A couple of months ago, I blogged about how my 5-year old son challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and get my ham radio license. Wanting to set a good example, I decided to go for it. On Saturday, October 10, after weeks of studying, I passed the Technician exam! I was assigned the call sign KJ4PSD but I successfully applied for, and was assigned, a vanity call sign – KA4JMP.
So what does it mean to have my ham radio license? Amateur radio, also called ham radio, was created by the FCC to create a pool of volunteers that can provide assistance during emergencies, disasters and public events. Ham radio also has a less serious face. Ham radio is meant to foster international goodwill and encourage learning about telecommunications and electronics.
In this day and age, what with cell phones and Internet access, do we still need amateur radio? It turns out that hams provide critical assistance during and after disasters that cause massive power outages and destroy telephone and cell phone systems. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this video explains how hams provided much needed communications between medical facilities, law enforcement and relief organizations. During the inauguration of President Obama, ham radio operators were enlisted to create a backup communications network in the event that primary communications were disrupted. During the Marine Corps Marathon a couple of weeks ago, a hundred or so hams volunteered and provided communications support, especially to EMS (emergency medical service).
I’m still very new to all this and not transmitting. My husband got me a radio for my car and my desk, and for now, I’m doing a lot of listening. I’m hoping to participate in a contest in a few weeks (the goal is to make as many contacts as possible) and I want to volunteer at the Marine Corps Marathon next year.
Before studying for the exam, amateur radio felt like a dusty and obsolete hobby. But I’m slowly learning just how much this community of volunteers is doing behind the scenes. As the slogan of a ham radio Web site says: When all else fails, amateur radio works.
If you’re interested in learning more about ham radio, check out these great sites:
- Welcome to the World of Ham Radio
- ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio
- Emergency Radio
- Wikipedia on ham radio
Any hams out there? What’s your call sign? What are you doing on the amateur bands?