HOW DO I BECOME A HAM OPERATOR?

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You will need to obtain your Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Amateur Radio License Technician Class or higher.   This is a very straight-forward and simple process: 

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) has a number of resources:
·     How to get your Technical License
·     How to become a radio Amateur
·     Find a training class
·     Find an Online exam class

In the local area, check out other training classes:
·     Lake Washington HAM Club (LWHC) Training Classes
·     Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club

​How much does it cost to get your license?

The Amateur Technical License Manual from AARL costs around $25-50.  The Manual provides the entire question and answer pool so you can review the information and then test your knowledge at your own pace.  There are also several web apps that can help with studying for the exam.  Although the question pool is usually around 400 questions, the test itself consists of 35 questions.

 

There are several classes, in-person and on-line, offered throughout the year.  Those that also offer the exam at the end of the course will charge the FCC test fee, which may range from $15-35.  Most classes are free but will charge you the current price of the manual.  Classes range from a weekend class, with the test at the end of the session, to courses spread out 6-8 weeks, meeting once a week, usually in the evening.  NEMCo periodically offers technical-level classes and will be announced on this site when they are scheduled. 

​How much does it cost to get a radio?

Radios range from single band handheld transceivers for anywhere from $60 and up.  Dual and tri-band transceivers are more expensive but can be found for $150 and up.  Mobile units for your vehicle, which can also be used in your home, are more expensive but if you travel a lot, may be worth the investment.   While we can't endorse specific companies, there are several popular radio outlets to check out the current radios.

Where can I get help with understanding what equipment would be appropriate for a new ham or assistance with understanding some of the subject areas?

There are a wide number of on-line resources available, such as AARL as referenced above,  area amateur radio clubs, etc.  Remember that NEMCo RACES members are also terrific resources for any questions or concerns!

Where can I get some practice speaking on-line?

NEMCo!  Some opportunities are listed below, available to new hams and more seasoned hams

TO OUR NEW HAMS:  WELCOME TO THE NEMCO RADIO AMATEUR CIVIL EMERGENCY SERVICE (RACES)

You have your Technical license or moved up to a General license but are looking for a ham radio group to join that shares your interest in emergency preparedness. Look no further!  NEMCo offers plenty of opportunities to practice your skills, learn new ones, and meet other hams.  Opportunities are announced at RACES meetings, on the Sunday night net, on this website, and/or by email from Carl Lunak, our Program Manager.

NEMCo has several opportunities for you to explore.  Here are seven possibilities to get you started, so feel free to explore and participate in one or more of NEMCo’s ham activities.

1.  PRACTICE SPEAKING ON-LINE; NET CONTROL OPERATORS

  • Participate in monthly RACES meetings.   You will become acquainted with our other hams, gain new skills and insights, and periodically train on new topics to gain practice in speaking on the radio.  You will hear the call signs and voices of other NEMCo hams so you will soon feel you already have some familiarity with your fellow hams.  There are often announcements, training, and other bulletins of interest during the net.   Once you are comfortable participating on the NEMCo net, check in as a visitor with other area nets. 

  • Sign up to be a Sunday night net control operator.  You’ll then become more comfortable when operators are needed for training exercises, drills, assisting at events, and potentially, during an actual emergency.

  • Sign up to be an Emergency Operations Center operator. Our EOCs are located at Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Fire Station 51, and the Northshore Utility District. Each EOC has a lead operator who will help you gain experience. 

2.  LEARN NEW SKILLS

 

  • Mini-workshops. You will learn how to complete our most commonly used forms and gain familiarity with exchanging message traffic.

  • Subject-specific workshops.  We have had workshops on how to program Baofeng radios, how to use Winlink, and message traffic practice.  Any ideas you would like to contribute on developing a new workshop are welcome.

  • Monthly RACES meetings.   You will become acquainted with our other hams, gain new skills and insights, and periodically train on new topics.

3.  PRACTICE FOR DRILLS

 

NEMCo participates in a Statewide Fifth Saturday Drill.  Gain practice by calling into the Resource Net, obtaining your assignment, and then deploying as requested.  The first couple of times may be intimidating but these are valuable learning opportunities so you can confidently contribute in the event of an actual emergency.

4.  IF YOU ARE A MORE TECHNICALLY-ORIENTED HAM

If you have particular expertise in antennas, circuit boards, software, contesting, and would like to explore those areas with other hams, bring up your interest at a RACES meeting and chances are there will be others who share that interest.

5.  SIGN-UP FOR SPECIAL COMMUNITY EVENTS

  • Assist at Community Events.  Periodically, the Cities ask for radio operators to help manage traffic, the first aid station [Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and hams], and to keep an eye on the safety of the participants.  Some examples include 5K fun run events, where hams are spaced throughout the course and can alert the net control operator of any issues or provide status reports on the progress of runners and walkers.

  • Manage a NEMCo booth.  Other community events, such as the health and safety fairs sponsored by Fire Station 51, offer us a booth to display our flyers and other emergency preparedness info, and an opportunity to interact with the community attendees.

  • Teach or assist in hands-on training.  NEMCo offers emergency preparedness workshops, where you can assist with teaching the hands-on training stations, such as proper use of fire extinguishers, generators, etc.

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6.  PRESENTATIONS

 

If you have good presentation skills and an ability to relate and clearly communicate information to new members, consider  becoming a presenter at workshops, CERT training, and periodic ham radio training.

7.  CONTRIBUTE ARTICLES TO OUR NEWSLETTER AND WEBSITE

 

Take a look at our past newsletters and our website and share your own stories and topics that may be enjoyable to our members. General interest and technical experiences (but not TOO technical) are welcome.  Contact the Outreach Committee with any of your ideas.  They can help with editing so don’t be shy!