Preppers getting into ham radio

People get involved in amateur radio for many different reasons. Some of us enjoy experimenting with radio, others are interested in public service. Still others see amateur radio as part of their preparation for a catastrophic event. These latter folks are sometimes know as “preppers.”

I became aware of them several years ago, when one of the students in my Tech class told me that he was a Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraging many of their members to get amateur radio licenses.

I recently decided to do a little more digging when an “amateur radio” Google Alert that I get contained a link to the article, “The Skinny on Ham Radio” on the blog The Survival Mom. This is a very good introduction to our hobby.

Here are some more links:

  • Radio Survivalist. This site contains links to many different online amateur radio resources for preppers, including information about rigs and antennas.
  • Catastrophe Network. This site claims to be the creator of the Standardized Amateur Radio Communication Plan. This plan is downloadable from this site.
  • The American Radio Preparedness Net (TAPRN). These folks are the co-creators of the Standardized Amateur Radio Communication Plan. In addition to a number of pages to help preppers set up and operate amateur radio stations, TAPRN conducts several regularly-scheduled on-air nets.

According to the Catastrophe Network website, the plan “outlines a standard set of frequencies that should be used by all preppers following a catastrophic disaster. These frequencies will serve as a meeting point where information about the event can be shared and actions between like minded preppers can be communicated.”

Googling will undoubtedly point you towards more websites, but this should get you started if you’re interested in this aspect of ham radio.

Ham radio in the news – October 14, 2011

Here’s another edition of Ham Radio in the News:

Gloucester County 4-H club leader encourages ham radio hobby. I liked this article because it didn’t talk only about emergency communications. It quotes Corey Sickles, WA3UUV, president of the Gloucester County 4-H Amateur Radio Club, as saying, “It ties into that whole engineering, how do things work, mindset.”

Museum welcomes “spook” donation. No, this does not have anything to do with Halloween. Instead, it describes the donation to a Coventry (England) Herbert Art Gallery and Museum of a radio “used during the Second World War by one of Coventry’s “secret listeners” to help defend the country…The national treasure was used by the city’s very own secret ‘spook’ – Frederick Arthur Noakes (Arthur) – between 1940 and 1945. He was one of at least four secret listeners in Coventry who were recruited by MI5 for their ability to read Morse code under difficult conditions, use and maintain a shortwave radio and their steadfast ability to keep a secret.”

Ham Radio on Google +

Google+ has really caught on with hams. There are quite a few of us on this new social network, and I currently have 330 in my ham radio “circle.”  Here are a few links that those hams have shared:

The KC5FM Daily. is a website that lets you turn Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds into online newspapers in just a few clicks. Here’s KC5FM’s paper.

‘UHF’ Connector Test Results. This blog post by John Huggins (I couldn’t find his callsign anywhere on the website) shows the results of his UHF connector tests. He also compares their characteristics to other types of RF connectors. Huggins says,

The stunning result is all the UHF connectors in the test have worse performance than all the other connectors. One immediate conclusion concerning ‘UHF’ connectors is they will function at these higher frequencies, but one must decide if using the PL259 or SO239 is worth it in an age where its deficiencies have been made moot by ALL connector designs since WWII.

Prywatna Wytwórnia Lamp, where DIY meets vacuum electron devices. This blog post describes another guy–this one in Poland–who makes his own vacuum tubes.

Google+ is a lot better site for ham-radio social networking than Facebook.  Give it a try and join us.


ARRL Briefs White House on Ham Radio

From the ARRL website:


On September 12, at the invitation of White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard A. Schmidt, W7HAS, the ARRL briefed several members of the National Security Staff on the capabilities of the Amateur Radio Service to communicate in emergencies. “The White House is looking for ways that the great work of Amateur Radio operators can continue to support emergencies in the future with particular attention to increased use and dependency on internet based technologies,” Schmidt said. The ARRL presentation, conducted by Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC — along with President Kay Craigie, N3KN, and Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ — focused on Amateur Radio’s current and evolving capabilities to provide Internet messaging connectivity.

Wouldn’t you have loved to sit in on this presentation? Perhaps we can get the ARRL to post the slides to the website someday or maybe even make it the focus of a QST article. As I’ve mentioned before, it doesn’t appear to me that anyone is working on technical advances for emergency communications the way TAPR is working on software-defined radio and AMSAT is working on satellite communications. Maybe (hopefully?) I’m wrong about that, though.

Ham Radio in the News – 9/25/11

Here are a few more articles about ham radio that have appeared in newspapers around the country:

  1. It’s basically about….helping people in emergencies. A lifetime interest turned into a lifetime hobby, and now Richard Nielsen is using his skills in amateur radio to potentially save lives in an emergency.
  2. What a ham!: Amateur radio operators provide vital communication. In times of emergency, when communications lines are down and power is out, when a natural disaster disrupts telephone and cell phone systems, amateur radio operators, or hams, take to the airwaves to provide vital communication.
  3. In age of technology, ham radios can still be vital communication. The ground shaking for a few seconds in Central Pennsylvania was far from a disaster, but having a reliable means of communications is necessary for emergency responders – especially when a real disaster strikes.

I guess it’s our emergency communications capabilities that make the news, but I really wish that newspaper articles would quit emphasizing that over all the other aspects of the hobby.

I also wish that newspapers would stop calling ham radio “old technology.” Sure, amateur radio has been around a long time, but the radios we use today are hardly “old technology.”

Hams Keep Red Cross Connected

A very nice article appeared yesterday on the Red Cross website describing how hams helped the Red Cross provide emergency services in New York:

As Irene neared landfall in late August, both the ARES and the New York City/Long Island American Radio Relay League (ARRL) supported the Red Cross by staffing the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and supporting shelters in Queens, Nassau County and Suffolk County. While not all shelters required onsite Amateur Radio Operators—a.k.a. HAMS—volunteers were on standby to move their equipment at a moment’s notice.

I especially liked the comment in the last paragraph about fire departments having only one or two frequencies to use.  That seems kind of short-sighted, doesn’t it?

NIST Seeks Comments to Help Build Public Safety Communications Network

From NIST Tech Beat: September 13, 2011

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking advice on possible key features of a new broadband communications network for the nation’s emergency services agencies. The network will use a portion of the 700 megahertz (MHz) radio frequency spectrum.

In a Sept. 12, 2011, Federal Register notice, NIST proposed four characteristics critical to the success of the future network—resiliency, reliability and availability, security, and affordability and compatibility with commercial systems—and asked for comments, suggestions and other input to help realize them. Among other things, NIST seeks to understand the extent to which these features and requirements can be satisfied, either with existing technology or with technology that could become available in the relatively near future.

This request for information coincides with the ongoing development of a demonstration testbed of the network by the joint NIST-National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program. The testbed will provide a common site for manufacturers, carriers and public safety agencies to evaluate advanced broadband communications equipment and software tailored specifically to the needs of emergency first responders.

Comments are requested by 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Oct. 12, 2011, to Dereck Orr at The complete Federal Register notice, detailing the four key features and the specific traits desired for achieving each one, may be retrieved from Select “2011 Federal Register, Vol. 76″ and then enter “56165” in the search box.

The PSCR program is a partnership of the NIST Law Enforcement Standards Office and NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. PSCR provides objective technical support—research, development, testing and evaluation—in order to foster nationwide public safety communications interoperability. More information is available on the PSCR web site at

Ham Radio in the News – September 2, 2011

Here are three more news stories. Not surprisingly, these three are about emcomm preparations for Hurricane Irene……Dan

Ham radio operators use new tools to keep communication open. The “new tool” is packet radio. A short video accompanies this story.

Ham Radio Operators Fill the Void ‘When All Else Fails’. Ham radio operators set up shop at the East Granby Emergency Operations Center in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.

Ham Radio helps residents in Hurricanes stay in the know. This video shows a TV report by WPTV, West Palm Beach, FL.

Has Ham Radio Missed the Boat?

A recent article on the Computerworld website, describes a development by Georgia Tech computer science professor Santosh Vempala that envisions greater reliance on device-to-device communications using typical consumer phones after a disaster. This network, called LifeNet, uses free open-source software to allow consumer devices such as laptops, Android phones and battery-powered routers to form ad hoc Wi-Fi, peer-to-peer networks without relying on cellular towers or base stations.

This seems to me a perfect application of amateur radio. Someone should contact this guy to see how amateur radio might play a part in LifeNet.

The article goes on to say:

Keith Robertory, manager of national disaster emergency communications for the American Red Cross in Washington, said he has used robust peer-to-peer wireless systems in recent years that will forward a message through other radios. One that operates on the amateur radio band has a time-out feature built in so that the message does not keep repeating itself indefinitely. The peer-to-peer concept is sound, he said, but hasn’t been widely used.

Does anyone know what peer-to-peer networking the Red Cross guy is referring to? Why isn’t it being widely used?

Ham Radio in the News – July 17, 2001

Here’s another installment of “Ham Radio in the News.”

Denver's Inside Out ProgramTeaching radio in the digital age. This is a great article on the Denver school district’s Inside/Out program, which offers additional learning to gifted and talented students. As part of this program, Bob Sterner, the district’s senior telecom engineer, introduced them to amateur radio.

I really liked this article. It makes me wish that I had better skills for working with kids. All of my attempts at implementing kids’ programs have so far fallen flat, but it’s good to know that there are others out there who seem to be able to get kids interested and motivated.

Ham radio users still play vital role in communications. Just one example of the dozens of articles on Field Day activities.

The Sky is Not the Limit for the Fethiye Radio Amateurs Club. A member of the recently-formed club FARAD discusses ham radio and club activities. Even though this interview is in a Turkish newspaper, the article is in English.