Ham radio is a fun hobby that allows you to talk to people all over the world. It can even provide a lifeline in emergency situations when the internet, cell networks or landlines fail.
While you can listen to amateur radio signals without a license, to transmit over them, you need to get licensed. Here are five reasons why you should.
When you have a ham license, you’re part of a community of individuals that use radio technology to communicate across town, across the country, and even into space – all without cell phones or WiFi. This is a hobby that’s fun, social, and educational – and can be your lifeline in an emergency.
Even better, amateur radio operators often have 25 times the range of CB radios. Plus, if you decide to upgrade to the Amateur Extra class, you’ll be able to talk around the globe using single-sideband communication (SSB).
Unlike WiFi, 3G, 4G and cell towers, ham radios require you to have a license to transmit. This ensures that you have the knowledge of radio operation and FCC regulations to operate safely.
Getting your license will also provide you with an invaluable skill set to keep you safe in any disaster or emergency situation. When cell phone towers go down or electrical service fails, hams are there with hand-held battery powered radios to get the word out fast.
Besides the normal communication, there are many other fun activities like contesting and “Fox Hunting.” In Fox hunting, one participant hides a radio transmitter within a certain area and other members try to identify the location of the transmitter before others. This is a great way to meet new people and practice your communication skills.
Amateur radio operators often become part of a close-knit community. They meet each other at local clubs and events, and at national conventions. Some even travel and operate from remote locations, a practice known as DXpedition. It’s not unusual to see a ham radio operator showing off a pile of Q cards (confirming conversations or contacts) from around the world.
Getting started is easy and affordable. You don’t need a fancy radio to get started, and used equipment is available at great prices. You can build your own transmitter and receiver or purchase a kit.
When regular communications channels fail, amateur radio operators help people get the information they need — fast. This is critical in emergency situations and disasters. It’s also a lot of fun.
Ham radio is a unique hobby that brings people, electronics and communication together. It’s fun, social and can be a lifeline in times of need. It’s a great way for kids to learn about electronics and develop a lifelong interest in science.
Many hams have reported that the hobby has helped them learn new skills, such as computer programming and foreign languages. Others have found that it has improved their health by getting more exercise through on-air activity, walking, hiking or biking to meet fellow hams.
The ham radio industry has simplified its licensing process in recent years, making it more accessible to a wider range of potential operators. There are now three classes: Technician, General and Extra. There is no longer a Morse code requirement and the entry level equipment costs have dropped significantly, thanks to Chinese manufacturers such as Baofeng introducing inexpensive handheld radios.
5. Emergency Preparedness
Having a ham radio license is an important part of your preparedness plan. It gives you access to more frequencies than a regular 2-way radio and a community that is willing to help you when the time comes.
In disaster situations when cell towers are wiped out and the internet is down, it’s often Ham operators who step up to the plate and provide communications until things can be restored. This is why emergency management coordinators include them in their contingency plans.
Hams are also great to know if you’re stuck in traffic or stuck on a hike and need to communicate with someone nearby. They’re fast, reliable and offer a unique first-hand perspective of events as they unfold. This makes them a valuable source of information when the world is turned upside down.