See also, "My SIMPLE Quest for a HAM Radio License".
Local Area HAM Radio Testing
Beginner HAM Radio Selection Thoughts
Hearing a lot about HAM radio?
-- "Everyone keeps telling me to get my HAM radio license. Why?"
I received this very question from a friend the other day. He said, "People keep asking me 'Why HAM radio?' -- What are the reasons HAM radio is a good idea for survivors?"
TONS of reasons. Read on...
Almost guaranteed communications capability.
Unless a strong EMP fries every electronic device on the planet, and/or unless you have not protected your HAM radio unit in a faraday cage (to guard against an EMP) -- your radio WILL still work.
Cell phones, on the other hand, are either running off satellites which are highly vulnerable to solar activity, as well as many other threats implicit with space; cell phones also use towers, which are vulnerable to EMPs or physical damage as well -- not to mention with a cell phone you are part of a network which can get clogged during high call volume, such as during the 911 attacks, or other catastrophe.
Radio signals, though, are generated by your individual radio (transceiver) which is in your possession. Your signals are then received by individual units in the possession of other operators. As long as your radio works, it can transmit and receive with other radios.
Adaptive and low power usage.
Many radios are able to be run directly off of 12 volt batteries. While you can plug a HAM radio transceiver into a wall socket, depending on your power supply unit with the radio, you can also run off of 12v DC. This means if you have a small solar panel or a way to trickle charge a 12 volt car battery, you can have communications far into the future with no specialized equipment or fancy generators, etc.. Cell phones, not so much. The "airwaves" are always open for radio transmissions, cell phones are another bird all together.
It's an information jack pot.
If a disaster does occur, HAM radio frequencies will "light up" with activity. For decades, the HAM radio hobby has had a close relationship with the U.S. government as a back-up communications systems in case of invasion (from the then Soviets), or other disaster which cuts off normal lines of communication.
So when the cell phones and/or TV/radio stations may not be broadcasting, HAM operators will be. HAM operators have this little thing called "Field Day". This has become sort of a festival of sorts, but it has beginnings in seriousness and it is still a good exercise and is taken seriously, although it's also a lot of fun. "Field Day" is when operators all over the world are to operate only off of "emergency power" and make as many contacts as they can in a 24 hour period. There is scoring, prizes and more for this event, but the point is that HAM operators are READY for a no-power situation and hence they will be operating long after a catastrophe cripples traditional communication lines.
Handheld units are much better for person-to-person short range.
We all see the little hand held CB units with a "20 mile range!!" Baloney. Never get it. Unless you're on open water, then, maybe. You'll be lucky to get 1 mile with those little units -- and that's with a good one.
Small hand held units in the HAM bands, however, will get you at least a couple of few miles range reliably and possibly double that with a few modifications. So they're much better than most normal CB, GMRS, or FRS hand helds, for the same or even a lower price. Take a look at the Baofeng UV-5R model.
In conclusion...all of the above. I hope that answers the question AND gets you interested in your HAM operator's license for reliable communications and information gathering capability at a low cost.