Local communications should be your first priority, as noted in Local Comms | Where and How to Listen.  But what about over-the-horizon (beyond line-of-sight) communications?  If you live in Idaho, a report of a bridge washed out in Tennessee will likely have no relevance to you at all.  However, sometimes there ARE things you want to know about outside your local community.

You would absolutely want to know:

  • If a foreign military just landed on your shores hundreds of miles away.  What are those forces doing?  Where are they, and where are they going?
  • If organized criminal elements are moving like locusts across a region and you’re in their path.
  • If you have a loved one in another state and you want to know if they’re affected, and to what degree.
  • If your community is cut off and have only local communications, and nobody seems to know how widespread the effects are, and if help is on the way, or if your nation or state still has a functioning government.

These just list a few reasons why you might care about what is happening beyond the range of your local radio communications, but the reasons to have regional and national situational awareness are infinite.  You do not need special skills or equipment to RECEIVE long distance communications over HF (High Frequency) radio, also commonly referred to as ‘shortwave’ radio.

You do not need to be licensed to receive ham radio communications.  And the software for decoding digital mode communications for reading news and reports sent over radio are free and easy to download and install (more on that in a future article).

There are two primary ways a non licensed, non ham citizen can receive communications that are being transmitted by AmRRON (or other ham) radio operators.

  1.  Shortwave Radio Receiver (with SSB — Single Side Band)
  2.  Software Defined Radio Receiver (which can receive local VHF/UHF signals and commercial broadcasts, as well as HF ham and commercial shortwave broadcasts).


A simple shortwave radio receiver (with SSB — Single Sideband) can be very affordable, and there are surprisingly affordable and good quality receivers on the market. There’s something out there for anyone’s budget.  Here are some that come highly recommended by AmRRON members who’ve used them.

For example (click on images below for specifications):




About $170

Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital PLL Dual Conversion AM/FM, Longwave & Shortwave Radio with SSB (Single Side Band) Reception




About $130

TECSUN PL-680 Portable AM/FM/LW/Air Shortwave World Band Radio with Single Side Band






About $80

Tecsun Digital PL368 AM/FM/LW/SW Worldband Radio  with Single Side Band Receiver (Black)





SDRs (Software Defined Radio Receivers)

Software Defined Radio is an extremely affordable and versatile way to put a wide spectrum radio frequency receiving capability in anyone’s hands, requiring very little skill, experience, or cost.   All you need is:

  1. SDR Receiver (either a ‘dongle’ or USB cable connection)
  2. Small computer (Laptop, Raspberry Pi, or even a smart phone or tablet)


RTL-SDR FOR ANDROID   (this is another option for using low powered Android units as opposed to laptop computers)


RTL-SDR dongle (don’t forget an antenna if you don’t already have one)





RTL-SDR Kit (includes dipole antenna kit)









Overview. Software-defined radio (SDR) is a technique for turning a computer into a radio. But not just an AM/FM radio – by using the computing power on your desktop you can listen and decode a wide variety of broadcasts. SDR can turn your computer into a weather-band receiver, a police/fire report scanner, a music listening station, and more!

There are many SDR receivers and free decoding software applications available.  To dive deeper and learn more, take the time to watch some of the great (some are greater than others) videos on Youtube