The Only Form of Communication After T-SHTF

By P.J. May 20, 2015 13:05

The Only Form of Communication After T-SHTF

Editor’s Note:

People take communication for granted.

A new prepper is thinking about how he is going to communicate after SHTF

A prepper probably has a radio or at least a walkie-talkie

A smart prepper probably has a HAM Radio

A wise prepper keeps his HAM Radio in his Faraday Cage

Related: 10 faraday cages that you can make at home

Well… it’s also about how much you are willing to spend on equipment. According to Dave Casler, you can get it all done with minimum equipment for $215 (up to $750 – Source)

by J.M. – Local EMS Coordinator:

We take communication for granted because if we want to talk to someone we have multiple ways of contacting them: home phones, cell phones, email, and instant messaging.

We are used to instant gratification by calling or texting and pretty much getting an immediate response from virtually everyone on our contact list.

But after all the electronic infrastructure is gone, how will we get in contact with people? Cell phones, landlines, and the internet will be useless. However there are multiple radio options. Which ones will be of the best use and which ones will be basically useless?

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), Family Radio Service (FRS), and Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS)…

…use basic handheld radios that are available commercially with pre-programmed frequencies. The person responsible for the GMRS radio must be licensed by the FCC, while FRS and MURS users do not require a license. These are all basically high end walkie talkies.

The upside: easy to use, inexpensive and requires no training.

The down side: there are only 23 channels on GMRS, 14 on FRS and 5 on MURS and when all other forms of communications are unavailable they will be overloaded and basically useless. Another drawback is that they are basically line of site communication only. In other words, you will have to be very close to who you want to speak to for them to hear you.

Citizen Band (CB)…

…is a step up from the previously mentioned radio communication possibilities. CB radio is easy to use and requires no training or license. CB allows communication on 40 pre-programmed frequencies. Like the other radio options the major problem is with the limited number of frequencies, they will be overloaded. Range is also limited to around 2 to 5 miles.

The GMRS, FRS, and MURS systems are only useful for small groups to communicate with each other while they are in proximity of each other. They are not useful to communicate with other groups or people outside your immediate area. CB radio falls in the same category. Other forms of radio communications which are utilized by police, fire, EMS and military require outside equipment such as repeaters and infrastructure to operate properly. In other words the radio is rather useless without the other equipment that you have no control over (or might not be able to acquire).

Amateur Radio (Ham)…

… provides users with the most versatility when considering post SHTF communication scenarios.

Ham Radio BannerThe positive aspects of Ham radio are many: there are no pre-programmed frequencies, a Ham operator can program the frequencies of their choice. Sure in a functioning government you may only transmit on certain frequencies but after T-SHTF an experienced Ham operator may use any frequency they wish.

Other pros: range is unlimited, many Ham operators contact people around the world and you can pick up weather channels and short wave frequencies.

The downside: an FCC license is needed, users much pass a written test to prove they are worthy. Additionally equipment is more expensive.

You may be thinking that you won’t need a license if T-SHTF, and that you’ll just buy a Ham radio and use it when the time comes. You can do that but like other survival skills you need to practice in order to be proficient. You will need experience in the use of the radio, building antennas, Morse Code (Related: 10 Ways to Signal SOS) and fine tuning of frequencies. By getting an Amateur Radio License you can also network with other Hams and become familiar with “Best practices” in Ham operation. Hams are well versed in making home made antennas that work better then commercial antennas and even building radios. These are skills that can be learned but it does take time.

A Ham radio operator can function effectively without the use of any other equipment, even though operators do frequently use repeaters on a day to day basis. Another great aspect of Ham radio is this: you can do more then use voice communication. Morse Code is a common form of communication in Ham radio. Also operators commonly utilize “packet radio”.  Packet radio allows transmission of photos, video, and text. The text was the predecessor to email:

Yes indeed, Ham radio operators were using email before you were and all these forms of communications are available with just a radio.

Ham radios are versatile and can be base stations located in your home with high output power, mobile mounted in a vehicle with moderate output power, or portable small handheld radios with low power output that can be carried anywhere.

After T-SHTF communication will be difficult but needed. Land lines, cell phones, email, instant messaging, and the internet will be lost but Ham Radio will still be there. When natural disasters like Katrina or Sandy strike, Ham Radio is there to allow emergency personnel to communicate because the normal communications channels are lost. When the government can’t communicate with each other during disaster, who do they call for help? Amateur radio operators, because they know amateur radio is there and works when all other forms of communications fail.

That leads me to believe that after T-SHTF, Ham Radio will be the only form of communication available.

This article first appeared on and it is written by JM, a certified Paramedic who is also a local EMS Coordinator. For more information on how to obtain a Ham Radio license check the ARRL Website for details.

You may also like:

The EMP Preparedness Guide (Video)

This Can be the End of America as we Know it (Video)

7 Actions to Take Immediately Following an EMP Strike

DIY Back-up Generator (Video)

By P.J. May 20, 2015 13:05
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  1. kc9ick May 21, 01:46

    as an amateur radio operator,the fcc eleminated the requirement for morse code but I highly recommend it!,yes some of the equipment is costly but some can be had through the hamfests(flea markets) for a reasonable price and if one has the knowledge to refurbish one would be an added incentive, but being on the fcc database (govt.) I kinda feel they will also be targeting us on radio confiscation to keep us from informing certain people,

    Reply to this comment
    • Wannabe January 13, 15:58

      I would suggest making up your own Morse code instead of traditional alphabet. Switch dots and dashes for the letters only you and people you trust will understand. Using traditional Morse code can mean anyone listening or who happens to walk on your conversation will know what you are saying. Security for you and your own.

      Reply to this comment
    • Wannabe January 13, 16:01

      Yea bingo on the FCC targeting ham operators. I don’t trust them . All operators are registered. How far does their knowledge go with each operator? I’m just curious. Do they know what kind of equipment you have

      Reply to this comment
    • Rocketman January 14, 04:31

      Yes I think you are right about Gov’t targeting ones they don’t want informing others of what they are doing or their intentions. They will not want others being warned if they are doing things that are wrong or against the citizens rights, like they did during the aftermath of Katrina.

      Reply to this comment
    • Welfare Bear May 24, 17:09

      I was into my first amateur radio license nine years ago. I have never been inspected. My biggest problem is the property owner doesn’t allow for exterior antennas or dishes. So I am limited to hand held radios. However, I can use my transmitter to listen passively using a wire that stretches down the back hall in my apartment. I have worked on a commercial license since I got away from the Air Force where I operated radios frequently both OTJ and MARRS. I relayed command messages as my base monitored traffic from the six days war in Israel (Shma Ysrael!). What would an EMP mess with my solar power equipment?

      Reply to this comment
      • Rod May 25, 14:55

        Welfare Bear, The known weak spot on solar power is the controller. Having a spare shielded controller is something a lot of people do. I and others question whether or not the semiconductor junctions that make up the solar cell itself will survive. I have seen opinions on that going both ways. I have never seen independent proof that the array itself would survive an EMP.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Colofritz November 3, 18:31

    What class of radios do the marine radio fall under?

    Reply to this comment
  3. Wannabe January 13, 15:56

    I would suggest making up your own Morse code instead of traditional alphabet. Switch dots and dashes for the letters only you and people you trust will understand. Using traditional Morse code can mean anyone listening or who happens to walk on your conversation will know what you are saying. Security for you and your own.

    Reply to this comment
    • wolfman March 28, 13:21

      The use of a secret code is not allowed ( FCC rules ).
      after the poop hits the fan it will probley be ok,but whith out practice that will not work. Also look into a N.V.I.S.
      antenna for the low bands(160,80,40 meters).

      Reply to this comment
  4. JKS January 13, 16:45

    I would love to get a HAM radio and get started but…

    Please correct me if I am wrong but I am also under the impression that if you have a HAM radio (with accompanying license) the FCC has a legal right to come into your home at any time and “check” the radio and antenna at any time withOUT a warrant or even probable cause.

    This fact alone has kept me from getting a license and radio. For the record I dont do anything illegal or even immoral but I dont think anyone should have a blanket right to come into my home “just because”.

    Perhaps I could get around this by putting the radio in my workshop?

    Any info would help, Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tom April 3, 02:52

      The fcc can request that you allow them to inspect your station but it is only likely if they have evidence of operation that interferes with another service . You would get a warning letter first and maybe a visit from a local club member. If you don’t respond or allow the inspection they will issue a notice of apparent liability (NAL) which you have to answer. They otherwise have no idea what type of equipment you have. There is no requirement to register radio equipment such as registration of a car. There is also no logging requirement but some hams log their contacts for purposes of getting awards or confirming contacts. I can highly recommend getting your license, it is easy, and you will learn some useful things. I got really interested when I talked from Florida to Australia with a mobile radio and only 25 watts, and was inspired to upgrade to Technician in 91 and General 2 months later.

      Reply to this comment
    • Rod May 25, 15:17

      JKS, while you are absolutely correct that by accepting an FCC license of any kind you give the Commission permission to inspect your equipment at any time, the chances of this happening are less than hitting the lottery on every game over a month, UNLESS… you have had complaints lodged against you that you have ignored or other egregious acts such as intentionally interfering with Public Safety or Aircraft communications. I deal with the FCC quite often in broadcast and EAS matters and read the FCC Daily Report every day. The Enforcement Bureau is currently focusing on illegal “Pirate” broadcasters who have no licenses. I do see the occasional amateur operator in the report, but that is only after years of illegal and outrageous behavior. Get your license, enjoy, and as long as you are operating legally and courteously you will not have a problem.

      Reply to this comment
  5. NDEon20 January 13, 23:19

    How about old tube radios, someone told me vacuum tubes will not be effected by EMP’s?

    Reply to this comment
    • Rod March 27, 15:53

      Tube radios do not suffer from EMP like solid state, but the drawback to tubes is power consumption. You would have to have around 10 times the electrical power generated to operate them. Finding a working generator and an ongoing supply of fuel after an event is the real problem. One other issue with tubes is finding replacements. Most, if not all, come from overseas now and their quality is hit and miss.

      Reply to this comment
      • Tom July 8, 19:41

        Some radios are hybrid which means they are part tube and part solid state. They would be just as vulnerable to emp as an all solid state radio. The ones that are all tube are usually highly prized by collectors thus driving up the prices for them, or may have tubes which are expensive or difficult to obtain. Spares are always a good idea

        Reply to this comment
  6. Zoey Myers January 23, 20:44

    Hi, important recommendation and an exciting article, it’ll be
    exciting if this is still the state of affairs in a few years time

    Reply to this comment
  7. Burn February 14, 20:47

    Why in the hell would I need a licence after an EMP?

    Reply to this comment
  8. Rod March 27, 16:13

    There will still be broadcast radio over the country post event. There are radio stations which have been outfitted with equipment to keep them on the air post EMP. They are on the AM band for the most part as the AM broadcast band gives you the largest coverage area for the least amount of power. Make sure you have radios capable of receiving AM and FM broadcast and they are stored in shielded containers.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Craig - N7LB July 30, 22:53

    The current FCC license requirement for the Technician Class exam is easy enough that 5 and 6 year old children are passing nearly every day, giving them legal access to over 22,000 amateur radio repeaters nationwide (none of which are government owned or controlled).

    As to the license paperwork, if you are truly worried that the FCC will know your address (and ignore the fact that your local DMV already has that info and routinely shares that data with the feds), then fill out your license form paperwork with your P.O. Box address and your physical address won’t show up in FCC records.

    For the preppers that think why bother with a license when the SHTF, remember Katrina, or Sandy, or any other number of natural or man made emergency situations?

    Licensed amateur radio operators (not the FCC) made sure the repeaters weren’t used by non-licensed operators for very long, so if you are planning to simply jump on a local ham radio repeater (in your area) to talk to Billy Bob regarding situational awareness topics, you’ll probably be shocked to learn that your unlicensed conversations won’t last long (before the repeater is either shut off remotely, or the PL or DCS code is changed remotely), leaving you with an electronic paper weight.

    Lastly, most preppers need to find a good source for comm gear that really knows what they are talking about, as a ton of comm articles on the web are either misleading (at best), or downright wrong (at worst).

    Bad communication info may not cause you too many issues if you’re out camping over the weekend, but finding out the data you relied on (during or after a SHTF scenario) doesn’t work as planned (or at all) is a much more serious matter.

    Just like you shouldn’t enter the woods hunting bear with only a 22LR, you shouldn’t count on reliable long distance communications (after a SHTF event) with CB, FRS, GMRS, Marine, or MURS (for a variety of reasons), but any of those radio bands are better than no radio at all (or worse, counting on your cell phone working).

    Reply to this comment
  10. 54E February 12, 04:53

    You’d mentioned not needing to store batteries in a Faraday cage and that may hold true for some but what about those smaller rechargeable ones that have small internal circuits to prevent over charging or over discharging?

    Reply to this comment
  11. Fuzzy1949 January 21, 19:20

    If you think about the situation we will all be in and what we have to work with i know that preppers should rethink what they consider placing into their faraday cage. Cellphones are out. When an EMP strikes the cell tower will no longer work.That means even if your phone comes on you will have no service or cell tower connections. What I would store in my faraday cage would be electronic components that run your mode of transportation be it car, truck or boat. Being prepared means thinking everything through to the end then doing what you need to do to save your family, group and yourself.

    Reply to this comment
  12. SGB December 29, 18:11

    I live in Nashville and just spent two days without any kind of communication ability because of the bomb that was set off Christmas day. The problem is that my wireless and internet go through ATT, which was obliterated in the area with the bomb. That meant that my security system, land and cell phones and internet were out. We are looking to figure out what to buy or do to prevent this from happening again.

    Reply to this comment
    • Craig December 31, 03:01

      I’d suggest you consider getting your ham radio license (which will provide some level of communication to other folks that also have their license), or if even a higher level of comms are needed, get a free sat phone. Mine with unlimited voice and text is $65.00 a month (plus tax), which works out to about $2.17 a day and includes the free sat phone with the monthly service plan. It won’t get you 4G internet, but you’ll have CDMA voice quality and you can send and receive emails, texts, etc.

      If you need more info or have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at 866-448-4327 x300.

      Reply to this comment
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