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10/08/2005 Archived Entry: "More on ham radio"

I BLOGGED A COUPLE ENTRIES ON HAM RADIO after Hurricane Katrina (with the major contributions coming from experienced hams). Here's some additional info from Phil, a Coloradoan who got into radio for safety communications.

I "discovered" HAM radio because I hike alot (often alone) in the mountains here in Colorado and wanted some safety communications. My HT ("handie-talkie") accompanies my .357 on all my hikes.

There are so many benefits for "preparedness-minded" folks that it's hard to know where to start. Just a few to wet your appetite:

1. Equipment: Basic FM equipment is cheap (as little as $100+), small (hide in palm of my hand), reliable, versatile, and easy to use. One radio I have (an FT-817) is the size of a hard-back book, works off of batteries, and I've easily talked with folks over 1000 miles away.

2. Privacy: Although, yes, you're not suppose to encrypt messages, there are many ways you can legally communicate with an extremely low probability of interception. For example, computer to computer email messages via HAM radio that never enter the internet, or highly directional antennas that are aimed like a rifle, or the fact that there are thousands of frequency/signal mode combinations that simply can't all be monitored, etc.

3. People: HAMs are generally very friendly and eager to help, especially in emergencies. Our group here in the Pikes Peak region regularly work with the "authorities", including search and rescue. On Y2K night, I was sitting next to the sheriff's dispatcher, ready with other waiting HAMs to help if the phones failed.

4. Only HAM radios and military radios have the capability to directly enter frequencies. All other radios ( CB, marine, aviation, FRS, etc.) all have fixed channels. Plus, HAM can used repeaters and can transmit up to 1500 watts (CB is limited to 5watts and FRS 1watt, and neither can use repeaters).

5. Cheap: Once you get a few radios (I have 8 now), which each have different strengths and weaknesses, there are not monthly fees, unless you join a local club or support a repeater group.

I could go on, but if you decide to get your license, you'll might want to talk one or two of your friends into doing so also, so you can talk with each other. Of course, you'll probably end up meeting people you never knew before, too.

Posted by Claire @ 08:56 AM CST

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