Prepper wisdom from Reddit

I recently met up with a buddy of mine for an afternoon of target practice at a local range. I figured we’d be plinking off some targets with handguns, so I was taken aback when my buddy produced a trio of hand-built AR-15-style automatic rifles, fully equipped with fold-out bipods, flashlights, lasers, bayonets and scopes. Alongside this impressive display of zombie-splattering long guns, my buddy had a very nice go-kit filled with emergency gear ranging from first-aid supplies to glo-sticks.

I mentioned to him that he needed to get his ham license and a couple radios to complete the kit. He admitted he already owned a pair of Chinese-made handhelds, but didn’t know anything about how to use them.

So when this thread, “Preppers buying cheap 2m/440 HTs” popped up on Reddit today, I was reminded of my apocalypse-welcoming friend and his quandary.

Some great quotes here concerning those folks who dive into radio for prepping without learning how to use it. All these excerpts are from different Redditors:

The problem is most of them don’t know shit about emergency protocols, passing traffic, net controls, etc. so they’re going to be clogging the airwaves in a real emergency and hampering any efforts to provide actual emergency communications.

Uh huh. Yep.

I think the best solution would be to encourage licensing and participation in clubs to prepare for an emergency. You not only need to know how to be polite on the air, but also simply how to use your radio. Imagine trying to deduce all the concepts of radio starting with nothing but an HT.

Yep, our club has been doing quite a bit of that lately.

The whole “reach out to the prepper community” is the approach to increasing numbers of hams the ARRL has used the past 10 years or so (The appeal to EmComm). It’s recently been recognized as a less than beneficial goal for Amateur Radio as a whole. Sure, it increases the number of license holders – but the actual number of operators, let alone operators on the air, hasn’t increased. Look up some of the stats on numbers of new hams compared to numbers of active hams and try not to cringe.

PREACH brother!!!

If they don’t intend on getting a license, they can buy all the FRS/GMRS/MURS/CB radios they want and use them whenever they want. These people tend to be the type that don’t trust the eeeevil gubmint anyway, so it’s pointless trying to get them to put their names in a government database. I also think it’s ironic that these gun-totin’ True Americans™ are advocating buying Chinese radios.

Another guy who is reading my mind…

Ultimately, the radios are low-powered and their signals aren’t going to propagate beyond line-of-sight. Therefore it’s unlikely that their misuse is going to affect much. They’re probably smart enough to not transmit over the police.

Again, this is what I’ve been telling folks in my club all along. Wanna do something useful with your radio? Get on HF guys.

Thought provoking

I enjoy KE9V’s blog, Smoke Curls, quite a bit. Today his commentary on our “responsibilities” as hams made some valid points. EmComm seems to be on many a ham’s mind, at least locally. I’ve mentioned here before that while I’d gladly help out with communication in a disaster, I’d really want to move out of the way so professional emergency service providers can do their jobs.

Maybe that’s wrong. But let me float an example. I photograph weddings for fun and profit. When I’m shooting a wedding and the proverbial “Uncle Bobs” of the family — armed with comparable digital cameras, floppy zoom lenses, no professional experience  and a weekend workshop’s worth of understanding on light, composition and timing — start getting in my way, I tend to get annoyed really quickly. Let me do my job; I promise, my images are going to be better than Uncle Bob’s, almost 100% of the time.

So, for me the hobby of ham radio is just that — a hobby. And while I take pride in knowing I could establish a communication link in the event of disaster, I look at that as a consequence of building a certain skill set as a result of my tinkering. You know, with enough luck even Uncle Bob could probably shoot a serviceable wedding photo from time to time. But Uncle Bob isn’t getting paid to do that, nor is he trained for that work.

But KE9V says it best:

While the Internet is somewhat fragile, it was designed by the defense department to provide digital communication in the event of a nuclear war. So there’s that. And then there’s the matter that a local RF repeater is not without its own vulnerabilities. Does it have unlimited back-up power from solar or wind sources?

This all brings up a very good question. Do radio amateurs have a responsibility to provide emergency communications – and if we do, how severe a situation must we plan against?

The end of civilization, global thermonuclear war, total breakdown of social order?

Of course I do have plenty of HF gear that could be put to use in the event of a disaster though I have to tell you, if the nukes start flying, I’ll be too busy looking for suitable shelter and trying to survive to think about checking into a 40 meter net and I’d suggest you do the same.

I may get involved here locally with ARES, only because some of my ham buddies participate.  I promise not to be a “whacker” though…