It is no secret that communications will be critical after any SHTF event.
As preppers look to sort out their post-SHTF communications strategy, it is common that they will encounter a lot of communications myths that may direct them in the wrong direction.
Busting these myths is important so preppers can find the information they need without being distracted by false information.
CB Radio Will Be Useless
Citizens band (CB) radio is a channelized section of the radio frequency spectrum from 26.965 to 27.405 MHz, occupying the 11-meter band.
CB radios were very popular amongst hobbyists and truckers because they needed no license, and the equipment was affordable and widely available.
In recent years, the popularity of CB radio has waned due to the widespread use of cell phones, cheap offshore HAM radios, and a variety of other license-free radio options.
There are a lot of better options than CB radio, but that does not mean that it is useless in a SHTF scenario.
In the book No Grid Survival Projects of which I was the primary author, I wrote a chapter on how to increase the power of a CB radio by simply building a better antenna.
This turns a simple and cheap CB radio into a transmitter that can reach out much further than one that is fixed to a vehicle. You can use this chapter to establish a base station CB radio and have other CB radios mounted in vehicles or use CB handhelds to maintain short-range comms.
Along with this project in the book, you can also learn to set up a solar power system to run the radio as well, giving you effective two-way communications.
You Don’t Need an Amateur Radio License After SHTF
No one is going to check for your license or throw you in jail for transmitting on amateur radio bands after SHTF without a license. That being said, you’re not going to be very effective in your radio communications if you do not practice now and understand how the equipment works.
Ham radio operators are constantly exercising their equipment and tweaking their setups so that they will have effective and efficient communications after any disaster. If you do not have a license, you cannot practice or participate in amateur radio exercises or nets to sharpen your skills.
Getting licensed is a critical first step in a post-SHTF communications plan and cannot be ignored.
All You Need Is a Box of Baofengs
The Baofeng handheld radio has seen a massive surge in popularity amongst preppers because it is cheap, effective and easy to get.
Many preppers bought several of these radios with the misguided thought that they could easily use them after a disaster to stay in touch.
The truth is buying these radios is only one step in the process.
Baofengs are notoriously hard to program. You can use a program called CHIRP to program them, but that means you need to know what frequencies to put into the radio.
This is where unlicensed preppers fail in their comms preparedness. You cannot program and test a Baofeng without being a licensed amateur radio operator, and if you do not program and test your box of Baofeng radios, they are going to be useless after SHTF.
A SHTF Comms Setup Is Expensive
Radio gear can be really expensive, but it does not have to be. Even though radios produced in China have a lower build quality, you can use them to create a budget-friendly emergency communications station.
Antennas for many radios can be built using little more than a few easily obtained connectors and the proper lengths of wire.
A wide array of information available online will give you the knowledge and resources to get the proper comms gear to achieve your post-SHTF communications needs at a price point that you can afford.
Even though you can go the budget route for post-SHTF comms, you should try to get the best equipment you can afford. In a post-SHTF environment, you’ll want gear you can count on.
HAM Radio Is the Only SHTF Communication Option
If you are hell-bent on not getting an amateur radio license, there are other methods you can use for emergency communications.
Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) are options that do not require an amateur radio license.
GMRS radio requires a license, but no course or test is associated with getting one.
CB radio is another possibility, and the equipment to set up CB radio stations is widely available.
Multi-Use Radio Service is another channelized radio service that is available for you without an amateur radio license.
Another possibility worth mentioning is LORA devices that can be used with the Meshtastic app. These devices are more difficult to set up but allow you to set up a mesh network where you can send text messages between connected smartphones.
The advantage of this system is that all communications are encrypted and shared only between the devices on the mesh network.
You Can’t Have Effective Comms Off-Grid
There are many people who assume that you cannot have effective communications without the grid.
This is simply not the case. In fact, all amateur radio communications will be easier in the absence of the RF noise that the power grid emits.
With a low-power ham radio, you’ll be able to communicate worldwide using Morse code or digital modes.
You can also communicate with voice over long distances as well. Locally, you can use repeaters, which should have backup power, to have effective local communications.
If you are serious about preparing for emergencies or SHTF, you need a good emergency comms plan.
You also need to exercise your equipment, practice, and constantly tweak your comms setup. Anything less will result in ineffective communications after a SHTF event, rendering that part of your preps ineffective.
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