As a ham radio operator, I’m very glad to see statewide recognition for ham radio operators. Ham radio operators, or hams, do a lot of community service projects including, but not limited to, prividing free radio communications for bike-a-thons, marathons, walk-a-thons, etc. Hams also provide emergency communications skills to organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, the National Weather Service, and more. They do a lot.
My neighbor approached my dad the other day & asked him what the big mast was for in our yard. My dad told him that, “my son is a ham radio operator.” I walked outside as I heard my dad mention ham radio and explained my antenna system. He shared a story with me about how when he was younger, living in another state, his neighbors had family living in another state. There was some sort of disaster in the city his neighbor’s family lived in. His neighbors tried calling the police & other emergency services but they couldn’t find anything out from them. So his neighbors went to another neighbor who was a ham. They explained the situation and within 8 minutes, the neighbor ham had them communicating with each other to let them know they were ok thanks to another ham operator in the effected city.
That’s a great example of how hams help out people & communities. I’m a SKYWARN spotter, a group of people who are trained & certified storm spotters for their communities. We go out & observe storms & the damage they cause and report conditions to the National Weather Service via Ham Radio.
I also participate in traffic nets – these are people who pass messages along to hams or non-hams alike. Messages can range from wellfare checks to routine messages containing birthday wishes or reminders to renew your amateur license. I don’t remember the year this was performed, but some time ago, there was an experiement done to see how long a message would take to go around the world. A ham sent himself a message that had to go around the world from ham operator to ham operator as a relay. It took the message 16 minutes 30 seconds from time of departure to return back to the originating station! Impressive! That’s the power of ham radio.
I’m also now an ARRL acredited VE (Volunteer Examiner). As a General class license holder, I can administer Technician level exams for new hams. That’s another good way to give back to the community.
When cell phones and the internet don’t work, Ham Radio will. Most people run their radios on batteries tied to solar panels or wind generators. There are a few VHF/UHF repeaters that have emergency power capabilities & some even run exclusively on solar and/or wind power.
There is a lot you can do within the hobby. You don’t have to know how to build anything. You don’t have to learn morse code. You don’t have to have a complicated setup at all. You don’t need a big tower in your yard to operate on a global level. All you need to do is pass a 35 question exam (you need to get 26 answers correct to pass) to earn your first license, the Technician License. That gives you limited HF (High Frequency) access on certain HF bands & frequences & full access to VHF (Very High Frequencies) & UHF (Ultra High Frequencies). The next level up is the General license. Again, you have to pass a 35 question exam, getting 26 correct answers to pass, and that’ll give you access to more frequencies in the HF bands. And the last level is the Extra class, which gives you access to all Amateur frequencies. You have to pass a 50 question exam, getting 37 correct to pass.
Here are some good resources to check out if you’re interested in learning more about ham radio or you want to study. Visit the ARRL website to learn more about the hobby. And visit HamStudy to study for exams and take practice exams. Setting up a FREE account with them will allow you to save your progress and allow you to home in on exam sections that cuase you trouble.
It’s nice seeing hams get recognized from the state government in Michigan. I hope this gets the public’s attention.
When a disaster strikes: manmade or natural or when normal lines of communication don’t work or are intermitent at best, Hams will step up to the challenge & help. That’s what we do.
Thanks for reading! And here’s a copy of the declaration made by Gov. Snyder declaring Amateur Radio Week in Michigan from June 20th – 26th, 2016