How Important Is A Communications Network?

How would your life be impacted by a loss of communications? Imagine no television, radio, Internet, land or cell phones, or newspapers. A loss of electricity due to a hurricane would impact any communications that are not battery based. A backup generator would give you more access if we assume that these sources are still transmitting in your local area.

Loss of communications means loss of information and panic in a short period of time. How would you answer the following questions:

Where are my family members?
Are we being attacked?
How long will this last?
Is this a local blackout or more widespread?

This list can be expanded but our security turns to insecurity very quickly without verifiable information. One solution is to purchase and install an amateur (ham) radio. This will give you access to emergency broadcasts as well as HF broadcasts from around the world. The system outlined later in this article operates as a base station but can be used as a mobile unit by the addition of a mobile antenna. A 12V car battery (or deep cycle marine battery) can provide the power to operate this base station if the electrical grid is out.

The site for the American Radio Relay League is a good starting point. In order to broadcast on VHF/UHF channels, you must have a technician’s class license. To broadcast on HF channels, you need a general license and additional HF channels require an extra license. No license is required to listen. The tests are administered across the state and you can find a location near you at this site:

The following list of parts can be purchased online at Ham Radio Outlet, Inc.  or other vendors. The prices may have changed since late last year. This is only a recommendation for a base station: there are a large variety of manufacturers and units for amateur radio systems.

Yaesu FT-857D Transceiver
Yaesu YSK-857
Separation Kit – extension cables for mobile installation

Alinco DM-330MV – Power Supply 5-15VDC 30 AMP switching

Yaesu T9023225 DC Power Cord – allows you to power the unit without a power supply using a 12V battery

X50A  Diamond 2M/440 Base Vertical antenna

CXP08XC25 25 Ft RG8X Cable –
Need quantity 2 @ $28.95 = $57.90. This was 25′ for UHF/VHF and 25′ for HF. If your antenna will be more than 25′ from your transceiver, you will a longer length of coax.

MFJ-17758 Dipole 80/40M antenna


Buckmaster DX-OCF
80/75, 40, 20, 17, 12, 10, AND 6M OFF CENTER DIPOLE LOW SWR 300W MAX

YT-100 LDG Auto Tuner

Miscellaneous parts such as tie wraps, screws, mounting base for the antenna (like a satellite dish), string to tie off the antenna and a piece of pipe run an addition $25-$35.

David DeGerolamo

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Alex "Chuck" Taylor
13 years ago

Great information here but I would add that this is just ONE of MANY possible ham station setups. There are less expensive options available on the market so don’t let the prices scare you. If you are planning on becoming licensed so you can transmit, you can go with the transmitter options. In this case, You can get a brand new 2M/70cm (vhf/uhf) bual band HT (handie talkie or “walkie talkie”) for as little as $100 these days and some HF (short wave) transmitters can be had for less than $500 new and even less if you track down used equipment. But, if you are only wanting to have the ability to listen and not transmit, you can go even cheaper by buying a scanning receiver (some people call them “police scanners”) that will cover just about anything important in the VHF/UHF bands then picking up a general coverage short wave radio. This would be far less than what it would cost for transmitters!

Of course, there are unlicensed options as well if you want to have communication abilities for your family and neighbors. Good old fashioned CB radio, “Family Radio Service” (FRS) and “General Mobile Radio Service” (GMRS) radios that you can pick up pretty cheap at any WalMart these days will provide easy communications and are also easily powered via battery and other emergency power means!

So, it all boils down to whether you want to get licensed and have the ability to transmit or if you just want the ability to listen.

One last note on becoming licensed for ham radio bands -- it’s not as hard as many would think. The FCC requires that the entire “pool” of questions that is used or license tests be made publicly available. All questions on the actual test you would take MUST come from this public pool! This makes it easy to simply study actual questions and answers that could be on your test and memorize it even if you don’t completely understand the technical aspects of it which you can learn later with hand on when actually using ham radio! A great place to study online with FREE practice tests for each class license test is

I am also more than happy to help anyone interested in getting their ham license get pointed in the right direction! Just look me up at the facebook address I gave above!

Good luck and 73!

Amateur (“ham”) Radio call sign “KF4ESH”

Catherine Newsome
Catherine Newsome
12 years ago

So how much is “a small area”?

Guest 73
Guest 73
10 years ago

Catherine, if you get an ft-857d and hook it to an nvis antenna, your small area will be about 270 miles in diameter, car to car.

11 years ago

If maybe they were contacting the UK from Ireland I might believe it but, to contact the UK from say California on an FRS unit I call bullshit. Maybe you can by using repeaters, but that is not the FRS radios. It is Repeaters on tall towers on mountain tops, and when the SHTF the repeaters are going down and now your range is like 5 miles on a good day, as long as you can maintain a line of sight situation. Some local yokel on a 6 meter 5 watt handheld with a stubby whip, ain’t going to reach the UK probably even from Ireland.

These type radios would be good for the kids to play with in the neighborhood and under the right conditions might even be of some assistance when needed, IF you learn very well how to use them. But in a situation where your life depends on good communications, they are pretty much junk. To really be in touch with the world you need to be on the lower ham bands, like 160 meters, 80 meters, and 40 meters. Above that you start restricting the distance that it will effectively perform. When you get up into the VHF and UHF stuff, your signal quality out at a distance goes way down.

But yes it is essential that as many people as possible obtain and learn to use Ham Gear, so that we can maintain communications in a bad situation, I have been pounding this into anyone that will listen for many years now.

Lucas Jackson
Lucas Jackson
11 years ago
Reply to  DRenegade

I have been thinking this for a while, and since a lot of us have been whittled down to cell phones for 90% of communications, it would not take much to isolate the populace fairly quickly.

I would like to get a small HAM setup, but am not too excited of being another “registered” member of the grid.



9 years ago
Reply to  Lucas Jackson

CHL- Understand the sentiment. It’s a tradeoff.
Some people point out that if Armageddon happens, the FCC won’t be enforcing the rules, so why bother getting a license?

I would get the license, so that you can legally practice and get the skills/experience you need to use the equipment. I can almost guarantee the first time you take the radio(s) out of the box, it won’t work and no one will be able to hear you. Is that because you’re too far away? Or have the power supply connected wrong? Or have the antenna connected wrong? Or aren’t pushing the buttons correctly? Or … fill in the blank.

Amateur radio can let you do some really useful things even if the grid is up. In remote parts of the woods where I go, there is no grid even today, and the radio works while no-one’s cell phone will.

I think the capability you get is well worth being registered as a licensee. You can always buy a couple more radios and not turn all of them in if amateur radio was made illegal later on. Something to consider, anyway.

Guest 4570
Guest 4570
11 years ago

Or set up the base yaesu with a home made nvis antenna, and an encryption module, followed by putting an nvis roof rack on the family vehicles with the 857D an encryption module.

Jose batteria
Jose batteria
11 years ago

And don’t forget the computer to radio modem so you can send burst transmissions. You can do sms over hf that way.