Why we prep
Here’s another reason why you – and your friends and family – should prep:
Everybody out there who is paying the slightest bit of attention has heard antibiotics – one of the greatest miracles of our age – are in the process of losing the battle against bacteriological diseases. The reasons are many-fold and are not the topic of this week’s column, but the situation is far more dire than most folks recognize.
We don’t often hear the words “pandemic” or “epidemic” with regards to the United States (except when they are used for stupid things like “an epidemic of right-wing extremists” and such), but a large part of world history was made by critters too small to be seen with the naked eye … and not in a good way.
Consider how the Black Death changed the world. And just a hundred years ago, what was called the “Spanish” flu (or the German flu or the French flu, depending of your enemy du jour) killed millions and seriously affected the results of the First World War. That scourge came on quickly and disappeared even more quickly, leaving around 400,000 Americans dead in its wake.
Today of course, we have better medical care and communications. But we also have government-sponsored lunatics developing super-pestilence as weapons … and our first line of defense, antibiotics, is crumbling.
In olden days, the main line of protection for those who had the means to do so was to “Get out of Dodge,” hole up, and self-quarantine. Today that option is much more available … and it’s called prepping.
Putting a barrier of distance between you and an epidemic world might just save your life – but only if you have somewhere to go and some way to stay there safely.
And that’s one of the reasons we prep.
Last week’s intro to radio communication for the prepper generated a fair amount of good comments, one of which touches on the main subject of this week’s column:
While communication is good, the question should be, if it gets really bad, do you want to communicate with others outside of your area and let them know you exist and have at least power and communications equipment?
Another commenter was very adamant that you should:
Get to know your local ham radio operator. Get your license and GET ON THE AIR! … PS. CB radio will also still be a viable means of communication; don’t discount it! Throw away those FRS radios, completely useless.
I agree wholeheartedly that you should befriend a ham, but I disagree with his last sentence. FRS (family service radio) can have a very valuable part to play in any prepper’s security planning and operations. (We’ll get to that in the next column.)
To license or not to license? That is the question
So what is an amateur radio license and why would I want one? Well there’s a pretty good explanation here.
As you can see from reading that link (You did read it, right?), each level of an FCC amateur radio license will open whole new worlds of communication possibilities. But all of these possibilities are ultimately predicated on your desire to speak. There is absolutely no regulatory control on having the equipment necessary to listen and speak on any of the allowed ham radio bands, provided that all you do is listen.
Is prepping the right thing for to do for Christians? Or should we just be trusting in the Lord? Learn about that balance in “Be Thou Prepared” by Carl Gallups – “Equipping the Church for Persecution and Times of Trouble.”
Now the first thing that I’m going to hear, both on the column commentary and on my GAB page, is that unless you’re properly licensed, you won’t be able to practice the highly convoluted and esoteric magic needed to talk on the radio.
If you decide to get a license, you can find – online – all of the potential multiple-choice test questions that will be given for each class of license. If you memorize those questions and answers, you’ll pass the test. And with your newly minted license (sent to you in a week or so), you can key the mike and start making long-distance friends. No trial period, no apprenticeship, no training. I know a guy who never even owned a radio before he decided to license-up, and in one day he took every license class test available and left with an “Amateur Extra License,” the highest classification.
True, if you don’t practice, you won’t know how to bounce signals off the space station or the moon (both done frequently) or how to do the same off of a meteor’s ionic tail (also a favorite game of the expert and patient radiophile). But if you’ve learned enough to set up your equipment and determined its limitations, put up the correct antenna, and practiced the appropriate conversational protocols, you’ll be able to talk to just about anyone, license or no.
But … don’t.
It is against the law to transmit (except in a [poorly defined] emergency) on frequencies that require a license. And of the few frequency bands that don’t, there are very low transmission-power limitations. The FCC uses big fines and publicity to discourage non-licensed radio operators, and it is often willingly assisted in finding the miscreants by licensed hams.
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There are a few other potential prepper problems with getting a license for amateur radio transmission. One of the biggest is that some of your personal information becomes part of the public domain. If I’m listening to a conversation between two ham guys, I will eventually hear them give their call signs. With that sign and a quick e-trip to the FCC License Data Search, I can usually find their addresses. For those who use a PO box, it’s often fairly easy to get a physical address from that information. So if I was a bad guy, and you were talking about your latest (expensive) radio equipment, or how much gold or silver you’ve been buying lately and oh, how you’re going on vacation next week … well …
Plus, it also means that the government knows you’ve got radio stuff and where to find you. And if history has shown us anything, it’s that a coercive state will try to reign-in free communications first.
Having said that, I’m not telling you to skip the license thing. There are benefits. You can legally start setting up communication families and friends. You can organize your own nets and meet-ups. You will get advanced help in furthering your radio expertise from welcoming and willing radio folks. And you won’t get the cold shoulder (or worse) when you try breaking in on another conversation without the appropriate key (your legitimate call sign). Plus, if you’re community-minded, the only way you can join up and help out with emergency communications is by being legal.
So regardless of whether you have a license or not, why bother getting the equipment and investing the time and energy setting up a personal radio shack?
Simple, really. Knowledge is power. As was pointed out in last week’s column, radio is the last line of information when all other sources are down. I own a fair amount of radio equipment, both transceivers (transmit and receive) and scanners. With this equipment I can and do monitor most of the police, fire and emergency services in my area. With my in-compound and vehicle CB and two-meter radios, I can get local road reports and emergency communications quicker than most. And I can monitor the various amateur emergency and prepper radio nets out there, many of which have regularly scheduled check-ins.
So do I have a license? None of your business.
Okay, I’m finally done yammering about the legal stuff. Next week we’ll look at specific classes of radio gear, beginning with the “useless” and much maligned FRS radio.
Until then, get prepared.