In the event of a local emergency such as a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or terrorist attack such as that perpetrated by Islamic extremist on September 11th, 2001 (aka 9/11) or, especially in the event of a national emergency such as a nuclear attack or economic collapse, both cell phone and satellite phone networks have proven to be notoriously unreliable due to the inordinate number of calls being made by those both within and outside of the disaster area which overloaded the capacity of these networks.
Therefore, in the event of such an occurrence, a HAM radio with an independent power source is your best possible emergency communication tool.
But, what is HAM radio you might ask?
Well, the acronym HAM is actually a slang term used to describe users of Amateur Radio although no one seems to know exactly where the acronym came from! But, HAM radio (more properly known as Amateur Radio) is a set of radio frequencies set aside for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication and thus, they were the original form of social media.
Why Is The Ham Radio Your Best Communication Tool?
Why would someone want to use HAM radio over cell phones, satellite phones, or Citizens Band radio?
Well, as we have already experienced in this country, both cell phone and satellite phone networks have a very limited call handling capacity and thus, they are unreliable at best and completely non-functional at worst as was demonstrated by hurricane Katrina during which upwards of 70% of the local cell phone towers were disabled.
What about Citizens Band radio which does not require a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to legally operate?
Well, due to limitations on the power of Citizens Band radio broadcasts by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, CB radios lack the range of HAM radio broadcasts and thus, they are limited to local communications only. However, although HAM radios do require a license issued by the FCC to legally operate, because they do not depend on a working local communications network but instead rely on a powerful amplifier and an extended range antenna to broadcast and receive communications from other HAM radio operators, under specific atmospheric conditions, HAM radio operators can literally speak to other operators around the world!
Consequently, it is quite likely that due to the extended range of HAM radio broadcasts, by using a HAM radio, you will be able to communicate with someone outside of the disaster area to obtain news and/or request help.
Yes, the HAM radio is the best possible emergency communication tool available to survival preppers.
However, it should also be noted that HAM radios do require a power source to operate and most of them are specifically designed to operate using 120 volts and alternating current and thus, they cannot be powered by batteries without some sort of alternator which converts direct current to alternating current.
Therefore, also having a generator on hand as well as the fuel necessary to operate it is a wise idea unless you purchase some sort of alternator designed for the purpose or purchase a HAM radio specifically designed to be powered by either batteries or solar power.
Last, it should be noted that all electronic circuits are vulnerable to damage by an Electromagnetic Pulse which can be generated by an enemy detonating a nuclear device in the atmosphere above our country or a local EMP device and thus, if you intend to use your HAM radio as an emergency communication tool, you should shield it from EMP by storing it a device known as a Faraday Cage which is an enclosed metal container lined with a material such as plastic that will not conduct electricity.
However, the one thing that is certain is that in the event of either a natural or manmade disaster, both you and your neighbors will want to know what is going on and what is being done to mitigate the situation but, neither cell phones nor satellite phones are likely to enable you to communicate with those outside of the disaster area. Therefore, in the event of such an emergency, HAM radio is very likely your best bet for obtaining the information you need as well as calling for help.