New Ham Information

Congratulations! You've passed the ham radio license exam, received your license and call sign, and now you're ready to embark on new adventures in a brand new world. While we might not know you personally, I and many others welcome you with open ears. As you get ready to take your first steps in ham radio, please keep in mind two things: we're all amateurs and we're all learning. Now, we look forward to hearing you on the air!

 

If you're like most new hams, you probably have many questions. Then again, you might not even know what questions to ask yet. So, as an officially licensed ham radio station operator, where do you start? Depending on your needs, this page might be a good place. Here are some questions you might be asking:

 

 

First steps

 

Equipment

 

Making contact

 

Service and groups

 

Preparedness

 

Activities

 

Just curious

 

Above and beyond

 

Assistance

 

How do I check for my license? 

 

Before you are able to transmit on an amateur radio you must receive your callsign issued by the FCC. Visit the ULS database to search for your callsign. Once your callsign is listed in the database you may legally transmit on your amateur radio.

 

How can I get a copy of my license?  

 

Over the past few years, things have changed a little. The FCC no longer mails your license out to you, now you must go to their database and download an Official Copy to print out.

 

  • Log in to the FCC licensing website using your FRN and password (if you have forgotten your FRN or password, you can ask for help from them)

  • Click your call sign

  • In the right nav click Request Duplicate

  • Click CONTINUE and CONTINUE and CONTINUE TO CERTIFY

  • Enter your name, then click SUBMIT APPLICATION

 

You can also print out a Reference Copy of your license, or anyone's license by doing the following?:

 

  • Go to the FCC license search page

  • Enter your call sign and click Search

  • Click your call sign

  • Near the top of the page, under your name, click Reference Copy

 

Remember the Reference Copy is not the official license, it is for reference use only. Be sure to download and print out an Official Copy of your license by following the directions above.

 

What do I do now? 

 

This is usually the very first question asked by new hams. It means you're ready and willing to learn or take the next step, but you're not sure what that is. Here are some suggestions: 
 

  • Purchase a radio and an antenna

  • Get on the air using the local repeaters or on 146.520 simplex and say:

    • "This is <call sign>...looking to make a contact with somebody. Is anybody available?"

  • Check in to a net. Here on Oahu, Monday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 the EARC Nightly Net is held on the Linked DEM Repeaters. When the Net Control Station calls for newly licensed hams, simply give your callsign and your first name to check into the Net.

  • Learn ham radio Best Practices

  • Join a ham radio club or attend a ham radio convention

  • Be sure to update your ham radio page on QRZ.com and be sure to list your email address so other hams can get in contact with you.

  • Get involved in a service organization or church that can use your new ham skills

  • Prepare for an emergency

  • Spread the word; help somebody else learn about ham radio

  • Be sure to check the scroll at the top of this website regularly to see if your name is listed. As a new ham, I may receive a Radiogram message for you.

 

Finally, even though you're properly licensed, it doesn't mean you really know what you're doing yet, and that's ok. One thing many brand new hams find useful is to attend a ham radio course after getting their licenses.

 

That might seem a bit backward, but it's a very effective way to learn the ins and outs of ham radio, including some hands-on fun, without the pressure of an examination hanging over your head. 

 

Which radio should I get? 

 

You should probably get a radio that can transmit on at least the 2-meter band, which is the most commonly used frequency band (a dual-band radio does both the 2-meter and 70-cm bands), and probably the most helpful in local emergencies. If you have never used a ham radio, or you are not rich, I suggest you purchase one of the following handheld ham radios (along with a flexible whip antenna):

 

 

Keep in mind that handheld radios have a very short line of sight range and rely on repeaters to get your signal out farther. These repeaters may not be available in an emergency or after a disaster. In addition to a handheld radio I also highly suggest getting a mobile radio which will allow communications over a larger area:​

 

 

 

 

Please understand, however, that if you purchase a mobile or base radio, you will also need a power supply, antenna, and feedline, for which I recommend the following:

 

 

Where can I purchase radios and other ham gear? 

 

Many people have purchased good equipment (radios, antennas, feedlines, connectors, etc.) for low prices from a great variety of places, mostly online, and I have (usually) had good experiences purchasing equipment from the following places:

 

 

What kind of antenna should I get?

 

Often more important than which radio, you'll want to consider what kind of antenna you're going to need. And that'll depend on what kind of radio you have, on what bands it can transmit, and how portable you want it to be. 

Being a new ham, chances are you have little more than a 2-meter handheld, which is perfectly fine for portable and emergency use. The problem is, your poor little "rubber duck" antenna might not allow your transmissions to reach beyond a few blocks, and you're hoping to do a lot more with it. Obviously, the cost of a big antenna tower is probably outside the budget at this time, but there are other good options, such as a whip, a roll-up J-pole, or a mounted vertical. Here are three configuations to consider:

 

For handheld radios

 

  • If you're starting out with an HT and want to be heard, I recommend you purchase a Super-Elastic Signal Stick high-performance flexible dual-band whip ($20) or Smiley Half-Wave telescoping 2-meter whip ($29), and both come in a BNC or SMA connector.

  • Another good option which I prefer is a genuine Nagoya antenna ($10 to $16 from Amazon). You have to watch these though as they are a LOT of fake Nagoya antennas out there. Here is how to spot a fake Nagoya antenna.

 

 

For your vehicle

 

  • If you're looking for something that you can attach to your car, you can always install something permanent, but I recommend that you start out with a dual-band mag-mount antenna, such as a Nagoya UT-108 ($8) or something a little heftier, such as a Tram 1185 ($22), but again make sure you get one that comes in your choice of connector, or that you have an appropriate adapter. Also, take a look at some high-performance options for your vehicle.

 

 

Mounted outside your home (or inside, near a window)

  • For dual-band (2-meter and 70-cm) operation, an aluminum J-pole is probably the very best antenna you can get for the price, such as Carl's Joystick (the "Pockrus" antenna, $25) 

 

Which feedline (coaxial) cable is right for me?

 

If you plan to use an antenna that is not directly attached to your radio, you'll need a feedline that's appropriate for your operating configuration, the most important of which is the frequency band you plan to use most with it. In short, I recommend the following for low power, to balance loss with cost: 

 

Band                   Location             Movement                 Duration               Length                Model

VHF or UHF       outside                little                         temporary            over 50 ft          LMR-240

VHF                      inside                  little                         temporary            under 50 ft       RG-8X

VHF or UHF       outside                little                         permanent            over 50 ft          RG-213 or LMR-400

VHF or UHF       outside                little                         permanent            under 50 ft       LMR-240

VHF X UHF        outside                little                         permanent            any                     RG-213

HF                        outside                little                         permanent            over 50 ft          LMR-240 or LMR-400

HF                        outside                lots                           permanent            under 50 ft       RG-8X

HF                        inside                   lots                          temporary             under 50 ft       RG-8X
 

 

Can I have a decent mobile setup without drilling holes in my car? 

 

The short answer is Yes, but violating that pretty, metal body of your Lexus will probably give you the best radio performance, due to the direct connection between your antenna ground and your car ground. That being said, here are two high-quality antenna mounting alternatives: mag-mount and lip-mount.

Mag-mount

 

  • A magnetic-mount magnetically attaches to your metal body and will typically come with a cable that you run from the mount to your interior radio. Be sure to protect your paint job from scratching by separating the mount and your car with a piece of wax paper or other thin, protective sheeting. I recommend the Tram 1235 mag-mount NMO ($34) with RG-58 coax and PL-259 connector.

 

Lip-mount

  • Also known as a trunk-mount, the lip-mount configuration can be installed on your fender, bumper, trunk lid, or anything metallic on your car that has a flat edge and is electrically connected to your metal body. Like the mag-mount, it'll typically come with a cable that you run from the mount to your interior radio. I recommend the Tram 1246B lip-mount NMO ($31) with RG-58 coax and PL-259 connector.

​​

For these two mounts, I recommend an NMO antenna, such as the Comet SSB-25NMO for single-band ($45) or the Diamond NR770HNMO for dual-band ($54).

 

What other ham radio equipment should I get?  

 

If there's one thing that's easy to do in the ham radio hobby, that is to spend too much money on extra gear, whether you need it or not. We've already listed the important items above to help you get started, but there are other things that might be of interest to you, to help you become a more efficient, effective, and portable operator. Here's a short list of equipment to consider, including the things already mentioned:

 

  • transceivers

    • handheld (HT), mobile, base, other portable

 

  • antennas

    • whip, telescoping, mag-mount, J-pole, directional, portable

 

 

  • audio

    • headphones, headset, earpiece, speaker, microphone, boom, foot switch

 

  • meters

    • antenna analyzer, SWR meter, power meter, DMM

 

  • signal

    • antenna tuner, amplifier, filter, ferrite choke, balun

 

  • power supplies

    • batteries, AGM, Li-ion, NiMH, charger, battery eliminator, car adapter, alkaline case (sled), fuses

 

 

  • DIY

    • soldering iron, solder, screwdriver, wrench, knife, scissors, wire cutters, pliers, crimpers, needlenose, electrical tape, heat shrink tubing, silicone tape, zip-ties, pencil or marker, flashlight, punch, drill motor, drill bits, wire, tape measure, hacksaw, ibuprofen

 

  • apparel

    • emergency vest, climbing harness, cap, gloves, eyewear, knee pads, new wardrobe

 

  • the extras

    • wall map, frequency band chart (PDF), computer, TNC, books, call sign stand, vanity call sign, amateur radio license plates (you might want to check out Ham Crazy and YourCallSignHere)

 

And if you already have what you need, you might want to consider getting spares of the same.  

 

How do I use my radio for the first time?   

 

Feel free to turn on your radio and explore by listening to various frequencies! You'll find that most will be very quiet. On one hand, there might not seem to be a lot of other hams to talk with; on the other hand, this leaves the frequencies wide open for you to experiment with. You need to get on the air ASAP and practice because during an actual emergency your family and the rest of us might need your radio communication skills. 

Also, you might find that your particular radio can receive transmissions outside the amateur bands, which is perfectly fine since there is no need for a license to simply listen. But if you want to transmit within your allowed frequencies (of course you do!), there are a few things to keep in mind:

 

  • Besides what's shown in the Band Chart, your area has a band plan that governs which frequency ranges are assigned to which communication types and which operating modes you're allowed to use on them

  • You're usually safe to first tune to 146.520 MHz, the 2-meter National Simplex Calling Frequency, but you might not find many people listening. If you're on Oahu, tune to the Linked DEM Repeaters.

  • Announce your call sign and that you're listening, or that you're looking for a contact, like

    • This is <call sign>...listening

      • or

      This is <call sign>...looking to make a contact

      • or

      This is <call sign>...anybody want to talk with a new ham?

      • or if all else fails,

      This is <call sign>...could I please get a signal check?

      • Note: if you ask for a signal check, and somebody replies with a signal check, the sole purpose in replying is to give you a signal check, not to converse with you. If you want to converse with the person, you need to ask whether your contact can also talk for a minute.

  • If there's a conversation going on, try listening for a while before joining in and announcing your call sign; if there's a net in progress, listen for when it's appropriate to check in, then feel free to do so

  • If you're attempting to use a repeater, keep in mind that it'll probably require you to set the offset and PL tone to communicate through it

  • Get familiar with your radio by changing frequencies, playing with the settings, and communicating with different repeaters

  • Check out our list of Ham Radio Best Practices

  • And when you do make radio contact with somebody for the first time, be sure to ask for the First Contact Award

  • You can find other tips for first contacts on the ARRL website 

 

 

What frequencies should I use first? 

 

It can be a little discouraging to shell out cash for this nice electronic device, only to find that there's nobody on the air to talk with. At least, that's what it seems. Knowing what frequencies people hang out on might be helpful. People tend to congregate on the frequencies of local repeaters because of their wide area coverage and accessibility. Here is a list of Oahu Frequencies

 

 

  • A negative sign following a 2-meter frequency indicates the listed frequency minus 0.6 MHz for the repeater's input (receive) frequency. A negative sign following a 70-cm frequency indicates the listed frequency minus 5 MHz for the repeater's input frequency. Many modern transceivers set these automatically, but most Chinese (Baofeng, Wouxun, TYT, Quansheng, Puxing, Anytone) HTs do not.

 

Where can I find all my ham radio privileges listed? 

 

If you're new to ham radio, chances are you hold a Technician class license, and most of your operating frequency privileges are confined to the 6-meter band and higher, plus a portion of the 10-meter band. And if you hold a higher license class, your privileges get a bit more complicated. 

This handy chart illustrates the frequency privileges for all amateur license classes, plus mode, power, and a few location restrictions. 

By the way, CW (Morse code) is the only mode allowed on all amateur radio frequencies.

 

How can I use my radio to contact other hams? 

 

If you know other hams, tell them you'd like to talk with them on the air, then ask them when and on what frequencies they plan to talk. Most likely they'll be happy to help out somebody like you, who is new to ham radio and wants to get started. 

If you don't know any other hams, try announcing your call sign on 146.520 MHz simplex, and listen for who might answer. If somebody answers, just speak with them like you normally would, remembering to announce your call sign every ten minutes and at the end of your communication. 

Don't get discouraged if you announce your call sign repeatedly and nobody responds, even though others might do the same and get a huge response. The ham radio world tends to attract those who are more disciplined and reserved than other kinds of interests, so hams might not acknowledge your presence, or even want to engage you, if they don't already know you well. ("Obviously, he's asking for somebody else.") A good way to overcome this is to announce the call sign of a specific ham, then your own. ("Oh, he's asking for me.") 

And if that doesn't work, look up a listing of the repeaters in your area and tune into one of them, remembering to set the appropriate offset and PL tone for it.

 

How do I join a radio conversation already in progress? 

 

You've been listening to a conversation (QSO) between two or three people on the radio, and you'd like to join in because you have something to add, or have some information they're asking about. But how do you break in, to throw in your two cents? 

It can be a little scary to jump into a radio conversation if you've never done it before. What are the rules? What happens if you transmit over somebody else's transmission by mistake? Will you make one of them angry because you've invaded their conversation? Is somebody going to send the ham police after you? Well, no, but here are some tips to get you going:

  • At an appropriate moment, as soon as one of them releases the PTT button, push your own PTT and say your call sign suffix (letters after the digit). If my call sign is K7ABC, I would say, A-B-C ! Do not use the word break to break in.

  • Don't assume you have permission to proceed, so just wait until one of them says, Go ahead, break or Go ahead, A-B-C or Go ahead, Spencer

  • If they don't give you permission to join the conversation, they might not have heard you, or you might have transmitted over somebody else. Just wait awhile and try again. If they never grant you permission, you can't join the conversation, so don't just butt in any way and say your piece.

  • Once they invite you into the mix, simply start speaking like normal. You might want to say your name, but saying your call sign is optional until ten minutes have passed or it's the end of your communication.

  • Be a good sport and pass the control of the conversation to the next person in the group by saying, Over to Andrew for example

  • Avoid saying your call sign too often, which tends to irritate others in your QSO; every ten minutes is good enough

Finally, avoid using trite and unnecessary expressions perpetuated by some hams, like Over to K7XYZ in the group. They would rather hear the person's name, and they already know that he's in the group. Similarly, avoid W3ABC for ID. People already know that W3ABC is your ID; simply say your call sign.

 

What basic ham radio words should I know? 

 

Like with any group, hams have their own vocabulary, and it might be good to know what their words mean, even if you don't use 'em yourself. Here are some of the more frequently used ones:

 

7-3                                 best wishes / good luck                       7-3 from WH6FQE

roger                             got it / agree                                         Roger that

copy                              understand                                           I copied your entire transmission

QSO (cue'-soh)            conversation                                         I just had a QSO with a guy in Florida

clear                              good-bye / off-air                                This is WH6FQE, clear

mobile                          traveling                                                I'm mobile at the moment

destinate                      arrive at destination                             I've just destinated

dark side                      repeater shadow                                   Sounds like you're moving into the dark side

monitor                        listen                                                      This is WH6FQE monitoring

QSY                               change frequency                                I'm going to Q-S-Y over to the '62

double                          talk simultaneously                              You two doubled with each other

step on                          talk over                                                 Sorry, I stepped on you

PTT                               push-to-talk button                             Press your PTT when you're ready to speak

HT / handy                  handheld transceiver                           My only radio is an HT

rubber duck                 short stock antenna                              I'm using a rubber duck

stand by                        wait / pause                                           This is WH6FQE standing by

net                                 on-air gathering                                   The net's at 7 pm

early / in-and-out       offline check-in                                     Please give me an early for tonight's net

elmer                            ham radio mentor                                Tom is my elmer

final                              concluding transmission                      I'll be clear on your final

jump off                       leave the radio                                       I need to jump off right now

kerchunk                      key up silently                                       All I could hear is somebody kerchunking

picket fence                 fluttery transmission                            You're starting to picket fence

ragchew                        shooting the breeze                              We're just ragchewing at the moment

shack                             radio room                                            My shack is in my basement

silent key / SK             passed away ham                                  My father is a silent key

steam                            hissing background noise                   You have a lot of steam

full-quieting                no background noise                           You're full-quieting into the repeater

relay                             pass a message                                       Could you please relay?

key up                          transmit                                                  Key up when you're ready to speak

unkey                           stop transmitting                                   I heard an odd noise when you unkeyed

ticket                            ham radio license                                 When did you get your ticket?
 

 

What are phonetics and the phonetic alphabet? 

 

We're often asked to spell out our call signs and names and other things using the phonetic alphabet, sometimes called standard phonetics, to help clarify them when spoken in noisy environments or difficult-to-hear conditions. The ham radio version of the phonetic alphabet has become increasingly standard in recent years for many groups, including the ITU, the US Army, and the FAA. This table displays the phonetic alphabet that we use in amateur radio:

 

Alfa          Hotel           Oscar          Victor

Bravo       India           Papa            Whiskey

Charlie    Juliet            Quebec      Xray

Delta       Kilo               Romeo       Yankee

Echo       Lima             Sierra          Zulu

Foxtrot   Mike             Tango

Golf        November    Uniform

 

How can I make radio contact with my family or friends in another state?

 

Another reason many people get into ham radio is to maintain contact with family members many miles away should normal communication methods become unavailable. If both you and the other person have General class licenses and HF equipment, you can contact each other by ham radio directly anywhere on the planet.

 

But, chances are you two are fairly new to ham radio, and so have no higher than Technician class licenses and only handheld radios. If that's the case, try following these steps to make that contact:

 

  • Do a little research, and find out what repeaters are available in both your area and theirs.

  • Of those repeaters, select ones that support IRLP or that are linked to other repeaters that do support IRLP, and find out their node numbers

  • Contact the other person ahead of time and agree on which repeaters you plan to use

  • Use your radio's keypad to send tones to your local repeater and initiate the IRLP

  • When the IRLP link opens, you might find a conversation already in progress; follow best practices and be patient while you wait for your turn to use the repeater.

  • When you've finished your conversation, follow the procedure to close the IRLP link

 

Please note that some repeaters hold their IRLP node open 24/7 and are connected full-time to a reflector, making it unnecessary for you to initiate the link on those repeaters; just opening the repeater will automatically make your voice heard from all the repeaters linked to yours 

 

What does it mean to 'monitor' a frequency?

 

To announce that you're monitoring a frequency means that you're listening for people who might be requesting something as simple as a signal check or calling for help in an actual emergency. It can also mean that you just want to talk with whomever is listening at the moment. If somebody does request help, you can answer the call if you feel you're able to provide the requested assistance, or direct the caller to another person who is able to help. 

How do you become a monitor? If you have a valid ham radio license, simply listen, and when there's no traffic on the frequency, just say one of the following:

  • This is <call sign>, monitoring

  • This is <call sign>, listening

  • This is <call sign>, mobile (if you're traveling)

 

Are there service groups in which I can make use of ham radio? 

Ham radio is probably much more than a hobby to you, and you'd like to put your skill and equipment to use in the service of others. Fortunately, there are volunteer organizations in place to serve the public in the event of an emergency or other needs, who also help provide you with ham radio usage and other training you'll need to assist them. Here are a few:

 

 

  • REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams)

  • RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service)

  • ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service)

  • Skywarn (storm-spotting)

  • SATERN (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network)

There are simply not enough police, fire, and medical personnel available to service all the public needs in every event, whether that's a natural disaster or a downtown parade. These paid officials depend on trained ham radio operators who volunteer their services to provide the needed eyes and ears that otherwise would be unavailable during these critical moments. We are not the police, but we use our radios to report lost children / parents, injuries, patient conditions, weather updates, and suspicious activity to Net Control, police, or other officials as requested. 

 

How can I use ham radio to serve my church area or neighborhood? 

 

There is probably a group of hams within your town, neighborhood, church group, workplace, or other local circles who already meet in a regular net that's not part of an organized club. These folks often use ham radio to participate in emergency preparedness, community training (such as CERT), and local disaster relief (such as the American Red Cross). If you're certain that your community has no such net, learn how to start one.


If you're a member of the LDS Church, there is most likely an organized net within your own stake. Contact your Ward or Stake Emergency Preparedness Specialist to be sure, and find out how you can serve. If you're not LDS, or if your stake doesn't have an organized ham radio net, start one, but understand that you do not necessarily represent your religious institution when you create or participate in their net.


The LDS Church has an organization for emergency communications known as the ERC, which falls under the responsibility of regionally located Bishops' Storehouses world-wide in the Church. (For those familiar with MARA, the Church's former emergency communications arm, please note that it is no longer associated with the LDS Church, but is still a valuable communication resource.) Feel free to contact your local ERC group and find out how you can check into their net and become part of the plan.

 

Are there ham radio clubs or fun ham radio groups I can join?

 

You might not be the kind of person who sees yourself joining a club and attending club meetings for the sake of discussing ham radio. After all, that's why you have a radio, right? It turns out that one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the ham radio world and learn the art better and faster is to associate with groups of hams who have common interests, such as emergency preparedness, community, religion, hobby, school, vocation, scouting, and locale. 

Most likely you have a lot that can benefit others too, and the rest of us would love to meet you and find out what you have to offer. Nearly everywhere in the US you can find local ham radio clubs or social groups that will welcome you among their memberships.

 

Here are a few local radio clubs:

 

How do I join a ham radio net? 

 

A ham radio net (network) is an on-air gathering of ham radio operators who are organized socially or for a common interest, such as emergency preparedness or religion. Probably the best and easiest way to join a ham radio net is by listening to the net, then saying your call sign when the Net Control station (NCS) or operator asks for any new or visiting hams. NCS will be happy to give you whatever instructions you'll need to participate in the net and be listed on the roll. 

 

Monday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 the Emergency Amateur Radio Club holds their net on the Linked DEM Repeaters.
 

​​

 

How do I start my own net?

 

Even if you already participate in a net, your group might want to create yet another one that addresses a particular need. If you want to start your own net, you're perfectly within your privileges to do so. There are no actual rules for creating a net, just what you've already learned. Here are some tips to get you started:

 

  • Agree on the type of net you want to hold, which can dictate who you want to include in your net

  • Agree on a format for your net, including training topics, if any

  • Agree on a date, time, length, and how often you want to hold your net

  • Agree on a band plan and media policy

  • Agree on a net control policy

  • Agree on a check-in policy

  • If it's appropriate for your net type, develop a script and log for your net.

  • Search for hams within your potential net group using QRZ or ULS and begin inviting these hams to your net

  • If you're about to start your net on a repeater, you have priority use of the repeater if your net is scheduled by the repeater trustee. If you use a simplex frequency, and people are already talking on your selected frequency, they have priority on that frequency, and your net must move to another frequency. You can politely request that the current conversation pause or move to another frequency, or wait until they clear.

One last but very important thing about holding a net: if you plan to use a repeater for your net, you must have the express permission of the repeater owner or trustee to use the repeater for that purpose and for the particular date and time you plan to hold your net. If your net revolves around an emergency training or preparedness theme, I highly recommend that you avoid using a repeater for your net for several reasons, one of them being that your nets will train you to become dependent on it, yet during a disaster the repeater will likely not be available to you. 

 

How can I use ham radio to prepare for an emergency? 

 

One of the reasons you might have gotten your license includes preparedness because you know that ham radio can provide a lifeline to help when other resources become unavailable. So, what can you do with your little electronic gadget so that it'll be ready for you when you really need it? In fact, there are many ways you can include your radio in family and personal preparedness plans, but we can think of these activities in two different ways: use your radio now, and prepare to use your radio later.

 

  • Use your radio now​

    • During a disaster is a little late to start becoming acquainted with your radio gear. It might be better to practice getting on the air and rubbing shoulders with others who feel the same urgency for preparedness. These suggestions could help you reach that goal:

  • Prepare to use your radio later

    • There are things you can do, to help prepare you for a disaster, without requiring you to get on the air very much right now. Here are some ideas that might help you prepare further:
      • Build a 72-hour go-kit
      • Become CERT certified
      • Make a family preparedness plan
      • Rehearse your plan
      • Practice packing your go-kit to various places, setting it up, and actually using it
      • Being able to make your own antenna or other components could come in handy when times get rough and you need to improvise, so experiment with a few small do-it-yourself projects

 

 

How do I make a (72-hour) go-kit that includes ham radio?

 

A go-kit is also called a jump-kit, ready-kit, go-bag, bug-out bag, 72-hour kit, disaster kit, battle box, and more, but whatever you call it, it's essential to your emergency plan. So, how do you make one for ham radio, or at least includes ham radio? There are many ways of making a go-kit that fits your radio needs, but most tend to gravitate toward two ideas: one kit that contains your radio and all your emergency supplies; or two separate kits, one for personal supplies and the other for utility needs, such as ham radio and tools.

 

I have separated the kits out into two 72-hour kits, but you can combine them together if you prefer.

 

 

 

What first ham radio steps should I take in the event of an actual emergency? 

 

Fortunately, you'll probably never experience a true disaster in your lifetime, yet they do happen, and it's your hope that you'll be prepared should such an incident affect you or your family. If you are involved in a possible life-threatening situation, you need to act quickly, so the last thing you want is a long checklist of action items to remember. Collected and compiled from REACT,  FEMA, the Red CrossCERT , and ARES, then summarized here, is a set of emergency steps you should take immediately after a disaster strikes:

 

  • Use your head — stay calm

  • Check yourself for injuries

  • Check household members for injuries

  • Call 911

  • Check your place for damage

  • Notify your Block Captain

  • Grab your go-kit and your 72-hour kit

  • Gather your family and leave your place

  • Check your neighbors for injuries

  • Go to your assignment or shelter

  • Inform your out-of-state contact

  • Set up your radio and check in

  • Adjust these steps to suit the incident

 

Notice that some of these steps require you to do a little thinking. They are not necessarily listed in the order you need, not all of them are applicable in every incident, and many useful tips have been omitted, requiring you to be resourceful. 

 

Note that your ham radio doesn't come into play until way down the list. But if that's the case, what's the difference between you and anybody else, who might not have a radio and a license? The difference is that you are familiar with how to use your radio during moments like these. And where did all this supposed training come from? From participating regularly in local nets. 

 

 

How can I sharpen my ham radio skills?

 

Like the old saying goes, practice, practice, practice. Experience is probably going to be your best teacher in the ham radio world; you'll likely learn the most by on-the-job training. Still, there are tools available to help you become the expert ham that others seem to be. Here are some of them:

  • Get on the air and engage other hams in conversation about whatever; ask about them, their families, their jobs, their hobbies, and what they do in their spare time

  • Join a ham radio club and attend meetings, activity nights, and social events, where you can rub shoulders with more experienced hams

  • Volunteer to help out in public events such as parades, festivals, races, and fireworks shows 

  • Take your radio with you camping, hiking, biking, jeeping, or on a road trip

  • Join ARRL

  • Experiment with your radio's settings, buttons, menus, and other features, to become better acquainted with your equipment

  • Read and do the things listed under How can I use ham radio to prepare for an emergency? to become better prepared

 

 

 

What kinds of fun things can I do with ham radio?

 

If you're like most normal people, especially if you came into the amateur world for reasons of family or personal preparedness, talking on a radio might not be your idea of entertainment or fun, let alone a hobby. Still, there are a variety of ham radio activities that might interest you, beyond just fumbling with another electronic gadget and talking. Here are a few of the ham-related activities that people just like you find enjoyable :

 

 

And more, but let's start with these 

 

Are there ham radio events or other large get-togethers I can attend?

 

Periodically ham radio enthusiasts gather in large conventions known conveniently enough as hamventions. During these events, and others, such as hamfests, expositions, conferences, and exhibitions, hams can share what they've learned, learn new concepts, and be the first on their block to hear about what's trending in the amateur radio world. It's a chance to rub shoulders with those you might have contacted only on the air, see people you've been wanting to meet, or play with equipment that might be out of your financial reach at the moment. They might even give you an opportunity to see how something works or ask questions that hadn't previously occurred to you. 

There are other gatherings that could also satisfy your need to meet fellow and sister hams and prospective hams, like swap meets, club meetings, club socials, special radio events (such as Field Day), and nets.

 

 

How do I request a First Contact Award for somebody? 

 

When you (the new ham) contact somebody (the old or experienced ham) on the radio for the very first time, you qualify for the First Contact Award, which is a certificate given to congratulate a new amateur on making that first radio contact. The old ham should go to the ARRL website to apply for that award to be given to the new ham, but many of the the instructions listed on that site are rather confusing and verbose, so here is what the old ham should put in the boxes, to award the new ham with this certificate.

 

  • Name : Name of the new ham

  • Recipient's Call Sign : Call sign of the new ham

  • Email Address : Email address of the old ham

  • Station Worked : Call sign of the old ham

  • Day of the month : The UTC date, as in, if the time of the contact was 7:30 pm HST on 03-24-2019, the UTC date would be 25 because the UTC time will be 0530 (ten hours different), past midnight

  • Month : The UTC month of the contact

  • Year : The year of the contact

  • UTC Time (HHMM) : The UTC time, which is HST - 10  (like military), and without the colon

  • Band : The band you were on, most likely 2m or 70cm if you made your contact with a handheld radio

  • Mode : Most likely FM if you made your contact with a handheld radio

  • Mail Name : Name of the new ham if you're having this award sent to that person (or your name, if you plan to present this award to the new ham later)

  • Address : Mailing address of the new ham (or your address, if...you get the point)

  • Address line 2 : Leave this blank

  • City, State, Zip Code : Mailing address info of the new ham (leave US Territory blank, unless it applies)

  • Country : Scroll way down and select USA

  • Click SUBMIT

Certificates are typically processed on the Wednesday following submission, so expect them to arrive a few days after that

 

 

How do I request an Elmer Award for somebody? 

 

You know somebody who's been a good mentor and a real friend who's not just helped you, but maybe even gone above and beyond the call of duty. It's time you award that person with a certificate of your appreciation. Go to the ARRL website, and apply for the Elmer Award. Certificates are typically processed soon after submission, so expect them to arrive a few days after that.

 

 

Just how far can I talk on ham radio?  

 

With just your 5-watt handheld transceiver (HT), you'll find that your range is from within your city to around the world and beyond, all depending on how you use it. If you wrap yourself in a metal cage, like your car, you might be lucky to reach the other person a half-mile away in another car. But on a clear day under ideal conditions, you might be able to contact the ISS. This table can help you visualize the potential reach of such an HT under a variety of conditions.

 

 

Points                    Conditions                                             Distance                   Explanation

HT to HT           Inside a vehicle to inside another     Under ½ mile           Your vehicles are metal shields

HT to HT          Within your city                                   1 to 3 miles               Buildings, trees, other obstructions

HT to HT          Suburbs                                                  3 to 6 miles              Depends on trees and foilage

HT to HT           Flat desert or over water                     6 to 12 miles            Line of sight

HT to HT          Mountaintop to valley floor                15 to 20 miles          Mountain height vs. terrain topology

HT to HT          Mountaintop to mountaintop            30 to 35 miles          Mountain heights

 

How can I get into HF?  

 

Even though you're fairly new to ham radio, you're ready to extend your skills to the low band realm. You know that HF opens up an exciting new set of possibilities to you; after all, you'd like to contact hams across the globe without resorting to EchoLink or IRLP. You might also want to participate in contesting to help sharpen your skills and prepare you to handle radio communication during a large-scale disaster without having to rely on repeaters or the internet. Besides, it's a whole new way to have fun with ham radio.


If this is the direction you're headed, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Holding a Technician license, you already possess the privileges of transmitting by phone on a small segment of the 10-meter band. But if you hope to transmit by phone on a much larger set of frequencies, you should consider upgrading your license class to General.

  • HF is more difficult and more expensive to operate effectively:

    • You need to purchase an HF transceiver. I recommend purchasing a used radio or a new mobile Yaesu FT-857D because it is perhaps the lowest-priced, full-featured HF transceiver available.

    • You need to purchase a power supply that's appropriate (voltage, amperage, connectors, etc.) for your radio. I recommend the Powerwerx SS-30DV because it's well-suited for the Yaesu FT-857D. (You'll also need to make or purchase the adapter cable .)

    • You need to purchase an HF antenna and appropriate feedline. I recommend the inexpensive vertical Hustler 5-BTV antenna because it supports the 80-, 40-, 20-, 15-, and 10-meter bands. For the feedline, I recommend RG-8X for a temporary (testing) setup or LMR-240 for a permanent one. If your feedline needs to be longer than 70 feet, I recommend LMR-400 or RG-213.

    • You need to borrow an antenna analyzer, an SWR meter, and an antenna tuner, if these aren't already built into your transceiver

    • Once you have these things in place, test the SWR of your antenna-feedline combination and repeatedly ask for on-air signal reports as you modify things, remembering to use your call sign, then adjust your equipment as needed (keep in mind that changes in antenna height above ground will also affect the SWR)

  • Proper HF operation requires a little experience:

    • Locate a frequency that is appropriate for your license class and your transceiver, then listen

    • Listen some more, in case a QSO is going on, and you're only able to hear one side of it

    • Ask twice, This is <call sign>...is this frequency in use?, then listen some more

    • If nobody answers, say, CQ...CQ...CQ...this is <call sign> calling CQ...over, wait a few seconds, then repeat (say your call sign clearly, using phonetics)

    • If somebody answers, go ahead and converse as you normally would. If nobody answers, either keep trying or consider changing frequency, then start over. If more than one person answers, you'll need to learn how to work the pileup.

    • Learn how to participate in contesting to improve your HF skills

 

 

​Where can I go to learn Morse code?

 

You know that demonstrating Morse code is no longer required to pass a ham radio exam. But you probably also know that code is part of ham radio's legacy, and you might even be a little curious about it. Maybe you've wanted to learn it since you were younger or saw people use it in movies and such. Here are some things you can do to get started, or at least find out whether doing code is something you really want to start on:

  • Register for a free account on LCWO

  • Spend five minutes each day going through the lessons, using only your computer keyboard, at 5 wpm

  • Once you complete all the lessons, increase your speed gradually, until you reach about 10 wpm

  • Purchase a straight key

  • Get on the air and send small messages, along with your call sign

  • Find a CW net on which you can start transmitting slowly

  • Learn about Morse code abbreviations and prosigns

  • Find a faster-code (12 wpm) net on which you can increase your code speed and proficiency

 

Finally, you might not feel that learning Morse code is worth your while, but if you plan to set up a ham station in a Central or South American country using General class or higher privileges, they require you to demonstrate code proficiency if you seek a Class 1 IARP permit

 

Where can I learn more about ham radio without getting overwhelmed? 

 

This isn't the only website in the world that has ham radio information or links to ham resources. But you might have found that arbitrarily searching online can result in many links to sites that require special knowledge or experience to understand. And even though you're a beginner at this new craft, you'd like to know more about it or how to use it without getting drowned by unfamiliar terminology. Here are some links to other websites that might be helpful to you:

 

As you know, websites often come and go, so if any of these links are broken or outdated, please inform me

 

How do I upgrade my ham radio license class? 

 

If you don't already hold an Extra class license, you can always upgrade to a higher license class. So, how do you go about getting that higher class license? The same way you did for your current license: study for the exam, then take and pass the exam. 


To study for the exam, you can download and study exam material, study online, take classroom study courses, or do all three. You can access all of the possible questions and correct answers to the General class license exam and the Amateur Extra class license exam right here on my website. 

 

But why would you want to upgrade your license class? If you hold a Technician class license, your main reason is probably to gain transmit privileges on the HF bands beyond 10 meters. If you hold a General or Advanced class license, there aren't many good reasons to upgrade, but these might be some of them:

 

  • Hold transmit privileges on all amateur frequencies

  • Get a shorter call sign (see the rules)

  • Assist with administering exams as a VE

  • Help out with contesting on otherwise unavailable frequencies

  • Prestige

  • Possibly provide more credibility for teaching ham radio courses

  • Ability to set up a ham station in Europe without the need of an additional license

  • The sheer challenge (because you could)

 

Could I become a ham radio instructor or examiner? 

 

Absolutely! No qualifications whatsoever are required to teach ham radio courses. Besides having a little teaching skill, however, you might want to consider at least these things before launching a ham radio course of your own:

 

  • You should be a licensed ham, to gain the respect of your students

  • You should hold an Amateur Extra license, to obtain (and therefore present) the best education you can for the greatest benefit to your students

  • Your sponsoring organization, if any, might actually require that you hold a minimum license class, plus have some amount of experience under your belt before you teach in their behalf

  • You should become registered as an instructor to lend more credibility to your teaching

  • Instructor registration with the ARRL does require that you meet a minimum set of qualifications

 

 

You can also administer ham radio examinations by becoming a Volunteer Examiner, but that requires a little more on your part, as follows:

  • You must be 18 years old

  • You must hold at least a General license to administer Technician exams and an Amateur Extra license to administer General and Amateur Extra exams

  • Your ham radio license must never have been suspended or revoked, even if it is current today

  • You must apply with the W5YI VEC or the ARRL VEC and be familiar with the VE Manual to become accredited as a Volunteer Examiner

 

How do I apply for a vanity call sign? 

 

You might have found that you didn't have much say in your first call sign issued by the FCC. Then again, any person holding a current ham radio license can apply for a vanity call sign free-of-charge, regardless of license class, but your license class and residence location will determine the choices of vanity call signs available to you.

  • Review the rules by list or by chart

  • Search for the vanity call sign you want, to be sure it isn't already taken

  • Unless you already have it, go to the same FCC License Search page and enter your current call sign, to get your FRN

  • Log in to the FCC License Manager using your FRN and password, then click your call sign

  • On the right nav click Request Vanity Call Sign, then on the next page click Continue

  • Note that, if you use the Contact Tech Support link to recover your password, you might see a different web interface than what's described here

  • Click Primary station preference list and Continue

  • Enter up to 25 vanity call sign(s) you want to apply for and click Continue

  • Make sure your name and address appear correct, then click Continue

  • Complete and submit the online application

 

The FCC should respond to your request within two to three weeks. 

 

How do I apply for amateur radio license plates? 

 

 Go to the Department of Emergency Management at 650 S. King Street, located in the basement of the Fasi Municipal Building, to submit an application.  Bring the following items:

  • FCC License (we do not issue to NOVICE Class)

  • $17.00 in cash (cost of plates), we don't accept checks, credit or debit cards

  • Provide your daytime phone number and local mailing address

 

We will call when the ham radio plate is ready for pick up; you must bring your current/original registration form and the generic plates to exchange.  (Temporary registration is not acceptable).  You'll then need to proceed to your nearest Satellite City Hall to update your registration.

NOTE: THe state does not order Amateur Radio license plates until they have at least 5 people wanting to order them, so waiting time may be longer depending on how many people are waiting for plates.

 

What are some ham radio best practices? 

 

This is a whole new world for you, and you want to jump into it with both feet, so you're bound to make a few mistakes here and there, but that's all right. Still, to play nicely with everybody else, here are a few tips, good habits, and even unwritten rules, to help you avoid little pitfalls and maybe some embarrassment:

  • On the air:

    • After pressing your PTT button, wait about ½ second before speaking, especially if you're communicating through a repeater. If the repeater is internet linked, wait about 2 seconds.

    • When speaking into your microphone, try talking across its face, rather than blowing directly into it

    • Place your hand microphone about two or three inches from your mouth when transmitting, but stay within an inch of your built-in microphone

    • When using a handheld radio with a whip or rubber duck antenna, try and keep the antenna pointed upward when you're transmitting

    • When announcing your call sign along with that of another ham, the rule is to put yourself last, as in "KR5LYS, this is K7ABC" if your call sign is K7ABC

    • While it's customary to call out CQ on HF bands, it's best practice on the 2-meter and 70-cm bands to announce your call sign instead, especially on a repeater

    • If another ham points out a problem with your transmission ("you're sounding a little scratchy"), always assume the problem is with you (location, orientation, power too low, etc.) or your equipment first, and always admit your mistakes

    • If you'd like to jump into an ongoing conversation, avoid using the word break; instead, say your call sign between their transmissions

    • After your contact releases his PTT button, allow one or two seconds before you press yours, in case another person wants to join the conversation or has an emergency

    • Avoid kerchunking, which is repeatedly pressing and releasing your PTT button without announcing your call sign; it's not only illegal, but irritating to others, especially those listening on a repeater

    • When speaking through a repeater, try and keep your conversations to under a few minutes

​​

  • Personal:

    • While it's not always possible, try and make your conversations positive and upbeat; sounding positive attracts friends, while negative comments tend to turn other hams away from you, even if well-intended

    • Don't react like you're offended just because another ham can't remember your name or call sign

    • If another ham does offend you, let it go; don't retaliate or try and belittle the other ham for it; be the adult in the encounter, even if you're a kid

    • Be considerate of your contact's time, and minimize dead-air time by at least thinking of what you're going to say before keying up (and while it's fun to use your PTT button, don't forget that it's also an RTL button)

    • Avoid making insulting or disparaging remarks about others on the air; what people hear you say about others, they'll also believe you'll say about them

    • If you feel you must correct the behavior of another ham, do so off-air, tactfully, and out of earshot of others

    • Within reason, avoid burping, coughing, sniffing, clearing your throat, smacking your lips, and making other bodily or disgusting noises on the air

​​

  • Equipment:

    • When storing your HT for later use, like in a go-kit or bin, use alkaline instead of rechargeable batteries, and keep the battery case removed from the radio until you need to use it

    • Make sure your radio is programmed with an appropriate frequency list before you stash it away, but be sure to accompany it with a card or sheet to remind you of what the frequencies or channel names are for

    • Learn how to manually program your radio; you might not know when you need to travel through a location where there is no cell signal available for your phone or tablet

    • Join a regularly held net, which will give you weekly practice on your radio, to keep you acquainted with your equipment operation and limitations

 

 

Why can't my friend hear my radio transmission? 

 

You and a friend both have your licenses, you've just purchased brand new radios that should work, and now you two have the guts to actually get on the air. So, you call each other by phone to turn on your radios, agree on a frequency, and announce your call signs, but for some reason, you aren't able to hear each other on the radios, or it's very difficult to hear each other. Here's a small checklist of things you should eventually memorize.

 

  • If you're trying to communicate by simplex, answer these:

    • Have you accidentally selected a repeater frequency?

    • Could you be too far away from each other?

    • Are there large obstructions between you?

    • Is your power level set too low?

  • If you're trying to communicate through a repeater, answer these:

    • Are the frequencies correct?

    • Are the offset and direction (plus or minus) correct?

    • If the repeater requires a tone, are the tone value and tone type correct?

    • Could you be too far from the repeater?

    • Could this be a closed repeater, requiring a special code to access?

  • In either case, answer these:

    • Have you tested your radios by talking with each other from separate rooms in your house?

    • Are your antennas adequate?

    • Are both of you using the same antenna orientation?

    • Is your antenna connected through a coax cable that might be too long?

    • Are either of you located inside a building or vehicle or cave?

    • Is everything connected properly?

    • If you're operating on battery power, is the battery charged?

    • Are you speaking too softly or too far from the microphone?

    • How near are you to metal structures?

  • All these things, and more, can affect your communication

 

 

How do I update my address with the FCC?

 

Have you moved since your license was issued? Or did somebody make a typo in your address or name spelling, and now you'd like to correct it?

  • Unless you already have it, go to the FCC License Search page and enter your call sign, to get your FRN

  • Log in to the FCC License Manager using your FRN and password, then click your call sign

  • On the right nav click Update

  • Note that, if you use the Contact Tech Support link to recover your password, you might see a different web interface than what's shown here

  • On the next page, leave the two questions at No, then click Continue

  • Make changes as necessary and click Continue

  • Complete and submit the online application

  • The FCC should respond to your request within a couple of days. 

 

 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

 

How do I go about programming my radio?

 

When people ask about programming their radios, they usually mean that they want to set them to transmit right away or to store these settings in memory to transmit later (or both!) In either case, you can go about this in two different ways: the easy way or the hard way, but each has its advantages.

 

  • Easy — by computer: Probably the easiest way to get both of these done is to use ham radio programming software (such as the free software CHIRP with a frequency list ) and an appropriate programming cable that connects your particular radio to your computer. I personally recommend that you purchase both the software and cable for your radio from RT Systems, which could save you a world of headaches. These solutions require little or no special knowledge on your part and can save you a lot of time and frustration. Note: if you insist on using free software to program a Baofeng™ radio (especially the UV-5R, GT-3TP, and BF-F8HP), you might want to use the Miklor™ software instead of CHIRP, but pay close attention to the cable and driver instructions for these models

 

  • Hard — manually: If you're traveling, away from a computer or your programming cable, and need to tap into a local repeater, you might want to know how to program your radio without the aid of software or other special tools. Besides, you want the satisfaction of being self-sufficient should an emergency occur and the power goes out. It's probably best to find out how to program your radio from your user guide or online manual if one's available. Then again, I've put together a few step-by-step guides for some selected radio models:

 

    • Baofeng UV-5R, UV-5RA, GT-3, BF-F8, BF-F9 ( and poster)

    • Baofeng UV-B5, UV-B6

    • Baofeng UV-82, UV-82L, UV-82X, UV-82C, UV-89 (and poster)

    • Yaesu FT-60R (and poster)

    • Yaesu FT-2900R

    • Icom IC-V85, IC-V80

    • Wouxun KG-UV8D

    • Kenwood TH-F6A

 

Whether you choose the easy way or the hard way, it might be wise to program your radio with preset frequencies long before a crisis arises and while you're close to home. 

Still, after going through all of this, you might feel that programming your radio is a bit over your head, especially if you're attempting to do it manually. If it seems a little too difficult, consult your elmer or get on your favorite repeater and ask for help. There are many technically inclined hams who feel your pain and would love to help you. 

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