By Anna Krieske
The Charter Features
Ham radio is the nickname given to amateur radio. This system of radio signals can reach near and far, to send out a citywide storm warning or to ask someone in Australia if their toilets flush the other way. Either way, amateur radio is enjoyed across the world, in a multitude of ways.
During times of crisis, it is often the case that wireless internet and telephone usage will be cut completely, depending on the disaster. With cell tower and the like being knocked out, it becomes difficult to communicate. ARES (amateur radio emergency services) are comprised of licensed amateurs who volunteer their qualifications and equipment (in coordination with their local ARES leadership) for communications for public duty in case of a crisis. Luckily HAMS only require some electricity, an antenna and an operator to keep connected and keep safe.
Not only are they used in times of large scale disasters, but also in things like search and rescue. Our very own Jill Mohr of ACA has been involved in search and rescue dog teams to finding missing deceased peoples.
“Every dog handler has a communication person,” says Mohr, “radioing back and forth to base about where we are, what we’re finding and the base radioing back to us if we need to change our search grid, or if bad weather is coming in and we need to be recalled, or, best possible, that the person has been found and we need to come back.”
Radio signals work by sending electricity through an antenna, vibrating electrons up and down and producing radio waves. These radio waves travel through the air at the speed of light. When they reach the receiving antenna it makes the electrons vibrate, creating an electrical current mimicking the original signal. The different frequencies like you see on a radio are categorized by megahertz. Garage door openers and alarm systems operate at around 40 megahertz, whereas 2290-2300 megahertz reaches deep space.
HAM radio (or amateur radio) in particular is used to refer to the more personal side of radio. There is an exam that must be taken, but after that you are free to explore all the frequencies that can legally be accessed by the public. Where public radio stations only send out signals for the nearby populace to hear, amateur radio operators can send and receive signals across the world. This is used for an interesting hobby as well as a useful means of communication in times of emergency.
“ARRL.” ARES. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
“How the Radio Spectrum Works.” HowStuffWorks. N.p., 01 Apr. 2000. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
“What Is the Difference between HAM(Amateur) Radio and Common Radio Communication?”
Yahoo! Answers. Yahoo!, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
Jill Mohr. Personal Interview. 15 Feb, 2017