You Can Have This Capability for Yourself and Your Family--
Unlike some other types of radio services, you need an FCC license to communicate with a ham radio. There are three levels of Amateur Radio Licenses, and getting your first one is not all that hard. Many people pass their FCC exam in a week of spare time study and there are a lot of groups and people who can help you.
In general, you can expect to spend about $40 in books and fees to earn your frist license. With another $200, you can purchase your first radio and the gear you will use to get on the air for yourself and start making contacts. Of course good, used equipment is available for less.
Founded in 1914, the American Radio Relay League is the 150,000-member national association for Amateur Radio in the USA. Other countries have their own national associations.
ARRL is the primary source of information about what is going on in ham radio. It provides books, news, support and information for individuals and clubs, special events, continuing education classes and other benefits for its members.
Amateur, or "ham," radio has been around for a century. In that time, it's grown into a worldwide community of licensed operators using the airwaves with every conceivable means of communications technology. There is a wide range in ages of those interested in ham radio--both young and old. Ham radio attracts those who have never held a microphone as well as the technical expert who grew up with a computer. Even rocket scientists and a rock star or two, are in the ham ranks.
Most, however, are just normal folks like you and me, who transmit voice, data and pictures through the airwaves, use the Internet, lasers and microwave transmitters, satellites and TV, and even travel to exotic places, near and far to make contact.
To join the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), you must have a ham radio license. ARES members constantly learn more about emergency operations and practice regularly by providing aid to non-emergency events like parades, marathons and drills.
ARES has formal, national agreements to provide emergency communications aid for FEMA, DHS, The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many other response organizations.
Amateur Radio, often called "ham radio," has consistently been the most reliable means of comunications in emergencies when other systems failed or were overloaded.
Hams meet on the air and in person. There are about 630,000 hams in the USA, with ham radio clubs and gatherings all over the country.
Most of the time, things work fine. But, despite the development of very complex systems--or mabye because they are so complex--ham radio has been called into action again and again to provide communications when it really matters.
Telephones, cell phones, Internet, trunk lines, satellite phone--to get a message out, they all have to go through many vulnerable choke points and need electric power. Even if the system is functioning, these systems can be overwhelmed by the number of cries for help and families seeking information.
While hams MAY use the Internet or a repeater system, they do not have to do so! Hams can "go direct" and talk straight through to each other because each station is fully independent. Hams can operate just fine without other infrastructure. By selecting the right frequencies, hams can talk across town or around the world.
- 2011 Midwest Tornadoes
- 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami
- 2010 Haitian Earthquake
- 2006 Earthquake in Hawaii
- 2006 Flooding in Northeastern States
- 2005 Hurricaines Katrina, Wilma and Rita
- 2005 Wildfires in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico
- 2004 Hurricaines Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne
- 2004 Tsunami in Asia
Hurricanes, Ice, Snow, Tornadoes, Storms and SKYWARN
- The National Hurricane Center in Florida relies on its ham radio station, WX4NHC, to receive reports from hams in affected areas. The National Weather Service uses ham radio operators for their "SKYWARN" program to get ground-level reports of events that are missed by Doppler radar.
- Ham radio operators by the hundreds volunteered for service to the deviastated areas of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and her sisters, Rita and Wilma, pounded a five-state area and destroyed other communications systems. For their life-saving work, the hams received commendaitons from the President and Congress, as well as international praise. It truly proved the saying, "When all else fails, ham radio works!"
- Within minutes of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, ham operators were busy communicating from emergency operations systems. The ham operators continued for weeks, as the amateurs handled emergency and other important messages for disaster and governmetn agencies, as well as for displaced families.
- Hams use all sorts of radios and antennas on a wide variety of frequencies to communicate with other hams across town, or around the world. They use ham radio for personal enjoyment, for keepting in touch with friends and family, for public service communications and to experiment with radio technology.
- Boaters, RVers and outdoor enthusiasts also use ham radio as an excellent way to maintain communications wherever they are.
- Whether it's a big station, or small and portable, hams enjoy the security of knowing they can get a message through in almost any situation without depending on a fragile infrastructure that can fail or be overloaded.