Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What you didn't know you didn't know...

As a result of my previous post, I learned a lot about ham radios, and now I want one. I knew somewhere in the back of my memory files that ham radios existed, and that you had to be licensed to use one, and that there was some major test that you had to study for like you were demented so that you could learn the ham radio code, which I either didn't remember or didn't know was Morse code. What I don't think was ever in my memory files was 1) that my best source (Mom) has already been licensed for about a year; 2)you no longer have to pass the Morse code test in order to receive your license (though I would definitely like to know it were a ham radio in my possession); 3) my internet friend Carl apparently has a way bigger yard than I do. (He always leaves great comments :)

In addition to Carl's comment, which I encourage you to go read, thanks to Road Scribe of New Mexico Preppers, who left the following information:

"Ham Radio: get the whole family involved. There are frequencies you can hit a repeater and make a phone call. Ham's will help you contact a family member in a disaster. Join a club near you. Ham Radio requires a license without the Morse Code test, but I'd advise learning that also. Kids pick up the code fast as a second language. Using the Internet there is Skype (Internet Phone), cheaper than my TracFone and a new one out called MagicJack for around 40.00/year."

I hadn't heard of the last two options, but it's definitely something that would be worth looking into--as you probably recall, I did have access to my computer while my phone was wigging out. Also, thanks to Anonymous, who shared first-hand experience, advice, and a reminder:

"Ham class started Saturday @8am. Took the test at 3:30 found out I passed and confirmed ARRL license and got call sign 4 days later. Followed advice of local Ham club members and ordered 2 meter (WATER PROOF!)handheld radio (good for local area using repeaters out to about 100 miles) , antenna (for car top), extra battery pack for about $250. VERY EASY PROCESS!! On the air in under 2 wks! Next step is a dual band radio for the truck extimate another $400 for that one. Go for it!!! Communication is CRITICAL. Before even water in priority in some cases. Communication can save you from making fatal mistakes. Remember all those poor uninformed people slogging to the superdome in NOL?!!! If only they knew what they were in for....."

I love it when something sounds doable--Anonymous' experience actually sounds similar to my best source's--it doesn't take that long to get licensed, apparently, and a long, drawn-out process is one of the things that would have made it look less attainable to me.

So many things that I didn't know that I didn't know--in this case, what I would like to do looks easier than I thought it might be, so that's always a plus. Of course, there's always the price aspect of it, so it might take a little while, but in an emergency, communication is priceless. Now I just have to locate my local ham radio club to learn even more... :)


HermitJim said...

It is always a good idea to be on top of all communication options...and as usual, I'm not. Guess I had better get on the ball, huh?

Anonymous said...

Marie, thank you for your kind comments. We live on 5 acres, with 5 acres to the south open no resident and then our Friends live on the next 11. We have 70 acres behind me that is a farm, and 180 across the road that are also a farm. About 90 of that is forest, original growth I might add. Some oak trees are 3 or more feet in diameter. We cut a dead one down and counted the rings taking it back to before 1700...We try to make the best use of what we have.

Ham Radio and the ARRL have a little known system called ARES which is basicly Amateur Radio Emergency Service. By the way when Hams use the term "amateur" they are meaning non-professional not for profit or even revenue Radio Stations. The License requires and demands that you do not operate for money in any way. I know HAMS that have "shacks" that would rival many FM professional stations.

Your County should have a ARRL sanctioned Emergency Coordinator who is FEMA trained and certified. In Emergencies this person can and will coordinate HAM emergency Communications. May I suggest that after you get your license that you and your mom join your local county ARES "club"...Your county FEMA emergency government agent will know who your ARRL person is.

Sorry to be so windy


Marie said...

HermitJim--I am glad that I am not alone--I need to get on the ball too. I'm just glad that it sounds like it's rather easy to fix, besides the money factor... :)

Carl--Wow, yeah, you have a lot more open land around you than we do. That's impressive about the pre-1700 tree--it sounds like you have a lot of natural resources around.
Thanks very much for the additional information. I would like to put myself in the best possible situation when I use ham radios, and this definitely gives me a lot of things to look into. I really appreciate it!