Prepper Book Festival 11: Prepper’s Communication Handbook

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
Prepper Book Festival 11: Prepper’s Communication Handbook

One of the challenges of emergency communication is understanding the technology. Is a one-way radio sufficient to receive updates following a disaster or other emergency, or do I need a scanning device? What is a shortwave radio and why do I need one? Is getting a Ham radio and radio license worth the effort? And then there are those “family” walkie-talkie devices. Those seem like a good idea but are they really?

Shoot, even I get confused by all of the options even though I own all of them. Deciding which one to use, and when, only adds to the dilemma. One thing is for sure: I can’t carry all of my radios at once or I would not have room for anything else in my pack.

Preppers Communication Handbook | Backdoor Survival

Lucky for us, help as arrived in the form of a handbook written by one of the most down to earth, and easy to understand writers in our niche, Jim Cobb. His book, Prepper’s Communication Handbook, succinctly sorts out the various options that are available when it comes to emergency communications and guides you to making the right choices.

In his usual style, Jim writes in a manner that is a breeze to read and also enjoyable. He even mentions the importance of having fun with it, because, after all, there is life after prepping.

Jim and his publisher, Ulysses Press, have set aside five copies of his book in this latest Book Festival giveaway. Enjoy an all-new interview with Jim, and be sure to check in below so that you can enter to win!

An Interview with Jim Cobb, Author of Prepper’s Communication Handbook

This is your seventh Prepper Book Festival so our readers are well accustomed with your work. That said, what topic or topics do you feel are underrepresented in the preparedness and survival genre?

I think far too many books and blogs today take a fairly simplistic approach to preparedness, catering to the folks who are brand new to the idea of prepping.

That’s all well and good but what about the people who have been at it a while now? I think that’s an area worth exploring further.

Has your opinion of “the end of the world as we know it” changed over the years and if so, how?

Oh, definitely!

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, during the Cold War when the big threat was nuclear war with the Soviets. Once that threat sort of faded out, then it was the dreaded Y2K. After that, it was terrorism (domestic and abroad) and pandemics. Today, it seems as though EMP is the reigning threat.

From my perspective, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot what the “disaster of the moment” might be. When you get right down to it, 90% of prepping is focused on how to survive AFTER the initial disaster hits. For example, we’re not too concerned about why the power went out. We’re more concerned with how to survive until it comes back on, whether that’s a matter of hours, days, or years.

Ted Koppel’s book, Lights Out” has introduced the possibility of a cyber-attack as well as preparedness to mainstream Americans. Do you think his book will alter the prepper landscape and if so, how?

I’m hopeful that it will open a few more eyes and bring some more people to the prepper fold. We saw a similar influx of new people after One Second After became so popular. How many people actually stick with it though, rather than fading away as the initial excitement wanes, I can’t even begin to predict.

I’m always happy to see new people embrace the idea of self-reliance and such. Sadly, though, a lot of them drift off once they learn how much work is involved.

What advice do you have from the experienced or advanced prepper that wants to take things to the next level?

Go beyond just stocking up on food and supplies. Focus on learning skills and practicing them, everything from first aid to navigation, firearms to fire starting. Cook over an open fire a couple of times a month. Do drills regularly to find the holes in your plans while you have the time to fix them.

Supplies will only get you so far. Skills trump stuff.

Do you have a personal message you would like to pass on to Backdoor Survival readers?

Prepping is hard work, don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. It is a lifestyle, not a hobby. That said, you also need to live your life. Go see a movie. Take a vacation, even if it is only a day trip to the other side of the county.

Live, laugh, love.

Don’t get so caught up in the potential for gloom and doom that you forget to appreciate the sunshine from time to time.

The Giveaway

Jim has reserved 5 copies of Prepper’s Communication Handbook for this Book Festival Giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The deadline is 6:00 PM Pacific Tuesday with the winner notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article. Please note that the winner must claim their book within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.

Note: This giveaway is only open residents of the United States.

The Final Word

I could not agree more with Jim’s assessment of topics that are under-represented in the prepper and survival niche. There are the financial, moral, psychological, and life-planning aspects of prepping that go far beyond the need for food, water, shelter, and supplies. This applies to blog articles as well as to books. Speaking for myself, I often struggle with maintaining the right balance of newbie and advanced topics.

“Live, love, and laugh” is also a theme that needs to be played out more often. It is my hope that over time, we will see survival gurus focusing on this most important aspect of being prepared for uncertain times and an uncertain future.

In closing, I want to mention that Prepper’s Communication Handbook represents the seventh time one of Jim’s books has appeared in a Prepper Book Festival. As far as I am concerned, as long as Jim keeps writing, Backdoor Survival will be here to promote his work. His books belong in everyone’s library.

For more information about the books in this latest book festival, visit Prepper Book Festival 11: The Best New Books to Help You Survive.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!

In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.


Spotlight: Prepper’s Communication Handbook: Life-Saving Strategies for Staying in Contact During and After a Disaster

When disaster strikes, calls, texts and emails don’t work. After 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy, cell phones were rendered useless when transmission towers were destroyed and networks became overloaded. Having an alternative way of reaching family and loved ones at these critical moments is essential. With this in-depth guide, you learn the best tips, tricks and expert secrets for surviving when phones and the internet fail.

This comprehensive guide covers everything needed to be fully prepared for when the grid goes down, including the best types of radio for every disaster scenario from HAM radios (used by most search and rescue groups) to walkie talkies (small and easy to use, ideal for children).

And, since survival communication goes beyond the short term, there are also instructions for longer term solutions like hand cranked or solar powered batteries. This is the ultimate guide to acquiring, assembling and utilizing life-saving emergency communication systems.


Plus: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage

No list of books would be complete without my own book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage. The eBook print version is available.


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71 Responses to “Prepper Book Festival 11: Prepper’s Communication Handbook”

  1. This is needed information, as regular mea s probably will no longer work, or be spotty in their reception, if the tower you use gets damaged. Hand held walkie talkies will have a limited range, in most cases. I know the ham radio, will be our best bet, and yet know absolutely nothing about them, except that they are cost prohibitive for most people. In all of my long years, I have never even seen one. I know you have to be licensed to use them, but don’t have the knowledge to become licensed. This topic is usually mention in passing, with no information on how to use it, how much it can be of use, etc … This is very much needed, especially if you want to be informed about the extent of the situation outside of your little area, and I do want to know. Using it, you can gain information to help you stay safe, and give information that you have to others to aid them in staying safe. I have been looking for this information, and this is the first book I have found, that focusses on it. I o be able to communicate with others in a crisis, is important. It can also be life saving.

  2. just thought i’d point out that in any SHTF situation the feds will be too busy to persecute unlicensed HAM operators and by submitting your license application you’re just telling the goon squads you have HAM radio so you’re likely one of those domestic terrorists and are probably hoarding food, arms, copies of the constitution and other banned items. don’t make it easy for them!!

  3. I don’t have a strategy yet. It’s something that I’ve only just begun thinking about and I’m not really sure what the best strategy for my family would be. I do know it’s a very important topic that my family and I need to discuss

  4. I too am like Gaye, I have some of the communication tools but do not know how and when to use them appropriately. This book is a must read.

  5. What strategy do you plan on using to stay in touch with loved ones following a disaster or other disruptive event?

    We’ve instituted multi-level strategy.

    1st – cell phones of course – voice and text

    2nd – if phone lines are down and the kids are still in school – I’ve given them paint sticks. They are sold in animal supply stores. The kids will use this to mark the road, sidewalks or telephone poles (any street pole or signs) with direction of travel, initials of the group members

    3rd – Hamradio. I’m a licensed Extra, youngest daughter is a licensed Tech, and some local friends have set up a Ham Radio repeater and radio tree check in. We’ve programed the radios, tested the equipment, developed a protocol, and determined the folks that are a little to far to hit the repeater. So we are now working on extended range antennas.

    • Like the paint stick idea! Looking into radios and ham set. My brother finally completed all levels of the Ham Radio licenses. He is located several states away, so the idea for the rest of the family that is all in one state, one of us needs to get a Ham Radio and licensing. This book would be very helpful.

  6. I have a handheld Baofung radio and am studying for my licence. Other than that, I need to have alternative ways of communication.

  7. I don’t really plan on communicating with anyone at a distance after a major disaster. I do have some family radio service walkies for short range communication with folks in my group, but I’m lucky to get more than half a mile out of them in our terrain. Should be enough to go from home to the river, but I still need to test that. For news from outside the area I have multiple radios, WX band, shortwave, etc. And all but one of them are stored in my trash can faraday cages, just in case….

    My latest prepping area to work on has been for radiological events (dirty bombs, real nuclear explosions, or just nuclear plant accidents.) I’ve been able to get some CDV-715 meters, some CDV-750 chargers and a handful of the CDV-742 dosimeters. And I’ve got a CDV-700 meter currently in the mail to me. Ebay is a wonderful tool. 🙂 Only bad thing is how expensive it will be to get everything calibrated…but I can do it piecemeal and at least have some calibrated gear on hand in case things happen before I get everything checked. Next up is reinforcing part of the basement to make it a fallout shelter. Ah, the never-ending journey of the prepper. 😉

  8. Communications should be listed along with the big three…Bullets, Beans & Band Aids. You need it within your family/group for contact on your property or surrounding community. You will also need communications to understand what is happening regionally, nationally, and worldwide. Information and intelligence, will be key to survival in the long term just as much as food, medicines & bullets.

    Stay Safe All

  9. I liked Jim’s co,,ent about prepping being hard work, but to remember to live, love, laugh. Keeping your life in balance is critical.

  10. Right now we have our cell phones and maybe the Internet. I am SO FAR behind where I think I should be it’s not funny. I have been trying to acquire some other means of communications and co-ordinate with a sibling across the country. We’re still working on it. this book would may be what we’re looking for
    Thanks Gaye

  11. Not much of a strategy right now. The plan is just to meet at a predetermined location. We have some short range two-way radios like hunters use so people can call in when they get close. Working on securing portable radios with a longer range like the BaoFeng.

  12. Like other commenters, I too feel that I lack knowledge. I bought a shortwave radio, but I’m not sure how to operate it properly. That makes me feel kinda silly. This book would be a great source of information necessary to get on top of your communication skills and learn how to put them to use. Contact with the outside world, for information, news, updates, will be almost as important as knowing how to build a fire. We all have lighters and matches, but we won’t know what’s going on across town without good effective communication. Thanks for making this available to me and others of like mind.

    • My family has purchased several BaoFeng BF-F8HP Hand Held Portable Radios for members of my immediate fafily last year. These little jewels are Dual Band, covering the VHF & UHF frequencies, put out upto 8 wats of power & come with 128 Programable Channels. In addition, I also bought ont if Uniden’s new BCD536HP Digiral Scanners, since several of our local Police Agencies have gone to all Digital Truncking Radios Systems (which the BaoFeng radios will not pick up) this gives us the ability to monitor all local Emergency Services plus habing a fall back family personal comunications system besides personal cell phones.

      Now, we plan on purchasing one or more multi-band HAM Base Stations, Dual Band Mobile Radios for each of our vehicles, and portable hand held Uniden Digital Trunk Tracker Radios in case we are forced to “Bug Out”.

      We are constantly looking for ways to improve our Emergency Communications Options. I feel we’ve come a long way in the last year but we aren’t “there” yet.

    • How are you going to power all those units if there isn’t any power to be had? I’m really curious if you have a power supply of any type except batteries and/or a converter for your vehicles. Generators may be out if the gas pumps aren’t powered. Almost all HAM base stations require 110V-AC/DC. Is that scanner self contained for power needs? I’m going to find a couple of marine radios, then use a bank of 12 volt batteries to power them. I will use my two 40W solar panels and constant regulator to keep the batteries in shape. I live adjacent to Lake Michigan and marine radios can be had fairly inexpensively, and they do go out long way. I’m trying to locate a good ham radio myself, but it has to run on DC current. I’m also looking for a used Honda alternator/generator. They make a little guy that is a miser on gas, puts out 1100 watts, and will power everything I need – plus it has a perfect sine wave unlike the dimestore variety like I just sold. It was 8 HP and would run about 5 hours on a fill-up. Not efficient at all, and I can’t store 500 gals. of gas!

  13. Recently got my Ham Tehnician License.
    Wasn’t too bad and kinda liked studying and learning new stuff.
    Ham Fests are fun and ‘ve met some new people…Should prove very useful for
    Emergency and serious outage situations.

  14. I am glad that I found this site ,it has so many great ideas that we can use.thanks for all the work that goes into it

  15. I have my ‘general’ class ham license and several Baofeng radios for local communication. I also have a SW transceiver that will cover longer distances. My sister, who is about 300 miles away, lives next door to a ham. And I talk to him almost every weekend. So that is covered too!
    If radio coms are also blocked then about all that is left is walking!☺

  16. My family have started to prep, but there are so many radios out there, not sure which is the best to get. Kind of stuck!

  17. I have two of the Baofung dual band radios and am licensed to use them. I am investigating a base station and antennae system.

  18. I currently have 2 sets of short range radios… I see now that that won’t hardly be enough if the grid were to go down for an extended period of time.

  19. I have a short wave radio, receive only. I have a battery/solar/crank portable radio. Also I have a loud voice.

  20. Since I live close enough, I’d like to convince them that good walkie talkies would be a worthwhile investment so I can communicate with them in a local disaster. But for broader range communication, I am looking into ham radio so I can at least know what’s going on regionally.

  21. My folks are elderly,with no computer and don’t communicate so much anyway since they are across the country. I can text my sister if there is cell service. I’m more interested in communicating with police and emergency services here, but they are a block away if I walk. I know nothing about Ham radios and would be interested in more communication sources.

  22. now this I can relate to – I want to learn, and this would be a great incentive – a wonderful start! Thanks for this and I look forward to winning the give-away – thanks.

  23. First line would be a cellphones. Remember that you may still be able to text even when you can’t call.

    I am currently working towards get my Extra. The rest of the family is working on at least getting their Technician.

  24. We don’t have much of a plan beyond walkie-talkies. Luckily we are quite close so range is not a complication.

  25. We do have a simple communication plan. We are looking into purchasing walkie-talkies. They should help fill a void.

  26. Well I’ve got solar cell phone chargers and solar radios. I’ve also got walkie talkies. What I really want to get is a Ham radio and license but don’t know where or how to begin or what type radio to get. This is next on my list so this book would be quite timely!

  27. No strategy unfortunately…and my family is not close by. 🙁 I suspect that we would be limited to cell phones, assuming that those work.

  28. When you live in a mountainous, heavily wooded area this is an issue. Assuming phones/ cell phones are out, there are limited options. Looking into a ham radio/license, but frankly, I would hate to put forth that effort and expense and it not be a viable option for the 2 households that I might want to contact.

  29. I have a pair of the little frms walkie talkies that should be outlawed! 🙂 They are such a farce. Luckily I also have a pair of entry level dual band ham radios that are super handy. I’m presently studying for my Technician’s License and hopefully General next. I want to be able to practice and learn to use this stuff legally before I may have to have it. My personal opinion is that in a SHTF situation the government would have more important things to deal with than tracking down hundreds of thousands of people with a ham license to see if they can persecute or steal anything from them. I also have rechargeable battery packs, chargers, and solar panels to keep them up for a reasonable duty cycle. Good luck everyone!

  30. We have a family plan which includes 3 meeting places marked by color tape. Hoping someday to get a ham radio.

  31. I’ve bought the small ham radios and antenna and just have to take the class. I’m hoping it will reach 90 miles.

  32. I have walkie-talkies that we use when we go to outside events so I will use them in the event of other “problems” when not in direct contact with my wife.

  33. For my immediate Family that live with me, I would like walkies. However I don’t have a plan for those who are farther away.

  34. My communication plan is in par with the rest of my preps. I have my amateur extra license and VHF/UHF/HF capabilities at the house and retreat. Both locations are backed up with solar/inverter systems. All family members were given VHF/UHF radio’s whether they are interested or not. They were just asked to keep them charged. All repeaters have battery backups, so that will give them communications to me until we meet up. A frequency plan and operational times have been established and distributed. I’m not entering this contest so others can use this information to become prepared.
    GAYE- Did you get your General license yet?

    • Not yet but it is on the bucket list. Mostly, I need to actually use my Ham radios more so that I build some “muscle memory”. So far, I have to think too much and double check my instructions each time I use the Baofeng’s. Not a good situation and I know I need to practice more.

    • The Baofeng is an inexpensive way to get into Ham Radoi. In fact I also own one. But unfortunately it’s one of the hardest radios to program. If there is an emergency, you are not going to want to be reading the manual or needing to connect it to a computer that may be without power. There are numerous other HT’s that are not so complicated or frustrating. If the radio is frustrating you, you might look for a better radio. It will help the learning curve.

    • What would you suggest for a mid level setup that doesn’t require a laptop to program?

  35. My communication plan for my immediate family is to use the long range walkie talkies. If we’re separated & they don’t work, EMP for example, we have a designated place where we will meet. Everyone in my family knows where that place is and we’ve practiced it numerous times.

  36. Sorry to say we haven’t got a communication plan. We don’t know anything about ham radio, etc. so this book could help get us up to speed. Thank you for all of your great information

  37. This is a BIG hole in my preps. Right now, we’re praying cell phones will work. I would love to learn two-way radio and get licensed….that’s my ultimate goal.

  38. My husband and I are both interested in learning some of these communication options. Interesting stuff

  39. Sounds like a great book. even if I don’t win I,m going to get a copy. Thanks for the information.

  40. Never even thought about it until I read Gaye’s article about ham radio a while back. Since then we have purchased a couple handhelds. My husband and I have the license on our to do lists but my son was really interested and got his tech license right away. Now he has his general and is pushing us to get ours. We also have walkie talkies and a couple cb radios. Not much in the way of a plan, though. Probably should get that figured out as well.

  41. I really need to get a decent ham radio. Even a ship to shore radio would work[I live next to one of the Great Lakes – many have S to S radios]. Sold the two I had in a yard sale, now sorry. I have long range CBs – but every one else does too. Cell phones won’t work when if services go down, and all other radios require at least 12 VDC to fire them up. Now we need power! Small generator? They take gas, and make noise! Kind of cornered!

  42. I have 2 hand held CB units and two low power FM hunter walkies as well. I’ve been considering going the whole route and jumping into the HAM realm too, just for the versatility it could offer, but realistically, what are the chances that the FCC is going to send someone out to spank me if I’m transmitting without a license after the shtf? Seems like a lot of work for naught.

  43. This is a weak area for me. I have experience with the equipment but only have 2-ways good for about 30 miles currently. Sounds like this would be a good book to have.

  44. Walkie talkies and ham radio but need to do the licenses part yet and get in place ways to recharge them.

  45. I haven’t really thought to much on communications. We have long range walkies to keep in touch with other family members.

  46. Don’t count on the internet. As in the article on Backdoor, Should the lights go out for good, if there is no power and the internet servers are wiped the internet will be dead forever and if that doesn’t happed then the left wing Nazi scum fascist trash are trying this 3 Strikes And You’re Out With Coming New Internet ID
    Leftists craft Internet architecture to police speech

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