Patrick Germond: Help with the hams
February 27, 2012
"No worries, mate, no worries. Give your Sheila a kiss for me. Sydney, Australia clear."
"Copy that, Sydney. Take care and I'll talk to you later.
This is Kilo Delta Zero Juliet Alfa India out, and the frequency is clear."
What you just read was part of a short wave (ham radio) conversation I had with a fellow from down under last October.
I would like to take a moment to share with you some of the details of ham radios, and why it's a growing hobby among future electrical engineers, hobbyists, and preppers.
I was able to have the conversation without any phone lines, power grid electricity, or infrastructure whatsoever.
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It was just me and the Aussie fellow with our ham radios. Ham radios can be extremely powerful — they can go up to 1,500 watts, and can be run by any 12-volt power source such as a car battery, solar panel, or generator.
Their ability to be run by an independent power source gives ham radios and their operators a very reliable form of communication in any kind of disaster.
In fact, hams used to be an important part of a community's Civil Defense programs.
Most people depend on others for their communication needs, such as landlines, cell phones and the Internet. When large disasters strike an area, however, landlines and cell phone towers seem to be overwhelmed and shut down in the first 24 to 48 hours.
Communication between government entities seem to function slightly better, but have also shown a propensity of failing, too, as was the case with the biggest of our recent disasters like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the tornado in Joplin this past year.
A week or so ago, three local teenagers who were out snowmobiling were stuck at Freeman Reservoir overnight. While at Freeman Reservoir, I have communicated via a small handheld shortwave radio with my friend, Tom Ward, who was in Craig at the time.
I was able to do this both with and without using our local repeaters. What I mean is that the small, inexpensive ($100), 7-watt handheld radio I was using at the time had plenty of power to reach Craig on simplex, without needing to hit a repeater.
Nonetheless, if needed, it will hit any number of local repeaters within 75 miles of Craig.
Also, note that a CB only has 4 watts of power, and does not have the range and power of a basic ham handheld.
In case of emergency, anyone can use these radios without a license.
As a safety item, I can send this radio with my oldest daughter and her husband when they go out and about exploring the back roads, so the next time they get stuck I can be in contact with them and deal with it in a timely manner and not have to stay awake all night wondering where they got stuck, and if they're OK.
Ham radios require a license from the Federal Communications Commission to operate.
The first level is extremely easy to get. Boys and girls as young as 6 or 7 years old are able to pass the technician class test.
The Amateur Radio Relay League has a website that can help anyone who is interested in getting licensed. Testing and licensing fees are very inexpensive — it cost me about $15 total.
There are three classifications or levels a person can achieve. With each new level, more frequencies and privileges are available.
The test used to include a Morse code portion, but that has been removed to make it easier to pass the test.
If anyone is interested in ham radios and needs advice or help, feel free to contact me. My number is in the phone book.
Helping others get started is a thing ham operators do, so it's no problem. There's nothing like having a little fire in your wire.