There are lots of reasons to consider getting a Ham Radio License. Sure, it's cool to hack, but more importantly, the cell phone grid in the DC area is pretty dang fragile. Within minutes of a regional incident (as happened in 9/11 and the 2011 earthquake), the voice and texting capabilities of your cell phone are pretty much useless. With only a little research, you quickly learn that Ham Radio is your best bet for communication during a crisis.
Turns out, it doesn't have to be a particularly expensive hobby. Here's one approach that seems like it would work, and it's pretty dang cheap:
- Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two Way Radio - $30.00. The consensus seems to be this radio is both low cost and quite effective. It may lack features that other more expensive radios have, but it's perfectly usable (and quite compact).
- The No-Nonsense Technician-Class License Study Guide - $0.00 (but donate if you can). It's not enough to have the radio, you've also got to have a license. The No Nonsense study guide appears to be a full book that explains everything you need to know to take and pass the lowest level (read: Technicians) licensing exam.
- Ham License Flash Cards - $0.00. This site offers test questions to make sure you're ready to take the licensing exam.
- Exam Fees - $15.00. Naturally, there's a fee for the license, and this is it.
So there you go, $45.00 and you've got everything you need to get on the air.
Now I just need the time to study the guide to see if getting the license is even a possibility.
Along with being a low cost preparedness option, the above also seems like a terrific gift for a kid. What a way to open up their world beyond cell phones and text messaging? (Not that there's anything wrong with that world.)