FCC-licensed Amateur (HAM) Radio Service operators have long enjoyed a wide variety of ham radio communication frequencies, modes and activities, including using satellites and communicating with the International Space Station, operating leading-edge digital modes, as well as time-tested Morse Code, single sideband, and other aspects too many to mention for this article. One commonality with an increasingly popular trend across the country is with “Preppers.”
Those with a “survivalist’s” mentality are usually Do It Yourself folks that prepare for the worst and create a lifestyle and home that they hope will survive many cataclysmic events. Preppers might expect a future with an “emp” burst from a nuclear weapon detonated in the upper atmosphere, rendering modern electronics useless with the resulting destruction of microchips, and other solid state circuitry in just about every modern appliance out there.
Let’s put it this way. If you are familiar with the tern “Faraday Cage,” then you could be a prepper or a ham radio operator.
The Federal Communications Commission tasks ham radio operators with training for and providing backup disaster communications. When a major catastrophe occurs, whether natural or man-made, existing communication systems, including public safety and cellular and landline phone systems become degraded or rendered inoperable from being overloaded, or equipment malfunction. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks are just a few examples when hams are called to duty.
Many hams train frequently to make sure their skills and equipment are up to the task. Peer through a ham’s shelves and cabinets and you will find more batteries than that of the average bear. Flashlights, power packs, Go-Kits with survival gear and food, compasses, and first aid kits crowd the shelves. Boxes full of AA, AAA, C, D, and Gell cells, 6-volt lantern batteries, and an assortment of lawn & garden tractor batteries, and heavy deep cycle batteries are not uncommon in the “shack,” garage, or vehicle.
Many Preppers strive to be “off-grid” with solar panels, wind power, and generators. Check into any ham radio net and you will find some that are also off-grid, or at least capable of using non-commercial power.
Hams can deploy to a disaster scene and using their own equipment and power sources, can be up and on-the-air in short order. Most hams know how to make emergency antennas from scratch, and some even build their own transceivers. So Preppers and Hams are a natural fit in many ways.
The Faraday Cage is a shielded storage container that, if constructed correctly, can block the destructive Electromagnetic Pulse energy created when a nuclear weapon goes off in the upper atmosphere, or when a HUGE geomagnetic storm hits that region of the planet. In these worst case scenarios, the ham, or Prepper, would still have a radio to use for listening to broadcasts outside the disaster zone, or to communicate with other people that were also protected from the emp burst.
Now, if you come across a prepper or ham that has lined his ball cap with aluminum foil, then just slowly turn around and walk away. On second thought, RUN! RUN fast! He just might attempt to explain this special hat.