Amateur radio has been around for over 100 years, and in the age of cellphones, computers and other high-tech devices, amateur radio, as it is also known, continues to play an important role in the world of communication. .
“In an emergency, when normal communications links are cut, radio amateurs with stations operating with off-grid backup power sources can serve as a communications resource,” the longtime amateur radio operator said. Don Campbell (call sign KE6HEC).
“Amateur radio,” he said, “is a component of most emergency response plans and amateur radio equipment is installed in schools in the Humboldt County Office of Education, fire departments, Humboldt County Emergency Operations Center, Humboldt State University and Caltrans. “
Jaye Inabnit (KE6SLS), an avid ham operator and former president of the Humboldt Amateur Radio Club, said, “Hams in Humboldt County and the United States communicate without the need for a power grid. Whether it’s a quick call to let us know about our situation or a full email and photos, hams can and do every day without our network or cellphones.
Radio amateurs also provide a communication medium for community events such as parades, races and bike rides, participate in ‘contests’, which involves trying to make as many contacts as possible within a period of time. definite time, and are involved in many other activities, too.
Local amateur radio operator Cliff VanCott (KN6CEJ) said: “We coordinate our local training sessions. We are now building a network of communicators through programmed networks, so that when a disaster strikes, we already know who and how to contact. By preparing in advance, we are in a better position to respond more quickly to immediate needs.
“We’re having fun, too,” VanCott noted. “Competitions, field days, exchange meetings, weekly lunches, monthly meetings, etc. The Boy Scouts have a radio merit badge. Many colleges have radio clubs. It’s not just work and not play.
Inabnit said, “I enjoyed making voice contact with the International Space Station… and some of our new orbiting satellites. I also have fun sending and receiving hams from all over the world. Finally, I really enjoy chatting with my friends from Arizona to Montana at night. It’s like having hundreds of your best friends at the same time.
In March, the Humboldt Amateur Radio Club will be offering a free course to help prepare people for the Federal Communications Commission Amateur Radio Technician License Exam on May 15.
Technician Class is the entry-level license for amateur radio, Campbell said. Due to the current COVID-19 health crisis, the course will take place via Zoom, meeting 10 consecutive Mondays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. starting March 8. Everyone is welcome.
“All ages can and do participate. There is no age required to obtain a license, ”said Campbell. “That said, despite the continued efforts to bring the younger ones into the hobby, the age group tends to get older.”
The course will introduce the basics of radio and electronics, tips on using station equipment, procedures for communicating with other radio amateurs, operating licenses and regulations, and radio safety. . Students are encouraged to purchase the textbook used for the class. “ARRL Ham Radio License Manual 4th Edition” is available from the American Radio Relay League at www.arrl.org. The cost is $ 29.95 plus shipping for the softcover or $ 32.95 plus shipping for the spiral binding.
Course participants will also receive tips for setting up their own ham radio operating station, which can vary widely depending on the needs of each operator.
“By the time a student has completed an initial course, like the next technology course, they have the foundational knowledge to put together a radio hut that meets their needs,” VanCott said. “Some simply operate with a simple hand-held transmitter… resembling a traditional walkie-talkie but with a significantly longer range, a wider frequency spectrum and a much larger collection of features. Others have set up “communication huts”… consisting of entire pieces of radios, amps and tuners and (more).
“It is also important to note that experienced people are very willing to help. … Experienced radio operators frequently mentor new members with advice and guidance. You are never alone, unless you want to, ”he said.
Amateur radio operator Sherry Lisby (KM6YRQ), who is part of the Humboldt Bay Fire Community Emergency Response Team, said, “In my case, I took the airwaves with a simple handheld computer. … My first one cost $ 70. … That’s all I needed to go on air the first time around and it’s a great way for someone to go on air and see if they want to invest more money in more equipment, etc. I still do not have a permanent configuration. … I would eventually like to get more equipment and set up a more permanent station to participate in even more competitions and amateur radio activities, as well as to establish contacts further afield.
There are currently three amateur radio clubs in Humboldt County: the Redwood Amateur Radio Club in Fortuna, the Southern Humboldt Amateur Radio Club in Garberville, and the Humboldt Amateur Radio Club.
“In addition, the Far West Repeater Association, with 68 members, maintains a linked system of four repeaters providing county-wide coverage,” Campbell said.
The Humboldt Amateur Radio Club – founded in 1947 – has 45 members who meet live monthly due to the pandemic. In addition to a host of other activities, the club sponsors two licensing courses each year, said Campbell, who was first intrigued by the field of communications years ago.
“I was interested in shortwave listening in my youth in the early 1960s and got a license back then, but it turned out to be a daunting task,” he said. . “Back then, you had to go to a Federal Communications Commission office – San Francisco being the closest – and learning Morse code was a requirement. In the mid-1980s, the FCC delegated testing to the hobbyist community so that testing could be done locally, an entry-level licensing class was created, and ultimately Morse code was no longer required, which has contributed to a mini amateur radio boom. In 1993, shortly after the earthquakes of 1992, a friend and his wife suggested that my wife and I, along with another couple, take a bachelor’s degree course offered by HARC, and that was all that was needed. ‘I had to – my childhood dream came true. “
VanCott got involved in amateur radio after completing a Humboldt Amateur Radio Club technician class exam training session like the one to be held in March.
“I am the team leader of the McKinleyville CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and I wanted to broaden my skills and also be able to communicate further, more reliably and more autonomously in times of crisis,” he said. “I have since discovered that HARC is a wonderful collection of like-minded people with many common goals.
Inabnit’s interest in the terrain began in the early 1990s when he purchased an RV for camping in the mountains.
“I wanted to buy one of the new cell phones for a road emergency, but learned that those phones don’t work in the mountains. “What you need is an amateur radio,” a guy from a Radio Shack store told me. This then aroused my interest. Now I can’t imagine not being a ham operator, ”he said. “I entered a HARC radio class and about two months later got my first technician class FCC license. Of course, ham radio accompanied us on every RV trip we took, sometimes surprising us when we got to a remote location and found several ham radio operators waiting to meet us in person.
Lisby said: “I have always been interested in amateur radio since I grew up using CB radios and I knew ham was there as well, but I hadn’t really been exposed to amateur radio. When I was doing my training for CERT, there were several instructors and students there who were amateur radio operators. It piqued my interest again. After completing my training and joining the Humboldt Bay Fire Team, Don announced an upcoming Technician License course. I signed up immediately and got the highest of the three licenses, the extra amateur.
For more information on the Amateur Radio Technician Licensing Exam Prep class, contact Don Campbell at [email protected] or 707-834-0042.
For more information on amateur radio in Humboldt County, visit https://www.humboldt-arc.org.