I do not know how many FR members are HAM radio operators; so I will throw my opinion "out there" just in case anyone is interested.

A HAM radio is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment for anyone who is serious about preparing for local, regional and/or national emergencies. Since there is volumes upon volumes of information about HAM Radios, and since I am only a Technician (still learning), I will keep my points as basic as possible.

I just have the Technician license; the test was super-easy, it only cost $15.00, there are 35 questions (no morris code), and I took 30 or 40 free online practice exams at hamexam.com.

http://www.hamexam.com/

Local HAM clubs usually have people who proctor the exams and help you study.

A 2 meter radio and antenna will send a receive information to/from hundreds or even thousands of miles away via repeaters. I have two radios which I highly recommend; a hand-held Yaesu VX-7R and a Mobile Kenwood KD700. While at home, the Yaesu is attached to a home-made copper "J" Pole antenna, and I can send and receive messages from Washington State to California via the various repeater groups. My normal repeater is 40 miles away, and I can program my radios to access just about any repeater. My Yaesu also attaches to a short-whip for hand-held, and a magnetic mobile antenna for longer road trips. It goes just about everywhere with me. I can listen to TV, FM, AM, and several different HAM radio bands. There is even a feature for the internet which I haven't dived into yet.  

http://www.artscipub.com/repeaters/

My KD700 is a dual band rig I have in my truck; it has the high-power capability to send text messages to another HAM radio or email via APRS (http://www.openaprs.net/)  & digi-peaters. I have a computer keyboard in the truck and I type any number of messages. The only down-side is that it is difficult for a non-ham to send messages to a HAM.

HAM radio operators can use a web-based system called "Echolink" and communicate via radio, computer or smart-phones.

Technicians are also allowed to send data on certain HF frequencies; the HF radios are pricey and I am not ready to dive into that yet, but basically speaking, a computer that is properly uploaded with software can send emails, pictures to any place on the planet (without the internet) as long as the antenna-matching process is optimum.

Non-licensed operators may use a HAM radio during an emergency when no other means of communication are available, and non HAMs can monitor without a license. A lot of HAM operators like to hear themselves talk and thus are a great source of information.

The other good thing about HAM radios is there are no monthly fees, and no universal fees that pay for the Obama phones.

HAM is a great hobby as well, there are volumes of technical information to learn and keep the brain-cells active. I know of a $50.00 HAM radio but I cannot find the link, I will find it and post as a reply ASAP.

I hope this helps anyone who is thinking about having a means to eavesdrop or communicate without the help of phones or the internet.

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First licensed as a novice in 1960.  Amateur Extra Class since 1965 (before any incentive licensing) at age 18.  Yes, I do have an original "W" two-letter call.

....   ..

Nice to meet you.               

Totally cool!

You were first licensed a year before I was born; I'm just a puppy....

This is the low-cost HAM radio I referred to in the OP;

http://www.amazon.com/Dual-Band-Improved-Stronger-Enhanced-Features...

It's not a Yaesu and it's not $300.00 either; I'm thinking about buying 2 or 3 to hand out to family for emergencies.

I am a Ham radio operator as well. Since '93. I just replaced on old ICOM with a new Kenwood 2M (VHF 140.00-170.00 mghz) mobile unit from Kenwood for $150.00. I use it with a power supply for my base. I have a dual band Kenwood in my vehicle. I highly recommend them! Through a repeater I can transmit all across northern Arizona and to Phoenix which is 110 miles away.. If you want more coverage, an HF radio is needed. These radio's will allow you to monitor fire and police also, and weather, and most dual bands will get aircraft freq's also. The license is good for 10 years.

Congrats, Eastslope, an online paper picked up your post after I shared it on twitter. 

http://paper.li/tupelojo/1313899305  Scroll down, about 3/4 of the page.  You will find it under the heading "Technology"

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