This article is about Morse code and why, as a prepper,you should learn just a smattering for survival purposes. Before you groan, hear me out.
In the event there is a catastrophic end of the world event, the grid will be down and you will need to communicate your location and your status. With a few simple Morse code signals, you will have the ability to summon help or to tell the world you are okay. You will be able to communicate with your peers using signal mirrors, flashlight beams, handheld radios, and even simple, DIY devices.
And that is just one example. As you will learn there are many practical reasons to learn Morse code. To help you get a grasp on those reasons, I have enlisted my BFF and radio guru, George Ure, to give you some real life scenarios in part one of the series “Morse Code: Becoming a Digital Human”.
Morse Code: Becoming a Digital Human
Oh, sure, it’s true: On a Jay Leno show a few years back a couple of Morse code operators were matched up with the world’s fastest texters. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out.
The answer to the question “what is faster, texting or Morse code” shouldn’t surprise you. That is because there are those who are “digital humans”, and then there is everyone else.
While it would be “fun” to recount a bunch of ham radio stories, for example sending Morse code half-way around the world on less power than a 4-watt flashlight, my buddy Gaye has asked I keep the discussion reasoned and rational.
Tall order, but what Gaye wants, I will do!
Five “Use Cases” for Morse
Let’s go through these in order of statistical likelihood:
1. You have a stroke or are severely injured in an auto accident. You can only move the toes of your right foot. You can’t talk because you are intubated, and the doctors don’t know about a critical allergy you have.
2. You are out camping and your SUV runs off the road. The headlights are smashed, no one will see the hillside you’ve gone down and the car is lodged between several large boulders. The rear hatch is smashed shut and you can’t find that emergency hammer.
3. You are flying an airplane under difficult conditions and you need to make sure you’ve tuned in to the right navigation beacon. But that’s on a map and bouncing around you’re not sure you can control the airplane and the radio navigation system safely under these conditions.
4. The end has finally happened and an EMP has taken down the power grid. A few of your neighbors decide to use flashlights to set up a signal system to relay news and reports of intruders…but what light signals to use?
5. You’ve actually gotten your Technician Class ham license and on a bet with a friend, you want to make a Morse contact with someone on another continent.
In each of these use cases, having a working knowledge of Morse Code makes a critical difference. Let’s go through each example and I’ll show you what I mean.
In the case of the accident or stroke, your partner happens to be able to tell doctors that there is a tiny code oscillator you carry with you. With a bit of Velcro, the unit is attached to the hospital bed. Suddenly, you’re able to communicate critical information about your health and that drug allergy that might otherwise have killed you.
In the case of the SUV over the cliff, a simple SOS (three short is “S” three long is “O” and another three short and, as luck would have it, a group of Scouts working on their ham radio license at a camp a mile or so distant makes out your call and rescue efforts begin.
In the case of the airplane, a real-life training incident was pulled on me by my flight instructor in 2011. He tuned the navigation radio to 117.3 MHz and demanded “You hear that signal – can you find it on the chart? ” This was a timed exercise and I aced it: “Why that -.-. …- –. Means CVG – so you’ve tuned in Cleveland Ohio.
A quick spin of the dial and I knew exactly the bearing to Cleveland..and without using the GPS. By the way, this was a first for my flight instructor.