THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
May 5, 2018 – R. Fisher

A Road Trip You Didn’t Expect

Imagine you and your family have decided to take a nice road trip to get away for the weekend.  It’s a beautiful sunny day, the only clouds in the sky are light and wispy, you have the windows down and your family is enjoying the scenery.

Then, out of nowhere, a vehicle accident in which the occupants desperately need an ambulance.  You reach for your cell phone to call for assistance but find nothing on the display but the words “No Service Available,” could this ever really happen?

I live in Oklahoma and love going to Kansas City, however, I find that while traveling through Kansas, I can never get cell service.

Now imagine, you recently obtained your Amateur Radio License, you’ve taken your new radio along and have been listening to Ham Radio Operators chatter in the local area as you proceed along your journey.

After discovering that you have no cell service, you remember that portions of the License Exam were devoted to Emergencies.

You excitedly, press the push-to-talk button on your radio and explain your situation to a local Ham Radio Operator who immediately contacts the local authorities.  A few minutes later, an ambulance arrives to save the lives of the accident victims.

While this is just one example of the many uses for obtaining a Ham Radio License, lets dive deeper…

What is Ham Radio?

With cell phones abundant, social media, and the internet almost always available, it is possible that many people haven’t even heard of Ham Radio, or as its officially known, the Amateur Radio Service.

Although, I was introduced to the Ham Radio as a young child, it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I decided to obtain my Amateur Radio License.

At its basic level, Ham Radio is a hobby that allows licensed users to communicate in specific Radio Bands that are reserved primarily for Ham Radio Operators.

There are three licensing levels, Technician, General, and Extra, each allowing the Operator more band privileges.

At the Entry Level, known as the Technician License Level, Ham Radio Operators, in general, can operate on all frequencies above 30 mHz.  There are so many things going on above 30 mHz, you certainly won’t get bored.

“Although Amateur Radio operators get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles, and pass an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” These bands are radio frequencies allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by ham radio operators.”

Source: arrl.org

Operators can communicate with someone next door or on the other side of the world bouncing signals around through the atmosphere, off the earth, or even the Moon.   With the marriage of radio communications and Internet Protocol, Ham Radio Operators can now talk any where in the World during any conditions.

What Can You do with a Ham Radio License?

Ham Radio Operators build their own antennas, experiment with technology, send emails, tinker with WIFI, control remote controlled vehicles, talk to the International Space Station, and more.

Ham Radio is a Journey, what you do with it is a matter of personal privilege.

Ham Radio as a Hobby

“Whether you enjoy writing software, getting hands-on with practical equipment, developing new technology or simply want to use what’s already there to communicate with others across the world, you’ll find all of this – and more – within amateur radio. It is also great fun. Why don’t you try it?”

Source: The Radio Society of Great Britain

Ham Radio in Times of Disaster

One of the greatest functions of Ham Radio involves support and communications during disasters or other emergencies that reduce communication capabilities.  In every disaster, Ham Radio Operators are present to provide communications at the event and away from the Event.

Ham Operators provide third party communication, notification, and relaying of information from individuals at a disaster.

Many Operators participate in spotting networks during severe weather.  These Operators provide vital information about severe storms to the National Weather Service.

“The SpotterNetwork brings storm spotters, storm chasers, coordinators and public servants together in a seamless network of information. It provides accurate position data of spotters and chasers for coordination/reporting and provides ground truth to public servants engaged in the protection of life and property.”

Source: Spotter Network

Ham Radio as an Educational Tool

Because Ham Radio involves Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, it is a great tool for education.  The concepts of energy, waves, and electronics provide opportunities for Operators to share with their kids, family, schools, or the community in which they live.

What makes Ham Radio even better, there are no age restrictions for obtaining a license.  Getting your family involved is as simple as passing a 35 Question Exam.

How Do I Get My Ham Radio License?

Before we get started I should add this note: Everything that will be described below is for obtaining an Amateur Radio License in the United States, which is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.  If you are seeking a license in a Country outside of the U.S.,  you will need to find licensing information specific to your Country.

In the U.S., getting your license is very easy and there a lots of places to take an exam.  Here you can search for classes in your area to prepare for an exam. 

You can purchase any of the many books available, below are books that I have used as I prepared for my Technician Exam.  Additionally, you can install one of the many Apps available in the app store for your particular device.  These are a great way to study the question pool anytime.


The American Radio Relay League also has an online question pool study section that is available free of charge and can be found here.

Lastly, but certainly my favorite study resource is from Dave Casler, KE0OG.

Dave is an Extra Class Radio Operator and has created outstanding videos on Youtube for all three License Levels.  Dave explains each chapter in the ARRL Handbook for each license class in an easy to understand format.

When I was uncertain about a subject, I would turn to Dave for a better explanation of the subject.  Be sure to check his videos out!

Finding an Exam Session in your Area

The American Radio Relay League has created a database for locating exam sessions in your area, which you can find here.  Additionally, you may seek local Radio Clubs in your area through the American Radio Relay League Website, Facebook, or an Internet Search.

About the Exam

The Technician and General Level Exams consist of 35 randomly selected questions from the pool, while the Extra Level Exam consists of 50 questions.  There is a FEE to take the exam, which is usually $15.00 or less and covers administrative costs for the Examiners giving your exam.

Once you have taken the Technician Level Exam, the test will be graded on site.  If you pass the exam you may take the General Level Exam, provided you pass the General Level Exam, you may take the Extra Level Exam.

There is No Extra Fee for each Exam you take during that specific exam session.

What to Bring to the Exam Session

On the day that you take your exam you will need to bring the following items to the test session:

  • A legal photo ID (driver’s license, passport)
  • If no photo ID is available, two forms of identification:
    • non-photo ID/driver’s license (some states still have them)
    • birth certificate (must have the appropriate seal)
    • social security card
    • library card
    • utility bill, bank statement or other business correspondence that specifically names the person; or a postmarked envelope addressed to the person at his or her current mailing address as it appears on the Form 605.
  • Students/minors may bring any of the above items and/or a school ID, minor’s work permit, report card, or a legal guardian may present a photo ID.
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or your FCC issued Federal Registration Number (FRN); VEC’s are required by the FCC to submit either your SSN or your FRN number with your license application form. If you prefer not to give your SSN at the exam session, then you may register your SSN with the FCC before exam day. Once you have a FCC issued FRN, you may no longer use your SSN on the application. For instructions on how to register your SSN with the FCC and receive a FRN, visit the FCC’s FAQ page and the FCC’s registration instructions page.  Please note that some exam teams will only accept a valid FRN on your application.  Check with your local exam team before exam day.
  • If applicable, bring either a photocopy of your current Amateur Radio license or a reference copy printed out from the FCC website, the license information printed from ARRL website or QRZ website, or the original(s) and photocopy(s) of any Certificates of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) you may hold from previous exam sessions. If your license has already been issued by FCC, the CSCE showing license credit is not needed. The photocopy(s) will not be returned.
    • Instructions on how to obtain an official FCC license copy are on the ARRL Obtain License Copy  web page. 
  • Two number two pencils with erasers and a pen.
  • A calculator with the memory erased and formulas cleared is allowed.  You may not bring any written notes or calculations into the exam session. Slide rules and logarithmic tables are acceptable, as long as they’re free of notes and formulas. Cell phone must be silenced or turned off during  the exam session and the phones’ calculator function may not be used.  In addition, iPhones, iPads, Androids, smartphones, Blackberry devices and all similar electronic devices with a calculator capability, may NOT be used.
  • Bring a check, a money order or cash to cover the exam session fee(s).  Check the ARRL VEC’s current exam fees.

Source: arrl.org

I highly recommend you go to the FCC website and obtain an FRN number to link all of your information to this identification number, you can do that by clicking on this text.

Conclusion

Well, that’s certainly a lot to digest, but it is an easy process to complete, so get started Today.  Like I said before, Ham Radio is a Journey, and there are many great people out there that will be more than willing to help you along the way.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help if your not clear on anything.

I sincerely hope that this article helps in your endeavor to become a Ham Radio Operator and hope to hear you on the air soon.

If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, leave them in the comments below or you can email me at rfisher@everythingsexperimental.com.

As we say with radio jargon, 73’s – talk to you later or goodbye.


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