Every year, the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) hosts a nationwide contest for ham radio operators. Named "Field Day," the event traditionally takes place the last weekend of June. Participants use their radios to make as many contacts as possible during the contest. Those using alternate power and low power rigs get more points than those using more traditional methods.
Several years ago, I read an email containing a number of predictions for the future. One prediction was the demise of ham radio. However, the statistics point to an opposite conclusion. More people are getting their amateur radio licenses. I suspect much of this has been driven by folks like you and me - people understand that ham radio has time after time come through after a disaster.
One misconception you should note - you do not need to learn Morse code to get an advanced license. That requirement went away a few years back. That means you can take a couple of written tests and get on the air with long distance communications equipment. There are plenty of study guides for the tests available from Amazon and other outlets. Since some of the test materials can be rather technical, I'll share with you my strategery for passing these tests.
- Memorize the answers to the tough questions. You read that correctly. The test question pool from which your test will come is public knowledge. The various study guides will tell you the correct answers. For those you don't understand, make flash cards and memorize them. (I memorized the answers to every single question requiring math for my General license exam; I don't mind doing math, but I didn't want to bother having to learn the formulas.)
- Set a study schedule. Do five to ten pages in your study guide a day. Set aside one day a week to review what you've already studied. You can do this much more quickly than you think.
- If you don't understand the theory behind a set of questions, don't sweat it. Just learn what the answers are. You can learn theory later. Most old time ham radio operators would cringe at me telling you that, but it's true. Your goal is to get your license and get on the air. As a licensed pilot, lawyer, ham radio operator, and concealed handgun license instructor, I can tell you that your license for just about anything is a license to learn.
Ham radio gives you a tremendous source of information exchange after a disaster. Consider getting your license and learning some of these skills.
Thoughts From Miami
This week, my wife and I have spent several nights in the Palm Beach and Miami areas. It's given me some time to decompress and think about what I need to be doing over the next few months. It also allowed me to think about the bigger picture.
Miami holds a special place in my heart. Later this summer will mark the 20 year anniversary of my arrival into Miami to enroll in law school at the University of Miami. A week after I moved into my apartment, Hurricane Andrew blew into town. As a new resident, I had no preparations - no storable foods, no gear, no water purification, no weapons to protect myself. After the storm, I didn't have power in my apartment for 17 days. I boiled water on my stove (I had a gas stove in my kitchen), ate fried Spam and pasta, and listened to a battery powered AM radio tell us how messed up Miami was.
That experience really stuck with me. It's part of the reason I am into prepping.
I speak to people about preparedness on a regular basis. Most of the people with whom I speak find my interest in prepping to be quirky, but they also want to know more. If I'm lucky, they want me to convince them to get prepared. Selling people on the idea they need to get food, water, and other supplies set aside to insulate their families from natural or economic calamities can be quite challenging.
And this fact brings me to a crossroad. Is it better to spend time recruiting others to prepare, or would it be better to expand my own preparations and share my learnings with those who are already interested and working towards more self sufficiency? I will be struggling with this one in the coming weeks.
Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing - don't forget to live your lives. Take vacations. Enjoy time with your family. Travel. See new things. Meet people who aren't like you. Your lives will be enriched as a result. And trust me on this - whatever calamity we may face in the future will not be enough to derail America. It's important that we prepare ourselves for that possibility, if for no other reason it will allow us to flourish after the fact.