Emergency communications is one of the hottest topics on preparedness websites. There is no shortage of online information about CB, GMRS, MURS and Amateur Radio. You will even find quite a few communications articles in this blog’s archives.
I have been a licensed ham operator for almost two decades. It’s my belief that Ham radio has an important role in individual and household disaster preparedness. I feel so strongly about this that I have made myself available as a Volunteer Examiner or VE. In other words, I volunteer my time to prepare and administer amateur radio exams and want to help others obtain their ham license.
You, or someone in your group, should have a ham radio. If you’ve ever had an interest in ham, I am challenging you to follow through with it immediately. Call your local Red Cross and find out who the contact is for your local amateur radio group. Two phone calls today is all that is required to get the ball rolling. Email us if you want, send us your zip code and ask us to locate the nearest amateur radio group.
Getting your license will cost you 15 dollars and some of your time. You do not need to purchase a radio right away. In fact, you should probably wait on that anyway until you talk to someone local. Your VEs will be happy to help you choose the right equipment to fit your needs and budget.
You may be surprised when you find out that the ham operators in your area are mostly also preppers. There are groups of hams in every area that practice for disaster and ham frequencies literally come “alive” when an emergency threatens a wide area. The knowledge you will get from this experience will help you even if you plan to only monitor a scanner radio during a disaster.
The first amateur radio license is called “Technician Class” commonly known as “Tech”.
The license is granted after you pass a 33 question test with 26 correct answers. There is no morse code test requirement.
Recently, the FCC relaxed some regulations and added several new opportunities to the Tech Class operator, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a document that details (in plain language) what you are able to accomplish with your Tech license.
Here’s a basic list of what frequencies that are open for use to a Tech license holder,
Let’s start with the standard VHF/UHF frequencies that Techs have always had:
- 1240-1300 MHz (AKA 23cm or 23 centimeter band)
- 902-928 MHz (AKA 33cm or 33 centimeter band)
You can use Morse Code and voice in these bands. You can also send data or images if you have the proper equipment. These are not very active bands, there’s not much equipment available.
420-450 MHz (AKA 70cm or 70 centimeter band)
Here you can use Morse Code and voice. You can also send data or images if you have the proper equipment. This is a moderately popular band, there are usually several local repeaters operating around here. There is an abundance of new and used equipment for this band.
222-225 MHz (AKA 1.25m or 1.25 meter band)
Here you can use Morse Code and voice. You can also send data or images if you have the proper equipment. This band does not seem to be very popular. In fact, the band used to have more frequencies but, due to lack of use, the FCC designated a portion of the band for commercial use (220-222 MHz). There are several manufacturers that still produce equipment for this band.
144-148 MHz (AKA 2m or 2 meter band)
Here you can use Morse Code and voice. You can also send data or images if you have the proper equipment.
This is, by far, the most popular VHF ham band. 2 meter equipment is very affordable and plentiful.
NOTE: All of the above bands are considered to be for local comms. Repeaters are commonly used to extend the range of these radios.
50-54 MHz (AKA 6m or 6 meter band)
Here you can use Morse Code and voice. You can also send data or images if you have the proper equipment. This is a popular band for local and long distance comms. Equipment is readily available but can be expensive. Long distance use on 6 meter is not always reliable. Repeaters are used in this band as well.
OK Now let’s look at the NEW privileges available to Tech Class operators:
28.00-28.300 MHz (AKA 10m or 10 meter band)
Here you can use Morse Code ONLY. No test required. You can practice your morse code on the air and reach tremendous distances when the band is “open”
Here you can use voice on AM Sideband. This also is a long distance band. It’s not uncommon to talk to another operator in Hawaii or Europe from the US when this band is open. Equipment is readily available and affordable for these frequencies. You’ll need to be careful though, all current equipment is capable of operating outside of the Tech’s designated operating frequencies.
21.025-21.200 MHz (AKA 15m or 15 meter band)
7.025-7.125 MHz (AKA 40m or 40 meter band)
3.525-3.600 MHz (AKA 80m or 80 meter band)
These frequencies are to be used with Morse Code only.
These are long distance comms frequencies.
You can hear these frequencies being used on some shortwave radios.
Equipment is readily available and affordable for these frequencies. You’ll need to be careful though, all current equipment is capable of operating outside of the Tech’s privileges.
I am happy to say that we now have at least one licensed Amateur Radio operator in every household of our group. I’m proud of these guys for following through! These folks are not radio geeks. They know that ham radio is a valuable asset to have in their preps.
This article is sponsored by Centerfire Antennaby