Did you know there is an alternate universe out there?
The world of the ham radio operator that is!
I recently gave up my most cherished Friday night and the next Saturday to study and learn about this alternate universe and become a ham radio operator. They even speak another language in this wavelength; henry, MHz, and amp – capacitor, transistor, and diode. They speak on the CQ with call signs, and an identifier every 10 minutes. No obscene words can be found.
I learned that sharp bends must be avoided and green is safety ground. Plus, it’s okay to be bipolar in this universe as long as you are a junction transistor or emitter electrode.
Ohm’s Law rules this place. Don’t fight it, resistance will cause friction.
Becoming an Amateur radio operator was surprisingly easy, considering I’m NOT a science gal. Volunteer instructors taught us the rules to pass the test, which can be found at www.hamelmer.com. I printed it out at least a week before class but didn’t get a chance to really take a look until I was there. I would definitely recommend spending a few hours looking through the materials ahead of time if you are also not “sciency”. The training was free, the official FCC licensing test cost $14.
Having my license allows me to be part of an amazing volunteer force that assists in emergency communications during a disaster. I took the class at my local fire station and plan to use my license as part of my CERT Team participation. I want to have a working relationship with my local emergency management agencies because ham radio communications work when nothing else does.
Now that I’m licensed technician class operator (waiting for my call sign), I need to find a local group to learn how to use a radio. Because the class didn’t actually teach me how to talk on a ham radio – it just taught me the rules, so I won’t make a fool of myself when I actually do!
You have a license, now what?
Find a local amateur radio club in your area. They offer free classes to help you get started and you will meet tons of like-minded people. They are as interested in preparedness as you are.
More study is in order. AARL has study guides, learning videos and an online course if I want to review the rules or move to General Class.
Practice, practice, practice. Your local club should have monthly or weekly testing sessions where you can practice, prepare and participate in ongoing training and exercises.
Ask another amateur radio operator to take you under their wing. I’ve found them to be very helpful. Don’t know anyone else? Go online and search for “FCC registered amateur radio licenses” – your city, state. I found 82 people and their call signs, in the surrounding areas of my little town.
Get your equipment. That’s another thing about this alternate universe – it requires all kinds of equipment. I’m starting out simple with a handheld radio, which can be purchased for under $50. After looking through the catalogs, it looks like you can spend thousands on your new “hobby” if you wish.
Here are some resources to help you integrate into this wavelength:
The National Association for Amateur Radio – ARRL
Check out E-Ham Net – Ham Radio on the net and their site for new hams. You will find a summary of what hams do and online practice tests.
CQ Magazine – 65 Great Things about Ham Radio
1. It works when nothing else does
2. It makes you part of a worldwide community
3. The opportunity to help neighbors by providing public service and emergency communications
4. Some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet
5. Some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet
6. Some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet
7. Some of the most generous people you’ll ever meet (along with some of the cheapest!)
8. Lifelong friendships
9. Friends around the world (including those you haven’t met yet)
10. The opportunity to go interesting places you might not otherwise go to
I’m excited to make frequent visits to this new universe I’ve discovered – the world of the ham radio operator – to make new friends and be able to communicate in an emergency. Won’t you join me?
Share your amateur radio stories in the comment section below. Have you ever used a Ham Radio in an emergency?