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NT1K Op-Ed: Preppers and Ham Radio

by on May.07, 2013, under Annoyances, Op-Ed

I have been seeing a lot of preppers out there on the internet promoting Amateur Radio. For those who don’t know what a prepper is, you can compare it to a survivalist as they are similar in some ways. In my opinion a Survivalist learns how to live off the land and a Prepper is “Preparing” for an event. It can range from someone preparing for a storm all the way to someone preparing for when the S#!T hits the fan ( SHTF as they call it) or “Doomsday”, the end of the world.  Some of them go far as building huge underground bunkers equipped with enough fresh water, food, power and ammunition to last for years. Recent TV shows like “Doomsday Preppers” have increased the spotlight on these types of people.

I think some of these extreme preppers are nutty but as long as they are spending their own money and don’t bother anyone else, they can prepare all the want. Who knows, they might have the last laugh but I am not going to spend my life worrying about a “What If”.  By the way, I do believe that you should have at least some preparations such as a flashlight, weather radio and the plans that are mentioned on the Ready.Gov’s website. I am not here to put down the preppers.

At some point along the way in the prepper movement, it was mentioned that Amateur Radio is a necessity as it allows you to communicate with the “Outside World” and to keep tabs on what’s going on. It’s suggested on many websites and there are a lot of YouTube “Prepper” videos which promote Amateur Radio. I am all for promoting Amateur Radio but the way it’s being promoted is what bothers me. Instead of focusing on Amateur Radio as a whole, it’s only focusing on the prepper aspect of it with a sprinkle of EmComm.  I know it’s their angle but there is more to Amateur Radio than just for using it during an emergency or when “Doomsday” happens and I wish more of these sites would mention it or dive into Amateur Radio a little deeper.

Preppers getting licensed at what cost?

I am glad they are getting licensed and I am sure certain radio organizations are glad so they boast about higher numbers, but at what costs? Sure, they have a license but are they going to use the radio other than listening? Are they going to take advantage of their new license? Are they going to be interested in the hobby other than from a prepper standpoint? I would rather see 10 people licensed that are active and really care about the hobby than 100 people get licensed to check into a couple nets and put their radio into storage mode.

I am NOT stating that Preppers shouldn’t get licensed!

I am glad they are taking the steps in being legal. It’s better than having the equipment in the hands of someone who has no clue what they are doing or don’t care. Hopefully while in the process of studying for their license that they see what Amateur Radio is all about and end up being more involved. All I ask is for these websites/bloggers/podcasters/youtubers that are promoting prepping and amateur radio to consult an active and established amateur radio operator. You wouldn’t want me on your show giving prepping advice just because I’ve read a couple blog sites. There are many operators that would love to make an appearance to correctly promote ham radio. all you would have to do is just ask.

This is just my opinion, I maybe wrong!
Thanks for reading and 73,

Jeff – NT1K

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8 Comments for this entry

  • Dave

    I put together a go kit more from having the fun of operating at a remote location than worry about an EMP pulse or something causing doomsday.

    Anyways everybody knows we stand to lose more in a zombie apocalypse.

  • Frank

    Jeff,

    I share your concerns. The head of the Mississippi Preppers organization was a “militia” style activist and found himself on the Homeland Security Do Not Fly list while in Hawaii. Moreover, Homeland Security has stated that “Preppers” brandishing weapons during a declared emergency will be regarded as terrorists. I’m not advocating one way or another, just stating some facts.

    Now, folks are free to assemble and speak their minds within the constraints of current law (e.g., don’t yell fire in a theater when there isn’t one, etc.). However, should bona fide ham radio groups train and license (via VEs) members of a group whose leadership is on a DNF status and their members are potential terrorists?

    My opinion is no, we should not. This wouldn’t stop any Preppers from studying on their own, and taking the VE tests without declaring their Preppers status. However, clubs should value the hobby more than to engage in formal training of them. I resigned from the Board of the Jackson ARC when they decided to sanction such training in a local public school, no less!

  • NT1K

    I just want to state that I personally don’t have problems with “Preppers” in general. I believe in some form of preparation for certain emergencies. After a freak snow storm in 2011 that left me without power and heat, I made sure to be better prepared in case it happens again. However I wouldn’t devote much time and effort compared to some others but that is my choice and I am free to make it.

    This post has been linked to some other forums stating that “Amateur Radio Doesn’t Like Preppers” which is not what I was implying.

    The point of my article is that there is much more to do with amateur radio than storing it for when the “Shit Hits The Fan” or using it only during emergencies. I see a lot prepper related web sites and youtube videos that promote amateur radio in what I think is the wrong way. I’m glad preppers are taking the steps to get licensed, I just hope that while doing so, they’ve become more interested about amateur radio than just from an EmComm/Prepper point of view.

    In fact, the more they are involved with amateur radio, the better it can be for them if that day ever comes. Being able to design and construct your own antenna, getting on HF and doing things like QRP (low power communications) and Morse code to conserv power could really help in situations. Better than having an HT with a “Rubber Duck” antenna that will only get their signal so far.

  • Dennis

    Excellent article, and this really relates to a subject I’ve devoted considerable time and interest to. In the push to get people to ‘exam passing status’, we have all but eliminated any practical knowledge that isn’t on the test. A person can very easily study on their own, or attend a class, and pass the FCC exam … while having no clue about what/how to operate ham radio. Sure, they know some tech stuff, they know the laws, but do they know what field day is, or what a contest is, or what repeater has the net for their interest, etc etc. So, they have their license, buy an HT, turn it on for a few minutes – maybe call CQ and get no response, and then shelf it never to be heard again.
    We as a community need to do more to help newcomers really get started and find their niches. I favor after-test classes/workshops, but so far haven’t gotten any traction with local clubs to do it. My website is devoted to said subject; but hoping to get other operators to think about this(preppers included) … license and equipment alone won’t equal communication on a very effective level in any such event. Part of prepping is learning as well as stock piling.
    I am not a prepper in the common sense, though being in a hurricane zone, some ‘prepping’ is just a normal part of life for everyone.

  • David

    Who has actually committed violent crimes, engaged in destruction of US government property, & promoted anti-American rhetoric?
    A. Occupy Wall Street
    B. Preppers
    Hint: Try the first letter of the alphabet.
    ’nuff said.

  • Crewdog

    Being a prepper and a Ham I can see the point you are trying to make. I am working with the other like minded people in my rural area to build a weekly net and then go simplex afterwards and see if our little handheld rigs can walk the walk (or would it be “talk the Talk” lol) should the need arise. Preppers by nature would make great local emergency managers, they educate themselves and have contingincy plans already made and are selfless by design. Really though, most that weren’t half interested in HAM before realizing that they had a comm gap in their preps didn’t get any closer to ham-dom than the original half that were curious to begin with. Although you say several times you aren’t coming down on peppers the article looking from the outside in it kinda comes across as more elite radio heads worried that if the SHTF actually that the air waves would be flooded with untrained, unlicensed hick’s stepping on the toes of the rightful heirs of RF. 73′s Crew

    “Sellin Hopes like Sellin Soap, let me tell you why…you cant sell either with out a bit of Lie/Lye”

    • NT1K

      looking from outside in it kinda comes across as more elite radio heads worried that if the SHTF actually that the air waves would be flooded with untrained, unlicensed hick’s stepping on the toes of the rightful heirs of RF

      I can see how you can come to that conclusion but that is not what I was trying to say. In a true SHTF scenario, I’m not worried about who is on the airwaves and weather or not they are licensed (I would prefer them to be licensed). I would be more worried about my family than who is on the radio. The only radio concern I would have is those interfering with public safety.

      On of the points I’m trying to get across is that ham radio in the US is seeing an increase of issued licenses and that’s great but, I feel that a good percentage of these new licenses are for “Just In Case” purposes. They might get on the air once or twice and then the radio will go into storage. For me, it’s rare seeing new hams staying active in the hobby.

      The other point I was trying to make is that there should be better representation of amateur radio when it comes to preppers. I often see prepper websites, blogs and youtube videos that promote amateur radio from prepper standpoint where there is a lot of bad or misleading information being sent. I feel there is way more that amateur radio has to offer than a “Just In Case” tool. I’m suggesting that when preppers are promoting amateur radio that they consult or even interview an “elite radio head” that is also a prepper or understands. Hopefully they will show what could be done with amateur radio when you stay active.

      Just running out there cramming for an exam and getting your tech license and a cheap $30 Chinese HT is not a solution to bridge your communications gap. In a true SHTF event, repeaters will fail and it will severely limit what your stock HT can do. Learning more about ham radio would possibly allow you to make a decent external antenna from scrap to attach to that HT (or have one ready). You could also upgrade and learn about what HF has to offer. You can learn about CW and/or QRP (low power) so that you can conserve power while keeping tabs on what’s going on around the world. There is so many amazing things you can do with amateur radio that it’s sad to see it not be used.

      Thanks for reading!

  • David Colburn

    The “Prepper” movement is responding to twin vacuums of trust in government (well-earned, sadly) and effective decentralized & redundant disaster response networks.

    Joining an organized & equipped group like the Salvation Army or Baptist Disaster Relief is good training & serves fellow citizens independent of government but generally heavily bureaucratized.

    Hams used to mentor other Hams but the Internet has fragmented community in some ways – we have Ham friends across the world but not next door. Throw-away tech has sapped interest in learning & repair.

    Contesting gets more attention than ARES, partly due to lack of creativity to encourage ARES participation.

    CB has become a major gateway to Ham radio but carries a scofflaw cultural attitude & carelessness about signal quality & operating etiquette – which can create deadly on-air problems during emergencies.

    2m & 440 are, fortunately, range-limited but HF can get really ugly.

    More ARES groups need inexpensive quick-deploy portable repeaters with push-up or military-type quick-assembly masts for when repeaters go down.

    “Preppers” need to be welcomed to ARES exercises without tons of bureaucracy, using creative & realistic scenarios, and including pre-exercise & post-exercise assistance & discussion.

    This is a valuable discussion … 73, KD4E

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