The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is conducting an exercise of Amateur Radio and the MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) to simulate operations after a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection).


A CME or Coronal Mass Ejection is the plasma cloud replete with magnetic fields spewed out by the sun during a flare. It is a CME hitting the Earths magnetic field that would produce the effects such as the Carrington Event which have the potential to damage or destroy the worlds power grids along with most electronic equipment and the systems which rely on them.

In a sense it’s admirable exercise and I’m fully confident that it is the Ham Radio operators who will be the first to restore regional communications after such an event. I suspect that if such an event ever happened it is the Ham Operators who will be the voices providing news and information and allowing widely separated communities to communicate and coordinate.

My Dad was a Ham and I remember a lot of hours in the radio shack listening to far away voices from all over the world while sitting surrounded by all of the equipment, wires, cables and tools that filled the room. Sadly I’m one of those people who, while I do well with digital electronics and even electrical equipment just have never been able to fathom the mysteries of analog electronics.

I did email the contact person for the exercise and asked them why they believe that Ham Radio equipment would survive such an EMP event any more than cell phones or other digital electronics. Unless I’ve missed something in my occasional perusals of what’s going on in the Ham world, most modern Ham equipment is just as thoroughly digital as cell phones and home computers.

I can’t imagine Ham equipment (not stored in a Faraday cage) would fare any better than any other electronic equipment during a serious EMP event. By the same token I’m confident it will be the Hams who will manage to rebuild equipment or build replacement equipment from scratch.

During the initial aftermath of such an event no one is going to be setting around building radio equipment. For a significant length of time (and probably a lot longer than any of us can imagine) every erg of energy the survivors can produce and every moment of time will be concentrated on somewhat higher priority tasks such as securing safe water, physical safety, food, shelter, power (whether electrical, motive or physical), coordinating with local neighbors and setting up systems and procedures to ensure a reasonably predictable and reliable supply of all of those. Only after they are relatively confident they can feed themselves, stay alive through the coming winter and are safe from external threats will they have the leisure time to build/repair radios and try to reestablish contact with others in more distant areas.

If I get a reply from the ARRL folks on my questions I’ll post it here.

The Librarian

Be Sociable, Share!

    Leave a Reply