The best opportunity to experience amateur radio operators in action is ARRL Field Day. This is an exercise where amateur radio operators (Ham’s) “take to the field” to set up stations in simulated emergency conditions. This annual event is held on the 4th weekend of June.
If you are interested in mid-range or long-distance communication in an emergency situation, Field Day is a great opportunity to test your skills. Start working on getting your amateur radio license now, and then take part in the next Field Day.
It’s best to get both “Technician” and “General” licenses so that you have more frequencies available to you, but at least complete the first-level of training before the next Field Day. This will let you fully participate.
Even if you don’t yet have your own radio equipment, join an amateur radio club in your area and find an “Elmer” who will help you get started. Unless you are operating a radio with the assistance of an experienced ham, you need to have a license to operate a two-way radio which transmits on an amateur radio frequency. ($15 FCC license fee). To find a club, click on this link and enter either your city or state: http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club
If Field Day is a ways off but you’d like to learn more, contact a local club and ask if you can join one of their meetings. Field Day is an ideal opportunity to meet ham radio operators, observe radio equipment in action, and talk with those who are training to be able to help their community in an emergency situation, but many clubs are happy to welcome a “newbie” anytime during the year.
Field Day itself is an informal annual event. You can show up at a site in your area whenever you’d like, from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday. But showing up early, during the set-up time, may your best opportunity to talk with the radio operators. The below link will help you find a Field Day group operating in your area: http://www.arrl.org/field-day-locator
Field Day is sponsored by the national association for amateur radio (ARRL-American Radio Relay League), which is the largest organization of its type. For more about Field Day, visit: http://www.arrl.org/field-day-info
A book which will help you learn more about amateur radio and prepare for the first test is: “Technician Class: FCC Element 2 Amateur Radio License Preparation,” by Gordon West.
For more about amateur radio and how to get licensed, visit the website: http://www.arrl.org/new-to-ham-radio
To download an article which will help you select the right radio for you, click here: ARRL-Choosing_A_Ham_Radio
Already licensed as an amateur radio operator and interested in participating in Field Day? Be sure to read the post: “Tips for Mobile Communications on Field Day – Ham Radios for Emergency Communications”.