So now you’ve studied and gotten your license and call sign. Perhaps you have even invested in some gear. Now what? Other than listening to repeaters on VHF/UHF and calling CQ on the HF bands, how does all this knowledge and electronics actually help me when SHTF?
Many handheld and mobile radios are able to receive FM broadcast frequencies. This means you can listen to your local FM radio station, that may be giving updates on the situation. Great for minor stuff like extended power outages and such. You can listen in and get some idea of the range and scope of the problem.
Now that’s all fine and good, but any cheap AM/FM radio can do that for you. What you got into ham radio for is to get a little more meat. Ham operators like to chat and have likely made a few regular friends over the airwaves. Local repeaters are a common hangout for these types, provided they are still up and running. Since you have obviously taken the course, you already know how to program repeaters on your ham radio right? Of course you do, the whole reason you took the course was to make sure you know what you’re doing. But how do you know what repeaters are in your area and what are all the frequencies, offsets, tones, etc? Let me introduce you to Repeaterbook.
Repeaterbook will list pretty much every repeater there is in North America along with all the pertinent information to program your radio so you can actually use it. Now, you may not normally want to chat up a storm for OPSEC sake, but make sure you can use it by simply hitting the PTT. It could end up saving your life one day. In any case, listening to these hams on the repeaters will give you a lot of information as to what is actually happening, and not rely on what news broadcast radio decides you need to know.
If you’re looking for information from more “official” sources, then check out RadioReference. Once you have a look at this site you may decide that a scanner is a handy addition to your radio gear, especially if your local emergency services have switched to encrypted radio. Even if they are not using P25 systems or similar, ham radios often do not receive out of the amateur bands. Boafeng and other chinese radios often do though, but do not support encryption. Listening in on emergency services will give you a really good idea of what police are responding to and where, along with fire and ambulance services. Some hospitals are also listed there, which could give you some valuable insight into the scope of an emergency.