This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Tom C
If you haven’t already, it’s past time you added to your survival toolbox an understanding of the fundamentals of radio communication.
We all have experienced a dropped call on our cell phones. Many of us have picked up a home phone and been surprised when that old, familiar dial tone was replaced with a “fast busy,” or static, or just plain silence. Annoying, when the need is routine, but chilling when the reason for the call is an emergency.
When you need the latest news — or at least when you need to know what people who control the news want you to know, while you keep that healthy skepticism handy — what happens when the power’s off, the batteries are dead, or the local stations are off the air?
Can you reach out on the airwaves and pick out the news from the propaganda? Can you get the weather alerts, the traffic reports, the disaster warnings, the government pronouncements, the assembly points for the local unorganized militia?
As the ads say, these days, “there’s an app for that.” It’s called ham radio, amateur radio, or just-plain, radio. Before you can use this “app” though, you need to have a basic understanding of how it works.
Yes, you can get an amateur radio license, and yes, you can buy or barter for the hardware required to make use of that license, but none of that will help you much if you don’t understand the way technology and nature work (or, don’t work, depending in conditions), to get radio waves from point A to point B,
Whether or not you intend to get an amateur radio license, you need to get one book and read and understand it thoroughly. This book will help you understand how radio works, and what is required to make it work. This book has gone by several titles over the years, but it is referred to in ham radio as “the Handbook.” These days, it is called The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications, It has been known over the decades as The Handbook for Radio Amateurs, The Radio Amateurs’ Handbook, and variations on that theme, but all are the same book, if the publisher is “ARRL.”.
As far as the fundamentals, are concerned, what you need to know to begin working and playing with radio is there in any edition, even one that is decades old. Of course, if you need to know the latest technology in digital communications, for example, or the latest set of Federal Communications Commission regulations governing ham radio operations, you need a later version, if not the latest. To begin with, though, that slightly dog-eared edition on the shelf at the local used book shop, or on eBay, Amazon or elsewhere, will more than likely meet your needs.
The “ARRL” in the title refers to the premier organization of amateur radio operators, the Amateur Radio Relay League. If this name sounds a little old fashioned, it’s because the organization has been around for going on a century. Yes, amateur radio has been pushing the envelope of radio communication technology for over a century, and the ARRL in particular has been around since 1914.
While “radio” has gone from crystal sets and gigantic spark generators to cell phones and digital satellite TV, the fundamentals rules, as mentioned before, that govern the way radio waves work, have been refined and expanded, but remain… fundamental.
A good first hurdle to jump when you decide to learn more about radio than it takes to turn one on, is to realize that you don’t need to be a scientist or engineer to understand what is required to make radio work for you. Yes, plenty of engineers and scientists become radio amateurs, but so do lots of plumbers, housewives, librarians and retirees.
There is no minimum education required to learn the fundamentals, and amateur radio is blind to color, age, sex and all the other ways humans have invented to separate themselves from other humans. A radio is a tool. It doesn’t care who you are, any more than a bicycle does. Like a bicycle, radio takes some practice before you can get comfortable enough to be confident and competent.
The time you spend building that familiarity now, at your leisure, will be repaid with high interest when you need it WTSHTF, and you have far too much in the way of life-and-death going on to worry about Volts, Ohms and Megahertz.
Just like self-defense, growing and preserving food, first aid and a hundred other survival skills, radio as a means of emergency communications is something you need to learn about now, for the skills to be there later. Get a copy of the Handbook. Browse the Web and your own networks for resources, and get to know friends and family who are already radio amateurs, and mine their wealth of knowledge.
Is anybody out there? Forget the phone. Call me on the radio!
This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:
Second Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com A total prize value of over $600.
Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution” and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company. A total prize value of $107.
Contest ends on June 5 2012.