Random 411: The Wonderful World of Amateur Radio

One summer my family was thinking of camping up in the mountains. It’s a beautiful campsite, a popular campsite, but it’s remote. Cellular phones don’t work up there and there is only one place with a landline. This got me thinking about alternate modes of communication. If I can’t use my cell phone and I’m nowhere near a land line, is there any other way to communicate? Any other way to send for help that doesn’t include a whistle or a handheld mirror?

Enter Amateur Radio.

There are so many websites, blog posts, YouTube videos on the subject that I feel bad adding to that mounds of information. However, I’ve heard so many comments like “you can just text” or “well, my phone has GPS.” In fact, someone scoffed at me when I mentioned having a Technician Class license and said: “with the internet and all the advances in technology, you wasted your time getting one.” Usually, I shrug my shoulders with a smile and say something like “well, I am a geek” and walk away. To each his own, you know? 

Well, I just sat through an Emergency Preparedness Seminar. I was reminded that on an island with around 70,000 people–90,000 if you count the visitor population–there are only about 200 first responders/firefighters and about another 200 police officers. If you add the AMR workforce you add around  50 more hands on deck. That is only 450 trained emergency professionals servicing possibly 90,000 people. This doesn’t include the military personnel that’s also stationed on the island, but still, we’re talking 90,000 people. I was also reminded that if you take the worse case scenario and there has been damage to the main infrastructure, it could take up to seven days for outside aid to come in. We’ve been encouraged to build an emergency kit with supplies for 14 days.

What does this have to do with Amateur Radio?  

That’s just it. That’s my point. On an island that is about a five-hour commercial flight to mainland USA, it’s scary to think I cannot call for help. Ninety-thousand people texting and/or calling on their cellular phone. I know technology has come a long way, but again, if you take the worse case scenario and, say, hurricane force winds knocked down two cell towers I may not be able to use my cell phone to call for help. I didn’t want that limitation and/or restriction. 

And while I can charge my radio by an electrical outlet, I can also convert my battery pack to use AA batteries which extend the life of communication and not reliant on electricity.

It may not be for everyone. You need a license and to get a license you need to pass an exam. The exam is 35 questions in which 26 of them needs to be answered correctly. Questions on frequency and FCC regulations. But for someone who can be a sitting duck if the worse happens, having the license and ability to communicate with others is worth the $15 admin fee (volunteers administer the test so you’re only paying for the cost of administering the test, not paying the volunteers, just to make things clear) and $30 for a radio. I don’t need to rely on infrastructure. I can help others who don’t have a license and looking for their family. It makes me think of a saying someone once said to me, “I’d rather carry it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

I have a Technicians license that, I admit, I’ve rarely put to use, but the point is I have it.

And it’s good for ten years.

And since I have it, I can learn all that I want to amateur radio. 

And now that I’ve been reminded how valuable that skill set could be in times of need, I’ll be studying to upgrade my license to a General class this year. 

Cheers to no restrictions and the opportunity to be self-reliant (in terms of communicating of course)!

And at the very least it’s another way to connect with others on a global scale 😉.

There is no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.

Stephen King

 

#JustSayin