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Clubs & Events:

Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones.

The easiest way to get in touch with other hams is through the local radio club. Radio clubs have been around as long as radio. The first clubs were just groups of like-minded experimenters who collaborated to build radios when the technology was raw and success by no means assured. Over time, the club grew in size and importance. Today, clubs range from small, focused groups to large clubs, with wide-ranging interests.

The following points hold true for most hams:

  • Most hams belong to at least one club, sometimes several: Belonging to a general interest club as well as one or two specialty groups is popular.

  • Most local or regional clubs have in-person meetings: Membership is drawn largely from a single area.

  • Specialty clubs are focused on activities: Activities such as contesting, low-power operating, or amateur television, may have a much wider (even international) membership.

Individual chapters may have no in-person meetings: They may conduct meetings only over the air.

Clubs are great resources for assistance and mentorship. As you get started in ham radio, you’ll find that you need a lot of basic questions answered. You might start by joining a general interest club (see the upcoming section). If you can find one that emphasizes assistance to the new ham, so much the better. You’ll find the road to enjoying ham radio a lot smoother in the company of others.

Finding and choosing a club

To find ham radio clubs in your area, visit this Web site and select your state to find a list of the state’s radio club Web sites. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) also has a directory of affiliated clubs on its Web site. Enter your state, city, or zip code to locate nearby clubs.

Focus on the general interest clubs and look for the clubs that offer help to new hams. For example, this listing is for one of the largest Seattle, Washington, clubs through the ARRL Web site:

  • Name: MIKE & KEY AMATEUR RADIO CLUB

  • Specialties: General Interest

  • Call sign: K7LED

  • Services: Help for newcomers, entry-level classes, higher-level classes, other

This club is well suited for a new ham. You find yourself in the company of others recently licensed, so you won’t feel self-conscious when asking questions. You have programs and activities to learn from and opportunities for you to contribute.

If you have more than one club available in your area, how do you make a choice? Consider these points when making a decision:

  • Which club has meetings that are more convenient for you?

  • Check out the meeting times and places for each club.

  • Which club includes activities or programs that include your interests?

  • If a club has a Web site or newsletter, review the past few month’s activities and programs to see if they sound interesting.

  • Which club feels more comfortable to you?

  • Don’t be afraid to attend a meeting or two to find out what the club is like.

You’ll quickly find out that the problem is not finding clubs, but in choosing among the hundreds of them! Unless the club has a strong personal participation aspect, such as a public service club, you can join as many as you want just to find out about that part of ham radio. Most clubs have a newsletter and a Web site that give you a valuable window into one of ham radio’s many specialties.

Participating in a club

After you pick a general interest club, show up for meetings, and make a few friends right away, how do you really start participating? Do ham radio clubs have a secret protocol? What if you goof up?

Obviously, you won’t start your ham club career by running for president at your second meeting, but ham clubs are pretty much like every other hobby group. As such, you can become an insider with easy first steps. You’re the new guy or gal, which means you have to show you want to belong. Here are some tips to help you assimilate:

  • Show up early and help set up, make the coffee, hang the club banner, help figure out the projector, and so forth. Stay late and help clean up, too.

  • Be sure to sign in, sign on, or sign up if you have an opportunity to do so, especially if it’s your first meeting.

  • Wear a name tag or other identification that announces your name and call sign in easy-to-read letters.

  • Introduce yourself to whomever you sit next to.

  • Introduce yourself to a club officer as a visitor or new member. If a “stand up and identify yourself” routine occurs at the beginning of the meeting, be sure to identify yourself as a new member or visitor. If other people also identify themselves as new, go introduce yourself to them later.

  • After you’ve been to two or three meetings, you will probably recognize some of the club’s committees or activities. If one of them sounds interesting, introduce yourself to whoever spoke about it and offer to help.

  • Show up at club activities or work parties!

  • Comb your hair. Brush your teeth. Sit up straight. Wear matching socks. Yes, Mom.

These magic tips are not just for ham radio clubs, but also for just about any club. And just like those other clubs, ham clubs have their own personality. They vary from wildly welcoming to tightly knit, seemingly impenetrable groups. Though after you break the ice, hams seem to bond for life. And when you’re a club elder, remember to extend a hand to new members the way you appreciated when you were a new face yourself!

Getting involved

Okay, you’re a regular! How can you get involved? In just about every ham club, you’ll find the following jobs need doing. Find out who is currently in that position and offer your help. You’ll discover a new aspect of ham radio, gain a friend, and make a contribution.

  • Field days: Planners and organizers can always use a hand in getting ready for this June operating event. Offer to help with generators, tents, and food, and find out about the rest of it as you go. Helping out with field days is a great way to meet the most active members of the club.

  • Conventions or hamfests: If the club hosts a regular event, almost any kind of help is always needed. If you have any kind of organizational or management expertise, so much the better.

  • Awards and club insignia: Managing sales of club insignia is a great job for new members — keeping records, taking orders, and making sales at club meetings. If you have an artistic or crafts bent, don’t be afraid to make suggestions.

  • Libraries and equipment: Many clubs maintain a library of reference books or have equipment that is loaned to members. All you have to do is keep track of it and make it available to other members.

  • Club stations: If your club is fortunate enough to have its own radio shack or repeater station, some maintenance work — such as working on antennas, changing batteries, tuning and testing radios, or just cleaning — always needs to be done. Buddy up with the station manager; you can become familiar with the equipment very quickly. You need not be technical, just willing.

If you can write or design Web sites, don’t hesitate to volunteer your services to the club newsletter editor or Webmaster. Chances are that they have several projects backlogged and would be delighted to have your help.

Along with the ongoing club committees and business, you usually can find a number of club-sponsored activities. Some clubs are organized around one major activity while others seem to have one or two going on every month. Here are a few common club activities:

Public service: This activity usually entails providing local communication during a sporting or civic event, such as a parade or festival. These events are great ways for you to hone your exchanging messages and operating skills.

Contests and challenges: Operating events are great fun and many clubs enter on-the-air contests as a team or club. Sometimes, clubs challenge each other to see which can generate the most points. You can either get on the air yourself or join a multi-operator station.

Work parties: What’s a club for if not to help out its own members? Raising a tower or doing antenna work with other members is a great way to meet active hams and discover this important aspect of station building.

Construction projects: Building your own equipment and antennas is a lot of fun, so clubs may occasionally sponsor group construction projects. Building your own equipment saves money and lets everyone work together to solve problems. If you like building things or have technical skills, here’s a great way to help out.

Reference: H. Ward Silver

Net Operations:

Amateur radio net

An amateur radio net, or simply ham net, is an "on-the-air" gathering of amateur radio operators. Most nets convene on a regular schedule and specific frequency, and are organized for a particular purpose, such as relaying messages, discussing a common topic of interest, in severe weather (for example, during a Skywarn activation), emergencies, or simply as a regular gathering of friends for conversation.[1][2]

Net operation

Nets operate more or less formally depending on their purpose and organization. Groups of nets may organize and operate in collaboration for a common purpose, such as to pass along emergency messages in time of disaster. One such system of nets is the National Traffic System (NTS), organized and operated by members of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to handle routine and emergency messages on a nationwide and local basis.[3]

Formal operation

A formal, or directed net has a single net control station (NCS) that manages its operation for a given session. The NCS operator calls the net to order at its designated start time, periodically calls for participants to join, listens for them to answer (or check in ) keeps track of the roster of stations for that particular net session, and generally orchestrates the operation of the net.

A different station might be designated NCS for each net session. Overall operation and scheduling of NCS assignments and net sessions is managed by the net manager .

When a net covers a large geographic area, such as a continent or even the world, it becomes impractical for a single NCS to control. To cover a large scale area a net must operate on a frequency where signals can propagate long distances. Ironically, the same ability for long distance propagation leads to a situation where stations that are too close in proximity cannot hear each other. In this case two or more NCSs spaced geographically from one another can effectively collaborate to maintain contact with all possible participants.

A tactical net is a form of directed net in which stations are assigned tactical call signs to facilitate efficiency in message-handling, and are often more tightly controlled (by time, language, and protocol) than a regular radio net. During a tactical net, the participating stations are free to refer to other stations by their tactical designations, such as Medical One or Incident Command to relieve the caller of the burden of remembering or stumbling over legal call signs, which can impede net progress. Tactical call signs do not replace legal call signs, which stations involved must still announce at prescribed times.

Informal operation

An informal net may also have a net control station, but lack some or all of the formalities and protocols other than those used in non-net on-the-air operation. Or, it could begin at the designated time and frequency in an ad hoc fashion by whoever arrives first. Club nets, such as ones for discussing equipment or other topics, use a NCS simply to control the order in which participants transmit their comments to the group in round-robin style.

Types of nets:

Traffic

Traffic nets operate primarily to relay formal written messages. For decades, amateur radio operators in the United States and Canada have traditionally passed both routine and emergency messages on behalf of others as part of the public-service mission allowed within the USA and Canadian government amateur radio regulations.[4] The original organizational purpose of the American Radio Relay League or ARRL which was organized in the early 20th century (1914–15) was mainly for the purpose of relaying third party messages. In many parts of the world outside North America, it is illegal for amateur radio operators to pass messages on behalf of third parties.

Today, with inexpensive communication capability available to anyone, routine message handling has dwindled and is largely used for training purposes. During emergencies (such as natural disasters) – especially when normal communications channels are disabled or compromised – traffic nets (utilizing emergency-powered stations) are used to pass information into and out of affected areas.[5]

DX

DX nets are organized to help amateur radio operators make contact with stations in distant locations or regions where amateur radio operators are scarce. By checking into a DX net, a ham could have a chance to contact another station he or she might otherwise not be likely to hear by randomly tuning across the amateur bands.[6]

Reference: Wikipedia

Emergency Communications:

ARES

Amateur Radio Emergency Service

This is a trained corps of hams who have volunteered for emergency communications and public service. ARES is organized by the American Radio Relay League and typically has ARES members on the county and state level. ARES members are noted for having responded to the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Michael.

 

RACES

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service

This organization actually is operated under the auspices of city, county and state and federal governments. RACES members have to be registered with their local RACES group in order to assist the governmental agency or unit pressing them into service. If the stuff really hits the fan, like war breaks out, the president of the United States can shut down all hams and allow only RACES-registered stations on the air to assist wartime efforts. Often times, ARES and RACES are the same organization, with the difference that RACES exists to serve government. Oh, and by the way, RACES is pronounced RAY-seez. Just a ham quirk!

 

Skywarn

Each spring, thousands and thousands of hams are trained by regional National Weather Service staffers in an effort to utilize hams and other volunteers in the field to observe hazardous weather conditions. In some areas, Skywarn uses ham radio networks and repeaters to relay essential weather observations straight to NWS meteorologists as an extension of their eyes and ears.

 

CERT

Community Emergency Response Teams

CERT members are a part of their local emergency management teams. CERT volunteers are trained to respond to emergency situations and also can support their communities during non-emergency events. CERT members are able to take advantage of training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. While there are more than 2,700 CERT programs in the United States and more than 600,000 CERT members across the nation, not all CERT groups utilize radio communications for operations. Those that do may simply use Family Radio Service handheld radios, while others, such as the teams assisting the Los Angeles Fire Department, have organized amateur radio operators and networks to assist operations. Check your local CERT team for more information.

 

American National Red Cross

Ham radio is a vital part of the Red Cross and many local chapters have teams of hams ready to assist them in disaster and emergency response. While the Red Cross has its own nationally licensed VHF public safety frequency, it uses hams to take the load off that channel and give it much greater range during disasters. For those very reasons, ham radio and the Red Cross go well together. In 2017, 50 hams from the mainland United States were deployed to Puerto Rico to help set up communications networks after the island sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Maria.

 

SATERN

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network

This is another organization that uses ham radio operators to assist with disaster communications between its posts, typically on a more local basis. Health and welfare message handling is the primary activity of these team members.

 

AUXCOMM

Auxiliary Communications

This is a new arm of state emergency management entities with a mission to train as many amateur radio operators as possible to work and train with public safety personnel. Members are highly trained in emergency management operations such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS). A few states have implemented this program.

 

REACT

Radio Emergency Associated Citizens Teams

Originally formed in 1962 to have teams monitoring citizens band Channel 9 for emergency and motorist assistance calls, today's REACT teams have broadened their communications cache to include not only CB and other personal radio services, but amateur radio, too. Most teams employ ham radio in one way or another.

 

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