The following article gives an excellent explanation of why any serious prepper should get their technician level license. I agree that the general license should be the goal of anyone who is serious about communications in an economic collapse.
As always, survivalblog.com is an excellent source of information.
Just because there is a sewing machine in my house doesn’t mean I think any of my family members can sit down and sew a dress. The same goes with your ham radio. If you are one of those folks who bought one for when the SHTF thinking you will be able to just set it up and use it, you might be unpleasantly surprised. Why not make sure you have a ham radio license and become proficient with your radio? It’s probably a good idea to dust it off anyway and make sure it is still working. Some have internal RAM chips that die after so many years (ICOM 745 and 751A) and should be upgraded internally.
There are many good reasons to get your ham radio license now for the practice and camaraderie you can enjoy now before the SHTF. As a ham radio operator, I have had a lot to learn even after getting the license, including which equipment to acquire and radio and antennae set up. Despite fears of losing OPSEC, there are ways to manage location issues and I think the benefits of practice now far outweigh OPSEC risks.
Getting the technician license is not “technically” difficult. For all levels of ham licenses, the technician, general and extra, ham radio stores like HRO (ham radio outlet) have study guides with the questions and the answers in the back. When taking the test, it will be the same questions from the same question pool. You can Google your local ham radio clubs to find a point of contact on the exams. Usually there is a small fee (about $5) for the exam. After you pass, the examiner will send your application to the FCC and a few days later your license comes. The license is good for 10 years, regardless of if you upgrade before then, and you simply get online to renew it.
The technician license allows you to use the 2 meters and higher frequencies found on repeaters everywhere. Hook up a mobile radio in your car or truck and you are in business. Your local store or club will most likely know someone who can do an installation if you are uncomfortable installing one in your car. The radios for use at technician level will give you some range locally, but some repeaters are linked together on a system and will give you an extended range. For instance, in California there are groups of connected repeaters so when a net is held, you can hear people from the Los Angeles area down in San Diego. A net, by the way, is when one person acts as a control operator and ham operators check in from all over the area and say hi, give news, and also can advertise ham equipment for sale.
The next level up is a General Ham license. This is the level I have and recommend as a minimum to serious preppers. Now you can broadcast worldwide and with that comes the practice of setting up some serious antennas, measuring SWR (standing wave ratio) and other important skills for being able to operate a radio. While Morse code is no longer a required skill for attaining this level, it’s something I’ve chosen to learn and practice. It adds a layer of privacy. By FCC rules, we cannot not legally conceal the meaning of a message. But having a little Morse code under your belt when no one else is required to learn it helps reduce who will understand it. Having said that, be mindful that there are plenty of old timers out there who still know Morse code. Enough said.
Going the next step to get an Extra Ham license does give you more frequency privileges. Trust me, studying up for this exam is tough. You may not need this level for prepping and knowing how to set up your equipment, but you can decide for yourself after you’ve attained the General level. There are plenty of ham radio books to supplement what you might need to know, including books on basic electronics.