Thinking Ahead – Importance of Plan-B as an Amateur Radio Operator

Another in the Thinking Ahead series started at

In this post I’ll discuss why having a Plan-B is important to an amateur radio operator.

What is Plan-B?  In ham terms we are talking about contingency planning in terms of keeping ourselves on the air.  A link for contingency plan definition can be found at 

In terms of our ham radio operations we can break down our Plan-B needs into a couple broad categories:

  • Equipment – Antennas
  • Equipment – Transceiver
  • Equipment – everything between Transceiver and Antenna
  • Equipment – Support items
  • Infrastructure – Power
  • Infrastructure – Internet
  • Physical – Shelter
  • Physical – Security
  • Physical – Mobility
  • Knowledge – Troubleshooting and Repair resources
  • Knowledge – Skeds (Schedules) and Frequencies
  • Knowledge – Expected QSO partners

Let’s dig in a little deeper, using questions for each area:

Equipment – Antennas

Questions:  What do you have for an antenna replacement if your main antennas go down?  What if you have to move them?  What if you have to go mobile?  How do you replace them if special equipment or climbing is needed?

Equipment – Transceiver

Questions:  Do you have a backup Transceiver?  What if you have to go mobile?

Equipment – everything between Transceiver and Antenna

Questions: Do you have backups for feedlines, switch gear and tuners?  What if you decide to go mobile?

Equipment – Support items

Questions: What do you do in your shack computer goes down?  Or even as basic of a Plan-B if you need a spare chair or your Microphone dies?  Are you ready to manually log contacts?  Do you have a spare router?  Do you have spares for the Gas Discharge Tubes in your Lightning Protection?  Do you have spare jumpers, connectors and the tools to put them together?

Infrastructure – Power

Questions: What are your plans if the lights go out?  What if you need to go mobile?

Infrastructure – Internet

Questions: How internet dependent is your shack?  What happens when it goes down?  Can you tether as a backup?  Do you have a method if you go portable? Could you tether if you had to?  Can you operate without?

Physical – Shelter

Questions: Do you have an alternative shack location at your QTH?  Do you have another way of heating your shack if the heat goes out?

Physical – Security

Questions: Is your shack secure?  How do you protect it if times became rocky?  Do you have Fire and Carbon Monoxide detection? Do you need an alarm system?  Will your towers give you away?  Do you have fire extinguishers? Can you control shack access?

Physical – Mobility

Questions: If you need to move your shack do you have a secure place to house your gear?  Do you have a secure place to go?  Can you provide your own security if you go mobile?

Knowledge – Troubleshooting and Repair resources

Questions: Do you have your user, service and repair manuals on hand and organized?  Do you have a backup set, perhaps electronic, somewhere else?  Do you have typical repair parts and the ability to install them?  Do you have test equipment and the knowledge to use them?  Do you have the tools?  If you were to go mobile do you have mobile troubleshooting and repair resources?

Knowledge – Skeds (Schedules) and Frequencies

Questions: Do you know what time and what frequencies some of the communications you are interested in happen?  Do you have these recorded somewhere in case you were off-line or mobile without internet lookup access?  If a radio net depends on being a known participant, are you accredited for that net? Do you have the alternative times/bands/frequencies in your station’s notes?

Knowledge – Expected QSO partners

Questions: Who are you going to contact?  How do you know it is them?  Do you have a “casual code” to convey status information (like “if I am being forced to operate against my will, expect to hear tree-references every few sentences”)?  Do you know what their “casual code” is?

Obviously this list and series of questions is just scratching at the surface of preparing a good Plan-B, though I think if you contemplate the questions you will end up with a natural follow through in developing some useful Plan-B ideas and maybe even formal contingency plans.



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