tool!
Finally, there are all mode radios; VHF/UHF/HF HF=short wave. I have an all mode transportable radio. I use it mobile or at home. It puts out 100 watts on HF, with a mobile screwdriver antenna. Depending upon the ionosphere, you can talk around the world or over a mountain. IMO, the all mode radio, is the cream of the crop. If you can afford this system, you can perform all that ham communications can deliver.
*General Features to consider in the different radio classes HT/Mobile/Desktop:
*Dual Band UHV/VHF Mobile/Desktop: (various features) $350-$590 ish
dual receive/Full Duplex/separate controls
Crossband Repeating, DTMF, CTCSS, and DCS Calling Modes
internal modem for Packet/Winlink/VARA Emails, USB capable
Digital modes: DMR, DSTAR, Wires
Radio Face Plate Removal for Dash mounting
Computer Programable, manual programable or both
Manual and Auto Repeater settings
HT's Dual or Tri Band, various Features as above. $30 to $450 ish
All Band;HF/UHV/VHF Mobile/Desktop
Same possible Features as Dual Band above; built in Antenna Tuner
Power Supply for mobile radio use inside home: >>>>> http://alinco.com/Products/ps/DM-330/
Mobile Antenna: Diamond Dual Band UHF/VHF >>>>> https://www.diamondantenna.net/nr770hb.html
Mobile Antenna: Comet NCG SBB-5 >>>>>>>>>>>>>https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-001570
Antenna Feed Line Cable for VHF/UHF (under 50') >>>>> https://hamradioschool.com/coaxial-cable-use/
Little Tarheel HF Screwdriver Antenna: >>>>> https://www.tarheelantennas.com/littletarheel_hp
Online Ham Radio Study:
Dave Castler: Ham Radio Answers ONLINE AND FREE >>>>> https://dcasler.com/ham-radio/training/
HRCC Ham Radio Crash course, goes thru each question and a discussion about the question. This is not the newest 2021 test pool, but most of the questions are included. FREE
W4EEY: ONLINE AND FREE
LAST, a live online tech exam teaching by Norm and Naomi Goodkin $65.00
Goodkin one day Online Tech class >>>>> https://www.qualitymatrix.com/hamclass/
Goodkin Tech Study Guide >>>>> https://noji.com/hamradio/study.php#recommended_study_method ***This page is free and has helpful suggestions, regardless of what choice you make***
Practice License Exam: Option 1 >>>>> ham study.org
Practice License Exam: Option 2 >>>>> qrz.com/hamtest