The Amateur Amateur: Please Answer the Following Question
Well, that thought did occur to us way back when we were first getting started. We didn't want participants to walk in out of curiosity and walk right back out again out of boredom. I can't remember who suggested it, but the idea was put forth that each week we ask a new question related to emergency preparedness.
Great idea. Only none of us could think of more than one or two questions. So it fell to the Net Manager (guess who?) to come up with a pool of questions from which the Net Controllers could draw each week. But if the Net Controller was feeling particularly creative, he or she could introduce a question of his or her own.
I found it hard to come up with questions about preparedness alone, so I expanded the field to include anything related to Amateur Radio. I kept track of the questions asked and the answers given and put them on the group's Web site archives (I'm also the Webmaster).
Sometimes the answers we received surprised me, so I thought I'd share some of them with you. Here's what we heard when we asked, "Please answer the following question."
If you have a handheld transceiver, do you have an antenna other than the original "rubber duckie" to use on it?
All but one person said yes. For some reason, I had the notion that few people would bother buying a better antenna.
Do you have more than one battery for your handheld transceiver?
Again almost everyone answered yes, and again I was surprised. I suppose I thought that there were a lot of hams who made little effort to improve or enhance their portable units. It appears that I was mistaken.
Have you ever drawn up a 'power budget' for an emergency situation? That is, have you ever calculated how much emergency power you have available and how long it would last?
I can usually count on Chuck, N0EIS, to improvise his own questions. They almost inevitably embarrass us because they're about something we all should have done but haven't. Two out of three participants replied no to this question.
Do you have digital packet capabilities?
I liked this one because one person said not sure. Everyone else was sure, with two out of three participants responding no.
Do you have an emergency light source -- other than a handheld flashlight or an open flame device -- that will give you illumination for at least 4 hours?
This was another one of Chuck's questions and again, he caught two-thirds of us unprepared.
Have you ever experimented with solar, wind, or water power?
All but one person said yes, which really stunned me. I was the guy who said no.
How long have you held your Amateur Radio license?
I liked this question because it asked for a reply other than yes or no. I also liked the spread of the answers: 2 weeks, 5 months, 10 months, 3 years, 5 years, 5 years, 10 years, 12 years, 13 years, 28 years, 45 years, 46 years and 50 years.
Do you take Amateur Radio equipment with you when you go on vacation?
Practically everyone answered yes. I wanted to also ask, "And what does your spouse think about that?" but I chickened out.
Have you ever been the Net Controller for a directed net?
Out of the 16 participants, 13 said yes. That blew me away, as I can't seem to recruit net controllers for my net.
Can you hear me (the Net Control Operator) on this repeater's input frequency?
This question was of particular interest to us as we needed to determine how difficult it would be to perform 2 meter simplex operations in St Louis County. Each of our five net controllers asked the same question over a five week period. The responses were about what we expected. The county has a lot of lumps, bumps and low spots, making simplex an iffy proposition at best. The question blindsided some participants who were unable to switch to the repeater's input frequency.
Do you hold any kind of ARRL volunteer position, such as Volunteer Examiner, Official Observer, Certified Instructor, Official Emergency Station, and so forth? If so, what position do you hold?
This was another one in which the answers surprised me, primarily because more than half of the participants -- 10 -- replied yes, with 7 responding no. Here is the breakdown; several participants hold multiple positions:
- Assistant Emergency Coordinator -- 1
- Certified Examiner -- 2
- Certified Instructor -- 5
- Certified Mentor -- 1
- Emergency Coordinator -- 1
- Technical Specialist -- 1
- Official Relay Station -- 1
- Volunteer Examiner -- 7
Do you still have your first amateur radio transceiver?
16 of 19 participants answered yes. Hams never get rid of anything.
Have you ever had someone you did not know recognize you as an Amateur Radio operator or ask if you were an Amateur Radio operator because of some item you were wearing or carrying? This should have been in a public place other than an Amateur Radio event.
Four out of five participants said yes. I wonder if it was the deep, sagging spot on their belts where they usually hang their portables?
Do you have one of the St. Louis County ARES® "When All Else Fails ... Amateur Radio" buttons?
Almost everyone responded yes. I felt good about that, since I made the buttons.
Are there local laws or covenants restricting you from putting up an antenna?
Someone always finds a way to give an answer other than a simple yes or no. Five people said yes, five people said no. One person said no, but that the proximity of the airport to his house restricts the height. Someone else said no, but the community restricts the height.
Have you taken any of the ARECC (Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Courses)?
Again, not quite yes or no: Seven said yes, nine said no and one said they were currently taking a course.
Do you work any digital modes?
And yet again, not a simple yes or no. Eight said yes, six said no. One said they are "CW only."
Are any other members of your immediate family licensed Amateur Radio operators?
Only one out of 11 participants answered yes. I guess I'm luckier than I thought.
Do you know who the following people are (YES or NO for each)?
- Hiram Percy Maxim
- Gordon West
- Riley Hollingsworth
Alright, I'll admit that this was an off-the-wall question. But I was curious to see what sort of response I got. Sixteen people replied. Only two did not know who Hiram Percy Maxim was. Gordon West was slightly more well known. And everyone knew who Riley Hollingsworth was.
Do you regularly check WWV or any other NIST time station?
Out of 15 replies, 13 responded yes. We're compulsively accurate hobbyists.
Do you have 220 MHz equipment?
This question was asked in one fashion or another three times over a period of years. The replies varied from 25 to 50 percent of the participants answering yes. Where are they getting the radios?
Have you constructed or performed maintenance on an outdoor antenna within the last month?
Most participants answered yes. That's a lot of hams on the roof.
Have you ever operated on an amateur band above the 70 centimeter (440 MHz) band?
We asked this twice and both times virtually everyone replied no. But now there is a new 23 cm repeater in town, so I'm sure we'd get a different response if we asked the question again.
Do you belong to a local ham organization other than ARES?
21 of 24 participants responded yes. Almost everyone is in a club.
Have you ever heard a distress call on the Amateur Radio bands? If so, were you able to handle it?
I put this question in the pool because I once caught just a piece of a distress call and was not able to do anything about it. This is how the net participants responded:
|Seven said "Yes, and I was able to handle it."
Four said, Yes, but I was not able to handle it."
Nine said no.
If you have a ham antenna on your vehicle, has it ever collided with anything?
This was a very popular question. Two out of three participants said yes. Like many of our questions, it only required a yes or no answer, but most folks responding yes couldn't resist making a few comments as well. The term "tree magnet" was used a lot. Garage doors were also a popular theme.
That's a sampling of the questions we've asked. I'd like to think that they helped to keep the Net interesting. I certainly found the answers enlightening. And, just occasionally, entertaining.
Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant, Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail.
Gary Hoffman, KB0H