Communication during a major crisisSubmitted by TheLorax on Wed, 12/19/2012 - 18:17
I wanted to discuss something that I feel deserves a lot more attention than it receives. That is, how are you going to communicate with others during a major crisis?
There's tons of literature that advises keeping a portable radio handy during an emergency. And that's great but information only flows one way in that situation and you can't always rely on your cell phone working when you need it the most as past events have proven over-and-over to be the case. So what do you do? How many of us have really considered that and have a backup plan in place?
Your best bet for two-way communication during a major crisis, when power is out and cell towers are down or overcrowded, is to own a transceiver radio. But not just any transceiver like the walkie-talkie or CB type of Smokey And The Bandit fame (e.g. "10-4 good buddy. This'm here's the Rubber Duck, you copy?"). No, not those. In these situations you need long-range capability and in order to get that requires an amateur radio (a.k.a. HAM radio).
Don't let the CB jargon used in Hollywood films dissuade you. HAM conversations are nothing like that at all as you are using your normal speaking voice.
HAM radio was the internet long before there ever was such a thing. It is still widely used today and will continue long into the future. HAM operators often talk to others from anywhere, across town and around the entire globe! THIS is what you really need during a major crisis. In fact, many HAM clubs often coordinate and run drills specifically for handling emergency communications during a crisis event and have successfully served that purpose during such times.
But don't those require a license to use? Well, yes but getting your HAM license is very easy and cheap. Please visit http://www.arrl.org for more information.
Plus, there's another great reason to consider in becoming a HAM operator - you build a network of friends that can serve invaluable. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure... Yes, I have a HAM license but I haven't used it in years and even then I've used it rarely. This was a time before cell phones and I wanted to have it for emergency use while backpacking, though that's still quite valid.
However, I know the friendship thing to be true because of my father, also a HAM, who has operated radios much longer than I've been alive. And I can tell you for a fact that he's built many lifelong friendships throughout the years as a direct result of talking on the radio. And I'm not talking about "I have #### hundreds/thousands on Facebook" type of friends. Those aren't friends. I'm talking about "I've got your back and will help in a pinch" type of friends - REAL friends. It's not hard to imagine considering people who just enjoy reaching out and communicate with other humans, live in real-time using their own voice, are genuinely nice people who love helping each other out. I've seen it firsthand in both directions with my father and it really is an amazing thing to witness.
All this has got me rethinking about my HAM license recently and taking it more seriously. I'm thinking I've been neglecting a tool, one I failed to appreciate its full potential value.