Is it time we determine ham communications criteria? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I'd like to get started with alternate communications utilizing a ham radio. I don't know which model to buy, what frequency to monitor, or what a good price would be.

Maybe it's time we start thinking about alternate forms of communications so that in the event the net crashes, we have a place to rondevous.

Any hams out there, please give us some insight as to what to buy, freqs to monitor, and times.


-- Loco (, February 25, 1999


G'day Loco

It's a bit late to start studying for your ham licence but don't forget CB radio. Reception is excellent at the moment and will be for the next year or so while the sun is going crazy.

From here in North Australia I can talk to the USA (mostly West coast) most mornings, the south half of Oz and Asia during the day and Europe most nights. An ordinary CB radio will do the job but you will need a good, BIG, beam antenna. Check out the international call channel on USB 27.555 MHz.

Good luck


-- Prospector (, February 25, 1999.

What you're saying is that you haven't the faintest idea of what amateur radio is all about. You don't even have your license yet and you're asking about frequencies and equipment, and meeting up on the air. Slow down - there is an lot to learn about the operation of radio communications equipment, it's not like buying a toaster and setting it to light-medium-dark!

First thing, ham radio is not synonymous with CB radio. You are absolutely required to have a license to operate an amateur radio station. Passing the tests help insure that you will know what you're doing, and won't cause interference to other stations through your ignorance of procedures and communication protocols.

Second, you'll need to learn radio and electronics theory to pass the test. Depending on what type of license you desire (the license classes determine where you can operate in the radio spectrum), you may need to study some fairly stiff theory, and to use shortwave frequencies, you must also learn to receive Morse code by ear. Books are available at Radio Shack for studying the theory for the various license classes. They also have overall guides to amateur radio, and it'd be in your interest to learn as much as you can.

For local communication, a Technician class license will suffice. This enables you to use frequencies above 30 MHz only, no shortwave. No code is required for this license. For long-range communication, the minimum license is General class. This allows you to use portions of amateur frequencies below 30 MHz, where worldwide communications take place.

Third, you'll find it to your advantage to locate an amateur radio club in your area. Most hams are happy to help a newcomer get started, and are invaluable sources of information. The American Radio Relay League is the national organization of radio amateurs in the U.S. Their website URL is Send them an email expressing your interest in becoming an amateur radio operator, and they will assist you in locating a club in your area.

A word of warning for anyone contemplating buying an amateur radio transceiver for Y2K: You must obtain an amateur radio license before you can use any amateur transmitting equipment. If you think you'll just be able to "wing it" WTSHTF, you are sadly mistaken. The middle of a worldwide disaster is no time to attempt to learn how to use the equipment, and it's very likely that you'll cause harmful interference. Interfere with the wrong organizations, and you can expect some veryunwelcome visitors.

-- sparks (, February 25, 1999.

1) All of sparky's comments

2) trying to use ham freqs sans license while FCC still works can cost $10,000 for starters. Don't even THINK about trying it and saying to yourself "I'll never get cought!" because we have guys out here who win prizes in "Foxhunts" where we drop a low power transmitter somewhere, tell people it's in this 3 county area and they find it in 15 minutes.

2b) We do SKYWARN with 50+/- local nets on 2-meter and a 6-meter wide area backbone repeater (Hig Profile? this repeater defines the term) through Northern Ohio and 2 counties in PA. WE had a bit of a BOZO problem on the repeater freq. The owner of the repeater (it's private) found the problem, and a few of the folks had a talk with the miscreant, explaining the facts of life, the costs, the fact that the SKYWARN nets were heavily protected, and as Federal projects, his offense was against Federal statutes. He stopped. Don't think that we'll be quite so polite ITSHTF.

3) The Aussie who is using 11 meters (CB) is inviting you to a party where the hangover can be one of those $10,000 bills and the loss of ALL of your radio equipment. Simply put, here in the States it is illegal for CB traffic to knowingly span more than 50 miles. Do lots of people do it? YUP. Does anyone get caught and pay? YUP!

4) Best replacement for Inet will be to regenerate packet radio with all of teh requisite nodes around the country, on a 2-meter (local) to 10, 20, 40, or 80-meter (backbone)web world wide. Anyone want to start to set up the nodes and gateways???


-- Chuck, night driver (, February 26, 1999.

I think a net might be a good idea. A test of our communications would help iron out any "bugs" that might crop up.

On another note however I do take exception to the "we will get you" attitude professed concerning ham operations. IF, and that's a BIG IF, the SHTF the last thing I'm going to worry about is getting a "talking to" by any self-appointed communications watch dog. I am sometimes amazed how everyone is so quick to say what's legal, etc. The simple fact is that if it all breaks down, and that's anybodys guess, I'm not going to worry about what the rules are. Anybody who feels differently is kidding themselves. It's called survival folks, make no mistake about it. I don't advocate breaking the law anytime but what we're discussing on this forum goes way beyond the concept of "normal" times.

So my attitude is this: learn while you can, buy what you can afford, make contacts with those in the hobby. But don't be intimidated by the "watch dogs" of complience. They'll be too busy watching out for themselves to come hunt you down if you call for help or report on an local situation.

just my .02 worth

p.s. yes I hold a valid ham license

-- freelancer (, February 26, 1999.

CB is the way to go. i believe there is a possibility that ham radio could be shut down except for hams who are in specific emergency services organizations. maybe a slim possibility, but it still exists.

-- jocelyne slough (, February 26, 1999.

No, ham radio would not be shut down. Power and supplies would be allocated to hams if that is the only way to establish communications.

The historic reason for giving large portions of very valuable spectrum space to hams is so that, in an emergency, there will be a cadre of people who know how to use and maintain complex communications equipment. Owner/operators who invest their time and money to build stations that can talk across town or around the world.

If you haven't spent the hours to learn to operate and handle traffic, you will be useless in an emergency. I'll put my ICOM HF rig back on the air this year as a part of my preparation.

-- ah6gi/3 (ah6gi@you.know.where), February 26, 1999.

First, go study up and get the ham ticket. It's worth every minute just for what you learn. Start with the basic NO CODE TECH book from Radio shack. It costs about $6 to test and all the answers are in the book!!! They WANT you to pass. I read the book through a few times and took the test a month later dead cold. Just walked in and passed for no code tech. If you have any technical bent at all it will be easy.

Want to find local hams? Read thru that book, pay particular attention to the antenna section. Then just drive around your area looking UP instead of DOWN. Pretty soon you will find some house with a bunch of big funny looking antennas. Stop there, knock on the door, ask if there is a ham at home. We are all slightly crazy about radio and will talk to anybody that expresses an interest. can legally use a ham radio without a ticket during an emergency situation...Say you are in a bad situation and must holler for a medical emergency.....or you are that. BUT...realize that in a DECLARED emergency that is area wide you will be told to stay off the air license or not. In a real emergency the skywarn/races/fire/police/ems/etc have priority. That's as it should be. Also realize that trying to warm up a ham radio and just start talking with no ticket and no experience is akin to hopping in a helicopter and trying to fly around town after never having flown one. The only thing you will do is crash, AT BEST. Without some experience all you are likely to do is cause interferance for those who know what they are doing.

(Heres a clue: I brought home a brand new used HF rig, top of the line and covered with controls. Screwed on my 11 meter antenna and turned it on to see if it worked. It took me ten minutes to figure out how to turn the VOLUME down!!! Who knew AF (audio freq) was what they labeled the volume knob?)

Will ham's hunt you down? If you are causing interferance, yes, they will. Right now it would just result in a quiet word to knock it off. Later...they would confiscate your equipment at the least. For the most part ham radio is self policeing with the FCC's blessing. Ham's are real proud of having very few problems. It helps that the equipment is expensive and keeps the bozo's away. The penalties are stiff...and I have heard of FCC teams confiscating mega bucks worth of equipment from people who activly caused headaches. It rarely ever gets to that. Local hams deal with most all problems in local ways.

CB over long distance....Sure, done all the time. I have never heard of anyone getting nailed for it, but I am sure someone has. CB is just a term for a part of the 11 meter band with some specific freqs set aside for unlicensed public use at required low power levels. Go for it. Buy a good CB/SSB rig and get it set up. It is likely to be real useful for local communication just because it's so common. Regular CB is full of yahoos and idiots. Get SSB (single side band) as it's somewhat rarer and generally populated by people who are more interested in radio than BS.

GET A DECENT ANTENNA!!! Can't say that strongly enough. Get your radio tuned at a decent CB shop. Get it matched to the antenna by somone who knows what they are doing. The ham guys will know who. This tuning/matching/decent antenna can mean the difference between 2 miles range and 50 miles range. If fact, it's life and death to the radio. Run an unmatched antenna for any length of time and you can kiss your radio finals goodbye.

Ham...start with 2 meter. It's the easiest license and the cheapest rig to buy. You can get a decent handheld used for about $100. You can make an antenna that will get you out many miles for less than $10! Do all this NOW. It will get you into ham-world. Most hams that work the world wide freqs also work 2 meter. Even if you don't have worldwide HF capabilities you can be linked thru 2 meter to someone who does. HAMS LIKE TO TALK and will be broadcasting any news they get. Just like gossip over the back fence. HAMS LIKE TO HELP and most will be happy to relay any messages you have. In fact there are already protocalls set up for third party communications. But it's vitally important that you get going now, meet these people on air, and learn the ropes. There is NOT going to be a sign at the post office to tune to 147.015 mhz with a .600 pos offset and 88.8 pl tone at 5pm. Most all ham clubs run weekly nets. You bet your bippy these nets will be up and running come 2000 whether we have power or not. Hams LIKE running under bad circumstances, it gives them bragging rights.

Start with a tech ticket and 2 meter....from there...if you can hack move up in licenses and gear. Considering how little time is left...I would encourage you to move quickly. IF you get along at the bottom rungs of ham..then go ahead and get the HF gear if/when you can. By the time you get into 2 meter and on air a few months you will meet people who will be happy to guide you. You might even find the equip for sale locally on air. Don't try to cold wing will not do well.

-- Art Welling (, February 26, 1999.

If TSHTF, who is going to play "ether cop"? Forget the license crap.

-- a (, February 26, 1999.

Art Welling, thank you for the info for getting started in ham radio. Radio Shack, here I come! What are minimum power requirements, if there is such. I'm thinking electricity down. Would a solar panel or two and batteries run a ham set up? Thanks again for your input. Vilie

-- Virlie Maner (, February 26, 1999.

Freelancer, you might want to rethink your position. Obviously, if TEOTWAWKI occurs, all bets are off, but I'd sure like the gear in the hands of folks who know what the hell they're doing, wouldn't you? What you are saying is tantamount to advocating chaos, IMO. It's bad enough in semi-normal times, with lids disrupting disaster nets because they don't know the procedure or traffic precedences. All they know is that they just GOTTA find out if so-and-so is ok, and tie up the net unnecessarily with their ignorance of the rules. Then you have the scum who intentionally jam said nets. Multiply this a thousandfold WTSHTF, Y2K-style. I've been active in HF disaster ops at the local, state and national level for over 12 years, both as a participant, liason and NCS, and know whereof I speak.

If I understand you correctly, you're advocating unlicensed people going out and getting rigs they don't know how to use, that they will almost certainly fail to use properly, that they stand a good chance of causing interference with, to throw into the mix? Bad idea.


-- sparks (, February 26, 1999.

I know nothing about either CB or Ham...but just a couple questions...If a woman studies up, gets the equipment needed, and the power source, why, if chaos ensues, and she acts responsibly, should she fear licensing laws? Thanks, too, to Art Welling for all the great information.

-- Donna Barthuley (, February 26, 1999.

Donna, what you have to fear is not so much the laws, but the organizations and agencies that you may unwittingly interfere with. Merely "studying up" on HF/VHF radio communications does not make you an experienced operator, only on-the-air experience can do that. If you want to get the gear, fine, but GET A LICENSE FIRST! It's not that hard for any reasonably intelligent person to obtain one, and the only reason such a person wouldn't get one is sheer laziness.

Oh, another point... if you don't get a license, you're not going to get a callsign. No legitimate callsign, and you will be ignored by licensed operators, who are forbidden by law to contact unlicensed, unidentified stations. Don't fall into the trap set by others here who apparently assume that all law will be suspended during Y2K - it won't be.

-- sparks (, February 27, 1999.

Sparks, etc.

Once again the thought does not translate well into the written format. Let me try to articulate my point better.

I will agree that we do not want folks just going out and getting ham rigs and jumping on the air. Getting a ticket is not tough. I will further agree that are way too many idiots on the air now, just check out 3.850 or there abouts. However I would point out that despite there being rules and laws, etc. against this type of interferance these clowns are still on the air. You may rail against this type of behavior but the fact remains that the FCC is not busting these folks and they should. Self-policing only goes so far. What can you really do to me if I am running an illegal station? Yell at me?

Faking a call sign is no big deal. "Golly I just got my ticket this last week and I'm not suprised I'm not in the call sign database". Is that right, no, but it's done.

I therefore repeat myself, get your ticket, learn how to run a station, get involved in the emergency nets. But if the SHTF in a big way the FCC, NET cops, or anybody else claiming control will be the least of our worries. We seem to have a split personality on this forum about law and chaos.

On one hand it appears that the laws will be followed by many, yet on the other hand we seem to say that the govt. is toast so we're on our own. I submit that while hoping for the positive is preferred preparing for the negative is what we're all doing. I suspect that folks will try and follow the rules but if, and that's a big if, the situation dictates otherwise folks will do what they think is in their own best interest. I do not wish for chaos, but having observed human nature will not be suprised if it developes.

So I'm sure I've muddied the discussion about this issue. I will continue to participate in my local emergency nets, teach others how obtain the skills necessary for a ticket. It's the best I can come up with for now. But I will not lecture or condem those who do what they feel is in their's or their families best interests. Not my place to do so.

just my .02 worth of thoughts

-- freelancer (, February 27, 1999.

So is the CB you are talking about the same as what truckers use? Or is there a home base unit? Also, is radio shack the best place to purchase these? You mentioned CB/ the side band used for the kind of info we will need in case of disruption? We can't afford the ham equipment..nor the time it would take to be licenced,but will want to know what is going on around us in times of turmoil. Also,is a home based police scanner the same thing as a CB? Obviously,I don't know anything about this & appreciate any info.

-- Raven (, February 27, 1999.

Virlie: You can run most Ham and CB equipment from 12V batteries. Most are designed that way. You can easily charge a 12v deep cycle battery with a solar cell and run your radios and some small lights from it. In fact, that is exactly what I intend to do if need be, as well as having multiple backups for everything.

Raven: Quite a list

>>So is the CB you are talking about the same as what truckers use? Or is there a home base unit? Also, is radio shack the best place to purchase these? You mentioned CB/ the side band used for the kind of info we will need in case of disruption? We can't afford the ham equipment..nor the time it would take to be licenced,but will want to know what is going on around us in times of turmoil. Also,is a home based police scanner the same thing as a CB? Obviously,I don't know anything about this & appreciate any info.

Ya, CB is basicly what the truckers use. It's simple, easy, and cheap. It's better than a sharp stick in the eye. It does have limited range, but that's made up for by the fact that 100's of thousands of people have them. Millions?

You want to be able to holler for help, but don't have the money or time to get serious about it? Just buy a CB and get it set up by someone who knows what they are doing. Going with CB/SSB instead of simple CB will cost you another $200 in a decent rig on top of what you will otherwise spend. Not cause it's worth $200 more (well, it is I guess) just that only high end rigs have CB/SSB both. You can't buy a $49 Radio Shack CB that has SSB. In fact, you can't buy ANY Radio Shack rig that does SSB in the CB band. They stopped carrying them. Find a CB shop, look in the yellow pages.

Now..thats basic for yelling for help. Not great, not even good, but better than nothing and cheap.

That aside, you want to HEAR NEWS? That's very easy. Haul yourself down to Radio Shack and buy a DX390 shortwave radio. I runs a long time on a few D alkalines and gets AM, FM, and a long list of shortwave freqs. It also gets most all the High Freq ham bands. You can listen to your hearts content to all the news that's in your airwaves. It is usually on sale at $199 and is actually a Sangean radio (a good unit).

A scanner is not a CB. It works different bands. You can buy one at Radio Shack on sale for $89 that will work fine and for another $12 you can buy a big book that lists all the emergency services freqs in your state and several others besides.

Look...if you want to know whats going on then buy the DX390 shortwave and a small scanner. If you don't have time to learn how...leave transmitting to those who do. I am absolutly certain that someone in your neighborhood is a ham. (We are everywhere). Find that ham and say hi. Get to know him.

-- art welling (, February 27, 1999.

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