Should you get a Ham Radio License or Hide from the Government?

Ham Radio is the often the only available communication after a disaster.

I remember cruising around some of the blogs I frequent last year I believe and ran into one YouTube channel from a guy who said he refused to get his HAM license for anything. I can’t swear by it, but I think I remember who he was, but that isn’t important. In this video he proceeded to show how you could look up any Ham radio license holders address from several different websites. He did this in response to someone who left very incendiary comments on his blog if memory serves and used this as a lesson in both OPSEC and how it’s bad for the government to have your name on any lists.

In another video this same guy went on to explain and demonstrate his own personal Ham Radio setup complete with a really nice antenna that was suspended from trees and hidden from view with additional comments about how he would not get his Ham license because he didn’t need to be on any government lists and if TSHTF, the first place they would go would be the Ham operators and take them offline.

This got me to thinking a while back and I really debated whether or not I should be like this guy and be a conscientious objector to the whole notion of licensing and just be a rebel with my antenna hanging in a tree. After a lot of thought and some research I decided to pull the trigger and get my Ham license and I want to explain why and discuss why you might want to do the same.

Isn’t Ham something yummy and delicious?

As context, let me explain what Ham is to those of you who aren’t familiar with the term. Ham Radio is also known as Amateur Radio and is a network of radio communications that rely on antennas and individual pieces of equipment to communicate using radio waves. Ham Radio has many strengths but chief among them for Preppers is its ability to be counted on in a disaster. Ham radio is perfect for grid down communications.

Ham Radio operators can still communicate if there is no electric power, satellites or cellular service. That is the primary reason they are the go-to method of communication for preppers as well as emergency response teams in virtually every large city. With the right equipment, Ham operators can talk to people in other countries using technology that was around in the early 1900s. If some disaster knocks out the cell phone service, emergency communications can be routed through Amateur Radio and you can keep in touch with others in your family, group, region or state pretty easily.

Ham radio is a valuable Prepper skill.
Ham radio is a valuable Prepper skill.

Ham or Amateur radios fall under the control of the FCC and there is a licensing process associated with being able to communicate on the radio. In order to speak on the air legally, you must first obtain your Technician level license and a call sign from the FCC. Your name and information will be listed in at least one public database and this information is freely accessible to anyone who wants to look.

Reasons Why You shouldn’t get a license

Like my friend above, I had some initial concerns regarding licensing because like any good Prepper, I am concerned with OPSEC. Even if I wasn’t into prepping, I wouldn’t want my name and address posted anywhere that someone could easily access it and part of communicating on Ham Radio is that you are required to give your call sign. Anyone you are talking to, or anyone simply listening in can look up your call sign and see where you are from. After learning all of this I started to weigh my options with Ham radio.

Like I mentioned above, Ham radio is probably the single best – disaster proof communication method the average person can use. As I began prepping my own family, the topic of communications came up several times. How would I communicate with my family in an emergency? How would we get news from others if for some reason there was a media blackout? The ubiquitous walkie-talkies that everyone has are effective at limited ranges, but what about longer distances? Ham Radio addressed both of those concerns nicely.

The only problem was that darned license.

At this point I could do one of two things. I could either get my license and put my name and address out there for everyone to see or I could simply buy the radio equipment and use it illegally. The thought process for some people is that if TSHTF, nobody is going to care if you have a license so the latter option is one I considered just like the YouTube guy above.

How hard can it be?

Ham radio works when other traditional communication methods are offline.

It turns out that two things influenced my decision on whether or not to be a law abiding citizen. The first and most obvious was my address out there on the interwebs. To get around that, I simply purchased a PO Box in a nearby town and used that for my FCC information. This is perfectly legal and still protects my address somewhat. Could someone look up my name, and then cross reference me in the phone book? I guess so, but who are we talking about here? If you have a psychopath running around trying to find you, chances are there are much easier ways of getting to your house. If this is in a post-collapse scenario, I have bigger problems.

Now, does that mean I should let my guard down and talk about anything on the radio? Not at all. The airwaves are public and anyone can listen in. For that reason alone, you should take great care in choosing what you talk about or divulge when you are talking on the Ham bands.

The second and more important factor that influenced my decision was the learning curve that is associated with Ham Radio. Getting started is pretty simple and once I had a radio, I was listening in on channels fairly quickly, but there is so much you can do that is outside of dialing through some frequencies. To fully take advantage of Ham Radio, I would need to practice and you can’t do that illegally, well without risk that is. Technically you can get on the radio and start talking without a call sign or you could lie, but just because radio waves are invisible, that doesn’t mean you can’t be found. Hams make a game out of finding antennas and it’s called a fox hunt. If you are talking on the radio and

shouldn’t be, someone can report you, they will find you and the fines from the FCC are steep.

Baofeng makes a great, affordable radio for preppers.
Baofeng makes a great, affordable radio for preppers.

On the Radio – Almost

So with all that said, I went and took the exam for my Technician level license and passed. Now, as soon as the Government opens back up, and the backlog clears I will have a call sign and my name will start appearing in those databases. I am looking forward to finally being able to talk on the radio, but more importantly learning about the different frequencies and antennas I can use to communicate to others should our normal method of communications go down. I think of this as a decent trade-off for being able to communicate legally over the radio and besides, it isn’t like my name isn’t in several databases already. I am in the database for prior military service, the firearm database, IRS database etc. etc. If they want to find me they already know where I am and just because I have a radio now, that won’t be much more motivation to come get me I don’t believe. We’ll see.

I will add some Ham links to the site on our Resources page and will post from time to time on this subject as I learn more. I think if you are seriously considering how you could communicate in a grid-down environment, HAM radio deserves a close look.



  1. Having a ham radio set up and operating might prove to have barter value. And if the government decides to shut ham radio down they won’t come knocking on our doors they’ll simply jam the frequencies. I have my license, I keep it current, and I have alternate sources of power should the need arise. My biggest concern is that if you start transmitting in a post-SHTF situation, you will be in effect advertising your location. Not because of some database or list but as you pointed out, it’s easy to home in on a radio signal.

    • I hear you Sparky and have pretty much the same attitude. I haven’t really thought about Ham as barter though, but that does make perfect sense. You wouldn’t probably be talking about your base station, but the new HT’s are affordable enough to stock up on and a couple of those would be worth some serious “money” if the SHTF.

      Thanks for the comments!


      • Thanks for stopping by Douglas!

        You need a license if you are going to be broadcasting on the amateur frequencies. The regular FMS Radios you can get from Motorola in the stores do not require a license.

        If you are going to broadcast on a Baofeng, you will need a license. Unless I am mistaken, the two most common models only have UHF and VHF bands and those are covered under the FCC guidelines for the amateur service. You can listen in on those radios all you want, but if you want to talk on them, you need to legally have a license.


        • You will not need a license for FRS or MURS frequencies. FRS is UHF and MURS is VHF. GMRS is also UHF, a license is needed but few apply.

          • I happen to own a baofeng, great radio that I use on ham frequencies. The problem is the lowest power level setting on them is 1 Watt. FRS is limited to 1/2 watt. In addition, the radio has a removable antenna, which is also banned for FRS and I believe MURS. There is the GMRS, which has a much higher power limit, but this requires a special GMRS license, which costs like 90 bucks, as a licensed ham, even i’m not allowed to use the GMRS frequencies without paying the 90 bucks (which is crazy I know, they should do away with the crazy fee). As for MURS, like the above radios, Baofeng isn’t certified to use on the above frequencies. The reason they are okay for ham is because, hams are able to use any radio (even a home built one) on ham frequencies, but these frequencies only (except for live saving emergencies, which anybody can use any channel if needed.). I’m not saying don’t do it, in a SHTF scenario, it may not matter, I’m just saying that these are the rules.

          • You can’t use most of these radios legally on those bands, because while Baofeng radios, while they may claim to be are not FCC Type accepted for those services (Frequencies). Licensed ham radio operator are exempt from requiring any type acceptance, when operating within the ham frequencies to which they hold licensed privileges. The author here is mistake about another key point. It is not just FCC law, but ITU Laws, (International Telecommunications Union, the international agency that, by international treaties. regulate radio access world wide) which applies, and to which illegally using radio frequencies out of compliance applies. The ITU requires both nation and individuals to comply with their plans and it is under the ITU which nations license their hams. So, lets look at the worst SHTF situation, and another nation invades. Under the laws of any ITU member nation, you’d be just as guilty of a crime as under this government for transmitting within the ham bands without a license. That, under some oppressive government would result a lot worse situation than not talking to Aunt Clara for a while.

        • When the SHTF I don’t think anyone will be doing their OO jobs nor will the FCC be looking for illegal operators.It’s also illegal to broadcast on Ham Radio.Transmitting is permitted but broadcasting is prohibited even with a Ham Radio license just FYI.Douglas if I were you I’d buy some EXTRA high capacity batteries for the Baofeng HT’s & keep them charged.If you want my privacy use the encode & decode tones & you will find that most of the average users do NOT use them or even know how to use them.It’s best to get the programming cable for the HT & use the CHIRP program to program them.The CHIRP program is FREE by the way.I would at least study the for the TECHNICIAN License just so you get some knowledge & it’s VERY simple & 6 year old kids pass it all of the time.

            • That is for sure.ICOM 756 PROII,746 PRO,7000,2820H,91AD, O2AT,& a PW-1,along with a couple of Baofeng HT’s & a TYT 220 mhz mobile & a pair of FRS/GMRS HT’s.

          • Just putting this out there since some people won’t know. The encode/decode tones on the radio are not encryption. They simply allow you to talk without to another person without hearing someone else on the channel. Anyone that wants to can still hear your conversation so don’t convince yourself it’s private.

      • I would think operating for the shortest amount of time at a mobile location via spread spectrum would be optimal. Afterward, pull out and observe the location to see if who, if anyone, arrives.

  2. As Sparky says it will fairly easy to locate any rogue transmissions and jam as they please. The FCC routinely runs locator vans around the countyside looking for illegal traffic and the fines can be stiff, just ask some of the businesses that get caught without licenses. In my area the NRAO also runs searches for spurious signals. An example that comes to mind was a lady who placed a heating pad in her dog’s house to keep it warm during a cold snap and they detected some interference to one of their dishes from it. It wasn’t a legal issue so they just bought her a different one to use. If they can locate something as common as this you will have little chance to get away with RF transmissions. By the way, I’m a prepper and just went ahead and got a license a couple of years ago anyway. You’re in some data or video stream no matter what.

      • Thanks for the comments.

        I agree with you that if we have a complete collapse, a license will be the least of your worries. I got mine now to practice though so that if anything does happen I’ll already know how to use my equipment and will have made contacts I know and trust.


      • That may be true, but there is something else a license gives you…experience. If SHTF, you will not have any experience on the radio, not know which radio frequencies to monitor/use, you will not have any radio contacts, among many other things you gain not from the license, but from the experience of using the license. Having a license, you learn where repeaters are in your area, how far you can transmit, you gain friends in the radio community who can help you out in an emergency, you learn the best times of days to broadcast, etc. This is stuff you just can’t learn by surfing the net, you need experience because, if SHTF, you won’t have internet to teach you this stuff. Nothing beats cold hard experience. This is why I got my license. Also keep in mind, about the only people who even know about the FCC database, are ham operators, most of which, appear to be pretty good people.

        • True about the experience, but I’m not sure if the “contacts” you get with hams that will turn you in for minor infractions such as not having a license… What do you think they’ll do if SHTF and they think they can save their own asses from an invader by dropping a few names of others that they know… Once a tattler always a tattler…

    • I love pathetic immature childish HAM shills, the FCC does not and doesn’t care, no one finds anymore because no one cares because they know the FCC will do nothing, just look at most repeaters out there all over america. Get the fuck over yourself.

  3. As someone who is just beginning the process of looking into Ham Radio (I will be going the licensed route for this discussion), I was wondering about your comment about the power being down. How do Ham’s operate with no electrical power? Battery or solar?

    • Ideally both!

      If you are running relatively low power there are lots of options. For handheld radios, you usually have battery packs. I have spare batteries for two handhelds that can last a pretty long time. Two are in the charger while two are in use.

      Once those go out a battery back up system is what I am going to build. Just a regular 12 volt battery will recharge my hand held batteries several times. Optimally, I will have two 100w solar panels hooked to an inverter to run double duty charging my battery during the day or if my radios are charged, running small appliances (lights, recharging AA and AAA batteries, laptops) etc. Until that time, I will hook the invert to the car to recharge the battery.

      For a base station that has its own power supply, the battery backup will work too, but could draw more power at higher wattage. It isn’t free, but you definitely have grid-down power options for communications.

      I am still trying to build my system so I hope to write about the process and what I learn as I go.


        • Tom,

          I didn’t word that correctly. You don’t need an inverter to charge the batteries. You need an inverter to convert the DC in the batteries to AC for the radio battery charger.

          I should have said; solar panels hooked to batteries, with an inverter. Actually, my whole reply sounds a little off in places…. Sorry for the confusion.


          • i am a licensed 20 yrs now ham and starting pepper if you own property the gov can find you most re is on computer database
            the advantage to licensing you will join a community that you will find a lot of similar people and they will help you learn to set the equipment and to use it correctly hook to the wrong type antenna and there goes your expensive equipment very quickly and no legal call sign we will not talk to you except in narrow emergency situations with a call we will answer your call questions and help if we can so for the small concession of a gov license you stand to get a lot of benefit and you have a better chance that you are talking to a reliable person vs a illegal person who might just want to get your supplies ,
            and for the charging batteries you might look into a dc to dc converter
            i am going to build one with a regulator my panel 7 watt puts out 23-24 volts i want to step it to 19 to charge my net book so i have all my manual downloads so much better than several thousands of sheets of paper

            • I UNDERSTAND and RESPECT the points and means of being “LEGAL”. The PROBLEM is that the BIGGEST purpose for having such tech is for EMERGENCY purposes! There are plenty of tech and means for CASUAL talk…that are A LOT more PRIVATE than using RADIO FREQUENCIES to transmit and converse. So having a LICENSE to OPERATE during an EMERGENCY is MUTE! Actually, it is PERFECTLY “LEGAL” to transmit through these radio frequencies if there is an EMERGENCY. As for the argument of being able to LEARN the, “How-to’s, What-is, When and Whys”…there is that greater “TECH” that is available that provides just as much, if not more, invaluable INFORMATION that makes, making a “Friend” on the air waves OBSOLETE (no disrespect intended). I am not advocating misuse or vigilant rebellion…but I am addressing a mind-set that is limited. If “SECRECY” is one of the KEY ELEMENTS in SURVIVAL…why is there such an ABONISHMENT and lack of SUPPORT for those that wish to EXERCISE that RIGHT?!? At the end of the day, if you were taught or learned how to operate a vehicle, during an EMERGENCY situation would not having a LICENSE take away your ABILITY to drive? NO! The “LICENSE” is NOT the KNOWLEDGE…say what you want…to me, The License is THE LIMIT! Peace and blessings. – DaRealist

              • the reason HAMs won’t talk to people on the radio without a license is the FCC considers that encouraging unlicensed behavior and the HAM can lose their license. It’s a 35 question $15 test that is good for 10 years. The only legitimate reason for not getting licensed is concern for privacy. You are operating in PUBLIC airwaves when you are licensed. Just like when you drive your car on PUBLIC roads you need a license. These objections are silly.

              • Where you going to learn this tech when the internet is down and local library is being looted? There will be no Youtube videos. Part of being a prepper is being prepared, hard to be prepared if there is nothing available to prepare with…especially at a time when you need it most. You’ll have to learn the stuff from wherever, and you may only have minutes to do it in. If you are relying on the “emergency” loophole, it better be one heck of an emergency. Much easier to get the license, it only costs a little spare time to study. It’s not as easy as just hopping on the radio and hoping that someone hears you. Experience is needed, and a license gives you this experience. You’re free to do whatever though, none of my business, just saying.

              • For your typical “push the button and talk” operation, no, you don’t need training and experience. But those cheap little walkie talkies will only do you so much good. They’re low power, line of sight only. In a true major SHTF situation, the repeaters they rely on for any real distance will be inoperable pretty quickly (through loss of power, lack of maintenance, commandeered by the gov, theft, etc). The HF bands enable worldwide comm (or close to it) without relying on anything but the operator, his equipment and his skills, but there’s a lot more to running those systems — different antenna types, antenna tuning, different modes (sideband, digital, etc). The only way to be sure you understand and are able to use that equipment is to be licensed and use it on at least a semi-regular basis. Hardcore preppers are always talking about using and knowing your equipment ahead of time — why should this equipment be any different? It’s like having a map and compass in your BOB, but never even trying to use it before you need it.

                Keeping your name off a ham radio license list for opsec is sorta pointless in my opinion. Radio signal origins are easily located, so if a motivated “bad guy” or the gov wants to find you, they will. Just ask anyone who has broken the amateur radio rules. Plus, like he said above, use a PO Box or similar. Nobody will be looking up your location on the internet during a major SHTF anyways, because it will be down completely, blocked by the gov, etc. I’d say in all likelihood, even if the internet is stable, the gov will shut down all their non-critical servers/websites to reduce traffic and overhead on their side. I sorta doubt the ham radio license database will be considered operation critical. Even if the gov were to start going through all their data to see who they want to go after to get equipment or whatever, I think it’s safe to say they’ll start with LEO records of militia groups and similar, then ATF records of who has lots of class 3 firearms registered to them, and so on. They will NOT assume every licensed ham has a bunker full for food, guns and antibiotics, then hunt them down. In my experience, most hams are old, pudgy white guys whose preps amount to some extra cheetos and tomato soup in the pantry. 🙂 I assure you the gov is NOT worried about them. Disclaimer: I’m middle-aged, white, a tad pudgy, and prep, but not to the level I should or want to. 🙂

                Plus, if you’re worried about opsec so much, you need to immediately quit using the internet on any computer or phone you own or have regular access to. If you don’t think everything you post and read isn’t easily traceable, you’re sorely misinformed. I work in IT and deal with this stuff daily. It isn’t perfect, but I assure you if the gov decided they wanted to know who posted this comment, they’ll be able to find out really easily. The only anonymous internet usage is via public computers without any video surveillance near them (good luck finding that), or by the most elite of the elite users.

                I understand your belief that the license is a limit, and that’s true during non-SHTF, but during emergencies, ANYONE, ham or not, can operate on any ham band, at any power with any mode. So during an emergency there are no limits. Limits are necessary during non-SHTF to maintain some order and usefulness on the ham bands. Anyone who has ever used a CB in the last 30 years knows what a hot, useless mess it is. That will only be worse during SHTF. I know the wild-west of it can be a bit fun, but the government actually WANTS lots of hams for emergency comms, so they want the ham bands to stay orderly so plenty of people want to use them and be involved. If they were run like CB, participation and licensing would plummet.

                If nothing else, realize you are far more likely to endure localized natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, ice storms and blizzards than any SHTF scenario. And if you’re a licensed ham you will have the skills and equipment to help your friends, neighbors and community. I remember a massive ice storm in Kentucky some years back that took out the vast majority of power in one area (Lexington I think?). The hams provided comm for the power companies, relief orgs and some gov agencies for at least a week or two. There are always scenarios that will require you look out for you and yours first (and maybe only), but the scenarios where we’ll have to come together are far more numerous and likely.

                Hope you took no offense to any of this, just my opinion and point of view from where I stand. Good luck, prep well and stay safe.

      • For a jump bag my choice was the Yaesu FT-817ND. It is all Band/all Mode and runs off of a batter pack or DC power and is not much bigger than my flask. The only down side is it transmits at 5W max, but if TSHTF, then you can still make distant contacts.

    • ANY WAY WE CAN! Extra batteries for the HT’s & extra deep cycle batteries & plenty of gas for the generator as well so everything stays charged.All radios will also run on 12 volts so car & deep cycle batteries work great & at reduced output power they last quiet a while on a single charge!

  4. Good Info! I was wondering about the legality of using a PO box. My address is already in the FCC database, but I think I am going to change it to a PO box. I want to put my call sign on my Jeep license plate, but I don’t want someone to be able to look up my QTH on their iPhone and follow me home…

    • If you’re using this level of PerSec, isn’t your car registered under the name of the trust that owns it? Put your call on some vinyl letters on your rear glass, if you must.

  5. In Europe many preppers are starting to use PMR 446 band radios imported from China to set up a Non Ham comms system for preppers, its looking also very likely we will soon have access to 12 watt SSB CB frequencies unlicenced like the rest of Europe. These 2 m 70cm 5 watt hand sets from the likes of Baofeng and THT have been a boon for us over the other side of the pond, especially as those same sets also have the PMR 446 bands installed as standard.

    • Thanks for the comments Norther Raider!

      Yes, I love the Baofeng units. They are a pain to program manually, but with Chirp its a breeze and I just copy the configuration to all my units in a second. I already have three and plan on getting 2 or 3 more the next time I get some milk money saved up. Hard to beat at $34 each.


  6. I find the scenarios of the government looking up addresses of Ham Radio operators so as to confiscate their equipment pretty far fetched among the probabilities, but everybody has their own imaginings.

    There is another thing to consider – a radio isn’t much use unless there’s somebody to talk with. Ham radio is not just a technology, it’s a community. If you are part of the community (licenced), you have a worldwide network, you talk the lingo, you know how things work socially. If it’s important to relay a message, that could matter. The whole point of having the radio is communication; if people ignore your messages, you have wasted your time building a station.

    In many scenarios, the local government is not an enemy. If you are providing a valuable service to the community, rather than just being another anonymous mouth to feed, they’ll take care of you first. Constructive cooperation can be a healthy survival strategy in some scenarios.

    • Thanks for the comments Zeph!

      Yes, the far flung scenarios are like a lot of things. Most of us hopefully will never have to worry about the 1% chance that our most ominous thoughts present, but you never know. I agree with you about the community aspect of it though. I am on a couple of nets pretty regularly and have a couple guys I talk with on the side. I imagine that will open up once I get a quad band and can actually work HF.


  7. When the S-it hits the fan there will be no phone service or internet service either. Jamming all of the Ham Radio Bands would not be very likely on VHF/UHF/& HF bands since those bands are also used for communications for the Government as well & they will be communicating.I have several backup power sources to run my Ham Radio gear & other needed emergency items as well for several weeks as well as lots of guns & ammo for defense of my property & family.All of my radios run off of 12 volts so battery power is a good choice & I have rigs & antennas for HF,6 & 2 meters,440 mhz,220 mhz & 900 mhz as well as MRS,FRS & GMRS frequencies & CB as well as do several other local hams in base,mobile & portable gear.We have designated simplex frequencies set up so we can stay in contact when the local repeaters go down on VHF & UHF.Can’t be ready enough because the fall is coming we just don’t know when! Just be like the Boy Scouts & “BE PREPARED” ! {:>)

  8. I already have a list of HAMs and their addresses local to my area. A simple google search of their call sign points me to most of the websites and forums to which they have accounts. They like to attach their call sign to their signatures or at one time did.

    Why would I have this information at my disposal? Easy! When SHTF, I know exactly who posted on prepping forums and sites. Most HAMs I have ran into have an air-of-superiority-know-it-all-move-over-noob attitude that is a major turn off. They also seem to forget that their personal information is freely available for any one to look-up and have no concept of OPSEC. Lets face it, amateur radio is an expensive hobby, so I know that, based on your posts, you have plenty of money to pump into bug out supplies. I know what weapons you claim to have and will easily over run your crew. I’ll also jam your signals when I come to take your food.

    • You are right on a couple of points Fox Hunt. It’s true that information is out there freely available and its easy to look someone up by their call sign. I also have to agree that there are some Hams that seem a little above it all, but you get that same attitude from anyone. Being arrogant and an ass is not an attribute that is owned solely by Ham radio operators. I can’t understand why anyone would talk about what they have and attach something so easily investigated as their call sign to that post, but I do know you are right and people do it every day. I am pretty sure these are the minority.

      Now, for your plan to raid all of these Ham operators who have talked about their guns and supplies on forums… You might be in for a surprise. Just because you know someone who has guns doesn’t mean that that fact in itself gives you a huge advantage. Lets assume this arrogant Ham radio guy is just sitting around his Ham shack after the world has gone to hell chatting with his buddies. That doesn’t mean they won’t be waiting for people like you. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t been preparing other things you don’t know about and it really doesn’t mean that you, with the knowledge of where they live alone, will easily do anything. I think people like you will be in for a surprise if it all goes South. I think that the people who buy a lot of guns and think that makes them bulletproof will be in for a surprise too.

      If we really do go through something so bad that you would feel perfectly legitimate in running around robbing people who pissed you off, there will be a lot of other people dying right there with you I think.


    • Yeah, there’s some arrogant ones out there, but like most a-holes, they’re the ones you notice most, they’re not the majority. Also, most hams (sadly) aren’t prepped for much more than the 2 day snowstorm. I post all over, but I do not reveal my callsign or any other identifiable info that a civilian can use to find me. Plus, even if you do, I won’t be here when the SHTF unless it’s impossible to move. So you’ll find an empty house. And if I can’t leave, it’s only because things are so bad that you won’t be able to come looking for me. 🙂 My bug out location has zero records related to me attached to it, so no search you could do would ever lead you to me. And I agree with Pat. I think if part of your plan is robbery, you’ll be in for some bad surprises before you expect to be. Seems like plenty of folks who plan to go that route automatically assume “regular folks” who aren’t preppers will be easy targets. People like my father and father-in-law, who, although both are in their 70’s and don’t prep, are former military and police and are still extremely fit. They look harmless, and they aren’t on the web or building a bunker. But God help the person who thinks either house is an easy target if some situation comes up. Yeah, your group might over run them pretty quickly, but I assure you a number of your group will pay the ultimate price and will end up with no more than a week’s worth of groceries for their trouble. Remember, you’ll be on their turf, trying to enter a structure whose layout you don’t know, facing someone whose skills you don’t know. I’d rather prep better and not count on being an a-hole when the time comes. You aren’t helping your family if someone blows your brains out while you try to steal their generator. The bodies of the arrogant will stack up quicker than the truly prepared.

  9. Does anyone have a suggestion as to which Radio would be a good starter? I’m wanting to add one to the house, but am not sure which one would be a good reliable, relatively inexpensive radio. Any help would be great and appreciated.

    • I have a handheld unit that covers UHF and VHF bands called the Baofeng UV-5RA which you can pick up on Amazon for about $35. This is great for a starter radio, but you don’t have the full spectrum. I bought this to try out HAM and then took my test. Its an easy way to get your feet wet without spending a ton of money.

      You will want to add a good antenna to this unit though, because the stock units are miserable. I would go to a local radio shop or you can view this post we wrote with the specifics.


  10. Amateur radio proficiency takes some experience/practise. Un-licensed operators (when TSHTF) will most likely lack the expected expertise & proficiency, and will be very obvious to others. Most licensed HAMs will not comm with an unlicensed person. The lookup database has been downloaded a million times and sits on local PC hard disks for immediate access in HAM shacks everywhere, so if the FCC site is down, it doesn’t matter……. So for those thinking the un-licensed m.o. is the way to go, think again, because when TSHTF you want to plug into that HAM community, & not get ignored……..

    Doug, K5DHL

  11. As a licensed radio operator, let me leave you all with two thoughts to chew on. First, your address can be concealed by simply using a PO box. That way, nobody will know your exact address. However, that leads me to my second point. Your radio transmissions can be tracked extremely accurately by anyone with the necessary, and relatively affordable equipment.

  12. Pat, would there be a way I could get you the info on the handheld ham I am considering? I would like to add one to my preps but have no idea what I am doing. I would probably never use it except in an extreme emergency, I have no idea if a license is required?? Can you help a prepper out???

      • This is the one I have been looking at on Amazon
        BaoFeng UV-5R+ Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz FM Ham Two-Way Radio (Black)
        Let me know what you think, thanks for your time.

        • This is the same model I have and they are great radios for the money. You will need to invest in better antennas though if you want to get any range or at least I needed to. If you are sitting on a mountain it will be different.
          How much effort are you looking to spend on this? To have a good HAM set up, you will need the antenna, some adapters, coax cable, programming software and practice.

          For transmitting you would legally need to have a license. Would the extreme emergency negate this? Maybe, but I recommend the license so you really know what you are doing. Going to your local HAM club will help too.


        • You can find your closest Ham radio club by going to ARRL.ORG and clicking on the “club” menu. Most local hams will be happy to help and advise you. Many will have the capability of programming your new radio, as well as knowing what frequencies to load in to it. Some may even have equipment that they will let you try, under their supervision, unitl you get your license.
          A reminder to those who figure to invoke the “ANY FREQUENCY CAN BE — USED IN AN EMERGENCY….” & “I DON’T NEED A LICENSE”. Most amateur operators won’t respond to a non-licensed transmission. Most maintain a database on their tablet, PDA, or computer. So don’t figure that you can make up a call-sign and get away with it. If you have the radio, but nobody will talk to you or listen to you, have you done yourself any good?

          • All valid points. In addition, if you’re a prepper and don’t understand how to program the various input/output frequencies, encode/decode CTCSS or DCS options, or even offsets for the repeaters, best of luck actually using your new radio toy when the skittles hits the fan.

            To me, that’s like purchasing a new Rubicon (having never driven anything) and expecting it to go where you need it to when you need it to! Gas? Oil? Battery charge? Tire pressure? Why didn’t somebody tell me I need to know all of this stuff first?

            Well, we’re telling you now. Ham rigs (and the various Chinese rigs for sale all over the internet) are far more complicated to program than your pre-programmed CB or FRS radios.

            One last thing, many ham repeaters have folks that monitor their “baby” alot, so if you start chatting away with your “SHTF team” and aren’t licensed, they can remotely shut down that repeater, and in some cases, re-program the CTCSS or DCS tones needed for access, and suddenly your great internet deal is now a paperweight. Hams are back up and talking while all you can do is listen, not exactly the best “plan” – IMHO.

            Get the Tech Class license, a five year old kid in Colorado just passed his exam a few months ago.

  13. I have a HAM license. I knew that risk though that he speaked of and is why i used my ups store box address and further have hidden some radios so I can’t be taken offlinem i also have old guitar amps and such I can scrap into radio transmitters. I dont think the government would shut you down though. They usually just have the hams assist.

    Plus its not fun not having a callsign cuz even if you get your friends to do it too its still not fun not being able to through a callsign on the repeater and talk to all the busy traffic on there.

  14. Get the license, otherwise even if/when SHTF you will be a novice operator at best. Baofeng’s are fine for close range or repeater use, but break out with a few hundred bucks and buy a HF radio. As far as QTH in a database, yeah big deal, you see me out driving, get my call sign off my plate, look me up, go to my house, find my dogs and my cameras watching you, along with my wife holding a shot gun. You’d be better off picking any random house to rob. And if you are worried about the gov knowing everything about you, well at least your address and that you have radio skills… that ship sailed long ago.

  15. I took and passed my Technician test yesterday. Studying for my General Class now. I don’t even have a call sign yet, they said it can take up to a week until my call sign appears on the FCC website. And another week after that before my official license arrives in the mail. My main reason for getting a license was so I can legally have a police scanner in my car without fear of losing my equipment or spending up to a year in jail. While its perfectly legal (at least in my state) to have a scanner in my home, the only way to have one in my car is with a ham license.

    The next reason is of course communication. The Technician license is not intended for super long range. But my Uncle has talked as far as Israel on 10 meters and that’s within the realm of Technician licensee’s (although Technician’s are limited to 200 watts on 10 meters). But in a SHTF scenario I don’t think my power output will be of great concern to anyone except me.

    If it gets to the point where I fear being tracked by the government then I’ll probably be mobile anyway, and transmitting on very low power, and observing radio silence as much as possible, thus making me pretty hard to find. Frankly I’d be more concerned about others out there who might be interested in tracking me down for my supplies.

    Thing is, if you don’t practice using a Ham radio now, you won’t know how to use it in a shtf situation. And when that time comes, you will NEED the knowledge learned by studying for a ham license. So that’s another reason for getting a license. And the stuff I’ve learned translates to all things electronic, not just radio. I now know more about electricity, solar power systems, repairing electric appliances, troubleshooting antenna problems, etc. So yes, it is worth it.

  16. I suggest getting a license. Here’s some reasons why. With a license you can legally operate and get valuable experience and advice from very experienced ham radio operators. If you don’t have a license and don’t get the hands-on experience you won’t know what you are doing when you really really need the knowledge. Just a thought…

    • The government doesn’t own the radio waves any more than it owns the oxygen or the trees. What are you paying them for exactly?

      • The government doesn’t own the ground, but you pay them property taxes. They don’t own the rain, but you pay for water…

        You are paying for the privilege of talking on those radio waves without getting arrested. Should that be something we have to pay for, probably not but I think it does keep Ham from becoming another CB where anyone and everyone can talk and say anything they want with impunity. There are a lot of places to get righteous, but there are bigger fights than this I think.

        My two cents.

  17. I was just thinking that if you paid someone to let you use their license and radio to practice on then you could use your non license one when the shift hits and be safe from prying eyes… Just a thought:)

    • I’m not sure if that would work. Are you saying, pay them for the use of their call-sign? Most hams aren’t going to do that I don’t believe, but you can talk on their radio provided the license holder is right there with you. They are in control and responsible for your transmissions which is perfectly legal. You can learn as much as you can without having to take the exam or purchase any equipment.

      I doubt anyone would even ask you to pay any money for doing that though. That is unless you started eating all their food.


      • Pat,

        Just discovered your site a short while ago and I admit I’m impressed. Finally some common sense information regarding prepping in general, guns and communications specifically.

        For purposes of full disclosure, we sell various types of mobile rf gear
        (including many different models of Chinese and Japanese rigs) and have
        programmed 2,000 plus radios (to date) for various preppers and/or hams.

        I’m actually taking a break from developing a frequency programming template (at this hour) for the Yuma, AZ hamfest next weekend, as many hams have enormous amounts of trouble programming their new radios, so we also offer that as a service.

        Your discussion about AR vs. AK
        reminds me of various arguments about ham gear as well, but you certainly are on the right track with this website.

        One comm option you may want to consider in place of another Baofeng is any one of several TYT made handhelds. While they are also made in China (like Baofeng) and do cost a few bucks more, they have several advantages over every current version of the UV-5R family.

        First, several of them offer 256 memories (vs. 128 in the Baofeng family). Some would argue that 128 memories is “plenty”, but IMHO memories are like horsepower, guns, ammo, food, supplies, etc. – you just can’t have too much. Having extra memory channels also allows more public safety channels to be entered (for scanning if your area hasn’t gone to P.25 digital).

        Second, several models of the TYT handhelds come with a compandered audio circuit (not available at any price with the current Baofeng models). Compandered audio (when turned on) is like having a speech processor on FM. It can be very handy when trying to squeeze out the last 1/2 mile of comms (when running simplex).

        Third, several models within the TYT product line offer an audio inversion circuit as well (think poor man’s encryption) – again not available within current Baofeng products.

        While not currently legal for use within the U.S. ham bands, scrambling circuits can be used on other services. Icom, for example, recently announced two different business band radios to go with their previous Marine band radios with audio inversion, although at price points that place them beyond the range of most preppers.

        TYT radios are all FCC Part 90 accepted (only a handful of Baofeng’s actually made for U.S. market are Part 90, virtually ALL of them sold on E-Bay and Amazon are NOT, including the wildly over-hyped BF-F8HP 8W radio). It’s easy to check, just remove the battery on your radio and look for the FCC label info on the radio inside cover (normally covered by the battery).

        If you don’t see a sticker with the FCC Part 90 info, you’ve got a radio that wasn’t meant for sale within the U.S. market (not that most folks would know the difference).

        BTW, the BF-F8HP radio isn’t a bad choice, it’s just that 90% of the additional range gained by the extra 4W is due to the better standard antenna that it’s shipping with (compared to the standard UV-5R), as going from any radio with 4-5W to one with 8W (antennas, height above ground, etc. all being equal) with gain you .25 (that’s 1/4th) of one S-unit signal increase at the receiving end (again, not a 25% increase in signal but merely going from S-7 to S7.25).

        If you still want the 8W, but want a radio that’s FCC 90 approved (the BF-F8HP is not – at least currently), you might want to check out the Baofeng BF-F9 V2+ (some sellers offer it with the standard crummy antenna as the UV-5R, we offer it with the same improved antenna as shipped with the BF-F8HP).

        You won’t get the compandered audio or the audio inversion circuit (that’s available on several of the TYT units) and again, the vast majority of signal improvement on either Baofeng radio is due to the antenna, not the extra few watts, but you won’t be discovering that after the fact.

        Kudos on a great website. Hopefully ours will be finished soon and will look as polished.

        • Craig,

          Thank you so much for visiting our site and for the compliments and information on the TYT units. I haven’t heard of them, but you bring up some very compelling points which I need to look into.

          Let me know when your site is ready, I’d love to see it.


  18. It is called a PO box … If you do not want your address out there….sorry to say most of you preppers are not so smart…

  19. Hi,

    I’m a ham from Australia and have an interest in pepping. I’m certainly a fan of people becoming licensed hams rather than flying unlicensed and under the radio. The biggest benefit of becoming licensed is networking and learning from other hams who are more than willing to share their incredible knowledge. When the SHTF and your comms becomes reliant on the ham radio equipment you have you’ll want to be the best prepared you can. Using a radio is far more than just picking up a mic and talking.



  20. Hi,

    I’m a ham from Australia and have an interest in pepping. I’m certainly a fan of people becoming licensed hams rather than flying unlicensed and under the radio. The biggest benefit of becoming licensed is networking and learning from other hams who are more than willing to share their incredible knowledge. When the SHTF and your comms becomes reliant on the ham radio equipment you have you’ll want to be the best prepared you can. Using a radio is far more than just picking up a mic and talking.



  21. if I obtained the required FCC license for broadcasting on GMRS frequencies and purchased a Baofeng ham radio could I use this radio? I am guessing that a ham radio would have more power and therefore could transmit a greater distance than a radio that only broadcasts on GMRS frequencies. I know that many radio companies that sell GMRS radios claim “35-50” mile ranges, however unless you are on the ocean you are lucky to 1 miles. Will buying a amateur radio increase my range?

    • Yes you can. The Baofengs can be tuned to GMRS or FMS frequencies but there are other factors to consider. Antennas are probably the largest influencer of range. I would get your Technician license and learn ham frequencies and antenna options for the greatest range. A General license puts you into territory that the Baofeng’s cant operate in. For local/repeater use these radios are awesome.

  22. Reporting someone who is belligerent and abusive is different from callowly reporting a simple rules violation.

    I would think that if everything went south, most operators would do as we’ve done during 9/11, Katrina, and other critical events. Band together and serve the nation. Does your experience with radio operators differ?

  23. I know this be a couple years old but I just ordered a UV-82HP and will be getting it tomorrow. I’m reading some of the material now and will be looking for an exam here in Memphis soon. I do like the P.O. box idea even though there are other ways to find me but one less way, may mean one less person I need to defend(pew pew) my home against…

    • Hope you enjoy that new toy Pierre and I am sure there will be plenty of Hams in Memphis to connect to. The PO Box idea really only addresses the public nature of your FCC license information once you get a call-sign. It is a relatively painless way around making your home address public for those searches. The more important aspect is getting to know that piece of equipment, how antennas work and meeting up with local hams to gain more knowledge.

      Best of luck to you!

  24. This is GREAT NEWS for Hillary supporters!!! Hillary is going to mop the floor with Trump! She is going to tear him limb from limb! Tooth and claw! I mean did you hear Trump last week when he was reading out of his ear piece? What a gut wrenching humility! I was laughing listening to it!

  25. ham operator here, I was considering not getting my license, but then I remembered that the gov already has my name in a list for my search history. and anyway, there are about 40 hams in my small town of about 7k. Are the feds really going to knock down the doors of everyone who is licensed, wether they are still active hams or not? seems like a good way to get people real angsty


  26. I first got licensed in 1965 when a fellow ‘geek’ got me interested in it. Back then the FCC had very strict rules with severe penalties for breaking them. Fast forward to present day and although the FCC does not have the funding to go after violators, the rules ARE still there, so if you became a suspect for doing something illegal, they might just add these FCC violations to the list. (For example, they used tax evasion charges to finally get to Al Capone because they didn’t have much else to go on for his real crimes.)
    Now, as far as trying to use your radios without a license, other hams will be expecting to hear your call letters when you are on the air. Without a call sign you probably will be ignored by licensed operators and may get reported by them.

  27. If you don;t like the liscences and the lists you can always just stick with a CB capable of USB/LSB and keep a Mod/Kicker box handy so you can reach out and touch something if TSHTF. With a little tweaking you can modify your CB to reach into some of the amateur bands, like close to 10-meter spectrum I think.

  28. Forget the cheap Chicom radios, they’ll cr@p the bed just when you need them. Do get your license, that’s not optional snowflake.

    I am a former Infantry Scout in one of the Army’s best Reconnaissance Units, a former NCO, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I seek to share what I’ve learned to help folks build a skill set that may be needed in the near future. Liberty is at a tipping point, inching further and further to the cliff of tyranny each day. Good men cannot stand idly by. When you’re ready to learn more come visit my blog, brushbeater[.]wordpress[.]com NCScout / N4LRS / Matt

  29. this article shouldn’t even have been written or addressed. If your paranoid of getting a ham license or lazy. You have no business being on the airwaves. and you eventually will be caught and the fines are huge. stay a cb no license needed. the licensing is not that hard and u can use a PO Box. The FCC has limited resources so ARRL and the ham operators do the policing. Would you drive your car with out a license?. would you fly knowing the pilot didn’t have a license?

    • Larry,

      This blog is a forum for discussion and you have illustrated exactly why I did write this post. There are a lot of people that are paranoid about having their addresses listed in public databases although Ham is best for grid-down communications so they are asking these very questions.

      The whole point isn’t that they would be talking on the airwaves illegally during normal times but would consider ham as a backup for grid down times when a license isn’t even required. I think I addressed both of your points in the article though and recommend getting a license personally so you can practice now legally and have an advantage in a disaster scenario over those who on top of everything else are trying to make these electronic devices work.

      Thanks for your comments.

        • There are lots of comments about “When the shtf . . .”, but it is much more likely to hit the fan in a non teotwawki situation where being licensed and familiar with Ham technology and practices can keep you alive until to prepare for teotwawki. Consider Katrina, 9/11, etc.

  30. I’m just wanting to buy some handhelds for my sailboat for when we do trips ashore so we can communicate. But I don’t want to accidentally break any FCC regulations or rules about radio channels. How do I know what frequencies are okay to talk on? I saw a Baofeng that looks identical to the picture above for sale on Amazon. Looks great but again how do I know if it is legal?

  31. t’s clear that about half of those commenting here are not licensed. Here’s another reason to be licensed. You can’t just grab a ham radio and start using it like a walkie talkie. It’s more complicated. The best way to learn is from another licensed ham operator or by joining a ham club. No credible ham operator is going to show you jack squat unless you’re licensed. Once you are legal, most hams will be happy to take you under their wing and teach you all you need to know. Best option…get licensed.

  32. Hi Pat, I’ve read your article and all of the comments. I have been throwing the idea of getting a ham radio around and like others I was toying with the idea of not getting a license. I now see why that would not be such a good idea and back when I first started thinking about it I was not registered with FEMA. Now that I am not much more hiding I can do LOL so I am going to get my license and I’m now looking at radios. I went and looked at your recommendation although a few years old, you can still get it for $21.98 But they have a newer one for just a few bucks more at $34.99 and I was hoping I could pick your brain on your thoughts about this one.

    Baofeng Black UV-5R V2+ Plus (USA Warranty) Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz FM Ham Two-way Radio, Improved Stronger Case, Enhanced Features


  33. When it comes to submitting to any licensing scheme I always ask myself, “Would I do it anyway if I was refused a license?” If I answer “Yes” to this question then I refuse to ask for a license to do something that I already have a right to do.

  34. You are correct, a POB or PMB (Private Mail Box at UPS store or similar) will “cloak” your actual residential address. However, unless one has gone to extraordinary lengths and effort, one’s name and address will show up in an internet search anyway. Voter registration, real estate records, etc. So, “hiding” behind a POB or PMB is only of some value.

    And “they” are not going to go after all ham radio operators individually to shut them down. The governmental forces will be too busy with the civil unrest. And if the gov wants to prevent you from using the airways, they’ll use the military’s broad spectrum jamming platforms, so an unlicensed station will be just as ineffective as a licensed station.

    Just my two cents worth.

  35. Congrats for writing a thinly apologetic article for having bowed to the system and the fascistic Ham operator culture. “Oh, someone is talking without a license! (He’s doing nothing wrong but license is license — says the fascist — let’s do a “fox hunt”. Let´s hunt him down and rat him out to the authorities! After all, we have been dutiful boot-lickers of the government authority, and so we get to go after anyone who didn’t lick boot like we did! We are good subjects!”

    This is so sad about ham radio culture. Really, really sad. It is why I don’t even care much to talk and “practice”. Whatever, I build a good antenna, I call my friend on the other side of the world by phone or email, we pick the right frequency and we make contact for a few seconds to see if we can transmit, then wrap it up.

    I have no need to waste my time talking to fascists who would “hunt” me down like a “fox” for my audacity not to ask the government for permission. Thank you very much.

    As for your article, you really have provided ZERO justification for folding to this culture. In fact, I can already see you hone your skills in participating in fox hunts. Just because you can. Feeling important, with a government badge, and going after your fellow man for refusing to be a subject like you, that’s the Ham Radio culture you just allowed to take the better of you.

  36. If you want to talk over long distances, say to relatives on the far coast, you’ll need to upgrade to a General or Extra license to have access to the HF bands.

    As far as a government backlog, I received my softcopy General license by email within a week of taking the test. (And a NICS check last week took only five minutes).

  37. Just out of curiosity isn’t it true that if TSHTF, I’m assuming that means that the government is taken over By someone and/or otherwise gone. So if there’s no government anymore doesn’t that mean there isn’t an FCC anymore, ergo any license wouldn’t be in effect anymore anyway?
    I’m new to all this and I’m getting ready to take the test, but I was just trying to follow the logic here in your blog piece….

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