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Ham Radio Saves the World Again

Updated on January 8, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Several scenarios have the potential to cause world wide disruption, civilian communication breakdowns or a need to communicate outside of standard channels. They are, in no particular order:

  • Peak Oil – oil runs out, server farms are 10% of industrialized nations’ energy consumption and the power grid will go down; bye-bye internet and probably cell phones unless battery powered
  • New World Order – your cell phone is monitored and so is your internet activity; you need to communicate but need something that isn’t reported to Big Brother or Big Sis
  • EMP – terrorists release an Electro-Magnetic Pulse weapon to destroy all electronics in the United States or release a few suit-case nukes that have the same effect
  • Any religious returns

What then are the decent preppers to do? Amazingly, for many survivalist forms from SurvivalBlog to SurvivalMom, amateur radio is a strong recommendation. It doesn’t rely on telephone wires or satellites. It only needs a generator to run a station if not a battery. Non-digital ham radio equipment is EMP resistant. Kept in a metal storage cabinet, it is essentially EMP-proof. Most importantly, it is low tech to maintain, easy to acquire and straightforward to learn to use for spoken communication. Morse code is known around the world and works even at low power levels. You can operate a ham radio station nearly anywhere, and it’s both mobile and instantaneous.

Peak Oil and Ham Radio

 Peak Oil assumes that we will start to run out of oil in the next 50 to 100 years. As we run out of oil, Peak Oil also assumes that renewable energy will not ramp up sufficiently quickly to meet demand and that we won’t build nuclear plants. The fear then is that we will end up living cold, dark, and hungry eating bean curd or various creepy, crawly things.At best, we'll have energy rationing unless there is a dramatic reduction in world population.

Advantages of ham radio in this scenario include:

  1. Charge up a battery via riding a bike or solar cell, hook up a signal generator and receiver, attach a switch, and you have Morse Code communication. Low tech, low power, and the necessary skill sets and technology are widely available.
  2. Using a low power ham radiobroadcasts allows democratic distribution of communication capability and news broadcasts in an era of increasing rationing. These systems are also powerable from solar panels and their batteries or your next favorite personal renewable energy system.
  3. This technology is available around the world. No need to import parts for it in a world of limited resources for shipping.

Ham radio has the benefit of being cheap to set up and operate, while allowing you to communicate over long distances when the grid is down.
Ham radio has the benefit of being cheap to set up and operate, while allowing you to communicate over long distances when the grid is down. | Source

New World Order and Ham Radio

The New World Order or NWO is the conspiracy theory that a shadowy group of people is seeking to take over the world. (Shhhhh, you’re not reading this.) If all the cell phones are bugged and the Internet is monitored, ham radio provides a means of talking “off the grid”. This does assume that Big Brother or Big Sis is not listening to the ham bands, too.

The fact that ham radio can be purchased second hand and passed on without requiring the identification and registration required of SIM cards in cell phones or identifying IP addresses of computers provides more anonymity. (Please, do get your amateur radio license and call sign legitimately. You can always use coded talk on ham bands, talking about barbeques and weddings. Or talk fantasy football. But don’t storm the airwaves with lots of weird chatter. It sounds weird.)

The work around is to learn Morse code. It’s useful for tapping out messages to others when trapped in a secret prison, hidden among graffiti, and using the static of various forms of interstellar communication.

Polar Shift Messing Up Magnetosphere

If the North and South Poles reverse, the magnetosphere may drop to dangerously low levels until the Earth’s core rotation begins to generate a new magnetic field from its new position. This shift has happened about every 700,000 to 1,000,000 years in Earth’s history. The migration of the North Pole over the past 100 years reveals recent signs that the Polar shift is accelerating. The questions posed are then:

1. What is the impact on the ecosystem and people?

2. If we’re not all dead, what do we do.

If the magnetosphere drops in strength, greater levels of ultraviolet light will reach the earth. We may see spectacular Aurora Borealis affects around the world during this polar reversal. There are doomsday scenarios of birds falling dead from the sky, electronics around the world being fried, and people being roasted by the high UV.

Solutions to this scenario include:

1. Lots of sunscreen

2. Keeping your electronics in a Faraday cage or poor man’s equivalent until the disaster has passed. (Note: a poor man’s Faraday cage is a closed metal cabinet)

3. Living underground and popping up an antenna periodically to talk to other holed up survivors.

If the natural phenomena does fry the world’s electronics, tube based ham radios are essentially immune. Transistor radios should also work. Those old Mouser kits become a hot commodity as the community band radio comes back to life.

Electromagnetic Pulse Terrorism

Hams have known how useful their communication equipment is after hurricanes and earthquakes for years. With strategic outreach, a new generation could be brought into ham radio through this old fashioned new fashion communication method.

Electromagnetic pulses were discovered with the first nuclear weapon tests. The scientists’ cars parked near the nuclear test range wouldn’t start. While the radioactive plumes were the most visually exciting, the electromagnetic energy released by the bomb fried the solenoids in their cars.

Technology has advanced to the point that weapons can be built specifically to release electromagnetic pulses. Neutron bombs were once described as the preferred weapon of mass destruction because it killed people but left infrastructure intact. An EMP weapon is better than a neutron bomb in terms of generating terror. Few people except those with pacemakers are left alive, but everyone is affected.

An Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon would fry all cell phones, unshielded digital computers, and car computers within several miles. Computers and electronics even further out would have their functions interrupted, and a partial wipe of the memory of many computers near and far would affect the computing infrastructure of the surrounding area. Imagine all the cell phones dead, most cars except the dumb ones stranded, landlines at risk of damage from scrambled switches, no internet …

Generation Y and those younger would be helpless. Generation X may know how to call a landline phone, assuming they worked and were available. Unfortunately, many offices are switching to Voice over IP (VOIP) to save on the number of phone lines. Thus even a land line phone may not work if it runs through a VOIP network at some point getting out of the building.

Ham radio has several advantages in this situation.

  1. If the EMP blast is not within a few thousand feet, non-digital ham radio equipment should be functional.
  2. Ham radio equipment kept in a Faraday cage should be operational after the blast.
  3. Ham radio equipment in a poor man’s Faraday cage (a closed metal cabinet) at an intermediate distance may be functional.

Ham radio also has many advantages in an emergency that are used no matter what the cause:

  • Ham radio communication protocols in disasters are already known to operators and to the public; need to get word out, go visit the guy down the street with the antennas
  • Storm-chasers to police to firefighters already use a wide array of radios; ham radio operators have the gear to listen in and stay informed based on their broadcasts while others are literally left in the dark
  • Ham radio operators are in operation around the world. Even if a nation or continent is ravaged by a disaster, someone with the right skills and working equipment can get the word out to someone who can make a call or send an email.
  • Ham radio is independent of the internet and can't be shut down by denial of service attacks, literal destruction of internet routing hubs or government interference.

Ham Radio Purchases

All of these scenarios bring up the fear of the end of the world. And a common recommendation on the disaster preparedness websites and books for all of these situations (except maybe Mayan Gods or zombies) is to get communication gear. Ham radio gear is frequently on these lists.

 The next time you see listings on Craigslist or auction sites requesting ham radio gear from those who have no knowledge of how to operate it or specifically request vacuum tube based communication gear, now you know why they are buying. It’s the end of the world again – so they gotta get ham gear to help save it. Or at least not be so lonely at the end of the world.


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