Communications is one area of my emergency preparedness plan where I had a big fat zero. Nothing. Nada. Not even walkie-talkies. My beloved Iphone will be useless in a SHTF scenario, so I wanted SOMETHING to be able to talk to SOMEONE to gain information and possibly help others. Becoming a ham operator offered more range than walkie-talkies so I thought I would go for it. If nothing else, it would give me something to do while sitting in my rocking chair during my old age.
Everyone I talked to, said it was easy. Every YouTube video I watched said the test was really easy…..just study the questions in the back of the book.
Not for me. The top of the learning curve was about 5 miles straight up.
You see, math and the sciences have never been my forte. I excel in the emotional intelligence arena, which didn’t seem to show up in the ARRL Manual I was studying from.
You have to know electrical basics such as ohms, voltage, current and watts and the formulas to determine each. I never really cared how a light switch came on when I flipped the switch. You have to learn circuitry components like transistors, diodes, inductors and capacitors, what each component does, and how to recognize them on a schematic drawing. The only reference I had to a capacitor, was the flux capacitor in Doc Brown’s car from Back To The Future. Whatever that was.
The whole radio wave and frequency thing was hard for me to wrap my brain around, because like electricity, you can’t see it. The long forgotten metric system and it’s conversions from my nursing days had to be relearned. When I just couldn’t get something, I went to Youtube. Ten people will explain the same concept ten different ways, but one of them will click and magically turn on the switch of understanding. That is what worked for me. What I found easy was learning all the rules, regulations, protocols and safety considerations of ham operations. It wasn’t all a grueling endeavor.
One of the hindrances of learning ham radio was having no practical experience. It wasn’t like I hung out with a ham radio club, or my Dad or Uncle had one. I started out on this journey never even seeing or touching a real ham radio.
A second hindrance was the three week self imposed time period I had to learn the entire book before the test. Here is the SHORT back story.
I had actually bought the ARRL (the industry organization that oversees ham operations) manual a year ago. I read the first chapter then got distracted by the 299 Days book series. The ARRL changes their test questions every 4 years, a fact that totally blew by me, despite it being clearly stated on the front cover of the manual. My current manual and test questions would only be good through June of 2018. The people who test in my area only do so every other month. If I did not take the test in April, I would need to purchase a new manual with the new test questions, and would take me into late summer before I could get my ham license. Call me impatient. I wanted it now.
I put my heart and soul into learning ham radio. I spent 8-10 hours most days for 3 weeks learning this stuff. I ate, slept and breathed ham radio. Dishes and laundry only got done when I needed a brake from sitting on my bumm. I was determined to not just memorize but to understand what I was reading. I was determined to become a ham operator.
Finally, test day arrived. I was nervous. I told myself that I did my best. If I failed, I could just take the test again for $15.00. But I passed! All that hard work had payed off! Determination conquered fear and difficulty.
1. Join a ham group. The real learning takes place on the job. I sat in on one local ham club that met last month. I’m sure there was a boat load of experience in that room of 25 men, but I didn’t feel particularly comfortable or welcome.
I sat in on a Search and Rescue meeting that incorporates a group of their own ham operators. Another group works with the County Emergency Management, as well as interfaces with Search and Rescue on high profile searches. There are several other ham groups around. I searched the internet for a ladies ham group but did not see anything currently operating. For some reason, it never occurred to me that ham radio was predominately a male industry. I have yet to decide where I will go to learn and serve.
2. Purchase a ham radio. I searched the internet, read reviews, watched comparison studies, talked to people and then ordered my first hand held ham radio.
Oh wait! Look what just got delivered to my house! My new BaoFeng-F8HP !
I just checked the FCC site for application approval the other day, and what do you know! There I was….with my new call sign! It’s GO time!
This is KI7WIW……That is Kilo India 7 Whisky India Whisky, off and clear!