Ham radio serves the community

Ham radio, officially known as the Amateur Radio Service, is a hobby and a service. It combines knowledge of electronics with a desire to communicate. Many ham radio operators consider it to be a great hobby. Amateur Radio operators, i.e. “hams”, enjoy many different facets of the hobby. Some like to operate voice modes, some use Morse code for communication, and, nowadays, many use their computers to communicate over radio waves. Some hams use commercially manufactured radios and others use homebrew radios. The same goes for antennas. There are lots of things to enjoy in the amateur radio hobby.

Ham radio also has another side to it. Hams like to use their radio stations to provide public service communications. During emergency situations like storms, wildfires, earthquakes, etc., hams use their radio stations to back up public communications systems like cellular phones, broadcast radio, and first responder radio systems. Hams can use shortwave radio to get messages out of an affected area. After a damaging event, most hams can repair their systems and get back on the air using emergency power like generators, batteries, and solar power. When all else fails, amateur radio can get the message through.

Hams also provide communications for public service events like marathons, bicycle races and rides, parades, and other events. Hams provide these communications for free as volunteers. Hams use the skills they learn on the hobby side of amateur radio to give back to the public on the service side.

Unlike FRS, GMRS, MURS, and CB radio, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires an operator to pass a test on electronics, rules, and operating practices, to get their amateur radio license. An amateur radio license is required to operate an amateur radio. Hams must take a test because they have a lot of flexibility in what kinds of radios they use, what kinds of operating they do, and who they can talk to. In order to insure that hams operate their radios properly within the rules, a test is required before getting the license to insure the operator knows how to legally and properly operate their radio.

Getting a ham license is not difficult. The entry-level or “Technician” license requires passing a 35 question multiple choice test about simple electronics, FCC rules, safety, and proper operating techniques. The 35 questions are taken from a 428 question pool and a passing grade is 74% or 26 questions. In the past, knowledge of Morse code was required for a license, but that requirement has been gone for quite some time. Many means are available to study for the test. There are websites, books, videos, and license classes taught by local radio clubs. There is information below on the classes taught by the Island County Amateur Radio Club.

There are many ham radio clubs around the world. Ham radio clubs allow members to learn more about the hobby, provide education and testing for license tests, and provide a pool of trained operators for emergency and public service communications. This website describes the Island County Amateur Radio Club. Check out our other pages to see about our activities and meetings.

If you would like more information about amateur radio and getting a license, email getprepared@w7avm.org.