Knowing how to use ham radio will not only be useful in a SHTF scenario, it can and has been used in emergency situations we face today such as the floods here in Colorado, hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters. If the phones and power are down the only way of communication could be ham radio operators.
Just like in the days of the telegraph knowing how to use ham radio could make you a very popular and useful person in a post collapse community. People will need information and ham radio operators might become the only option.
When I first became interested in ham radio I decided to have Jake (KC3BDF) who I had met through Facebook on the podcast and talk about the basics of ham radio. You can listen to the first interview here, and the second one here. You can tell in these interviews that I really had no idea about ham radio and I didn’t even realize how little I knew until I started studying for my technician’s license.
I didn’t let that stop me, and if you are interested in getting your ham radio technician license don’t let it stop you. Getting your ham radio license is not as hard as you think. There are so many great resources out there to learn from, and so many people willing to help, you can get it done in as little as a week.
In this article I am going to go over some of the things that worked, some of the things that didn’t and some of the challenges I faced studying for my technician class license.
Getting your technician license is like getting your driving permit, you don’t need to be able to drive right away, but you need the permit to “legally” learn how to drive.
One thing to keep in mind while reading this and studying for your test is to not worry about what you don’t understand, you will learn what you need to know to pass the test, and the rest will come after you are licensed and you can get behind the wheel so to speak.
Becoming a certified HAM
Before we get into what the requirements to getting your technician license are let’s go over what the different ham radio license classes are, but keep in mind, all you need to worry about is your Tech license.
Technician Class: This is the entry level license. You will receive this license after you successfully completes a 35-question multiple choice written examination. To pass this exam you will only need to get 26 of the 35 questions correct, that’s about 75%.
General Class: The general class license is the next level up. You will need to have passed your technician exam as well as another 35-question multiple-choice general exam. A general class license will give you access to over 83% of all amateur HF bandwidth.
Amateur Extra Class: This license requires the same tests as General plus a 50-question multiple-choice theory exam. Those with Amateur Extra licenses are granted all privileges on all US amateur bands.
Finding an exam site
My suggestion is to find out when the next test is in your area and see if it fits into your time frame. It took me about a week of studying for about 2 hours a day to become comfortable with the material.
I honestly would have liked to have had 2 weeks to prepare, but if I missed that technician exam I would have had to wait another month to take the next exam, but one week turned out to be plenty of time.
Find a class in your area at the ARRL Website and schedule your test today.
Get started for under $75
Another thing I did was buy a handheld radio right away because I knew that if I purchased something I wouldn’t be able to talk myself out of taking the test. I purchased a BaoFeng uv5re hand held radio for about $35 at the suggestion of Jake who has and still uses this radio.
I also purchased a $10 Nagoya NA771 antenna for the hand held to replace the one that came with it, another suggestion from Jake.
And a $10 BaoFeng Programming Cable to get everything working correctly on the radio. You will also need these instructions to make sure you have everything programmed correctly.
With these 3 pieces of equipment and the $14 to take the actual test you can be ready to go with ham radio in about a week and for about $70.
Where to find study resources
There is information everywhere that will teach you what you need to know in order to get your technician license. Here are a few that I used and how I used them.
Remember though, you are not going to understand anything early on and that’s OK, you just need to know enough to pass the test, you can learn the rest later. Also, the more you practice the more it will make sense.
Important: The questions on the test will be exactly the same questions you study on these websites, no trick questions or curve balls, they are not allowed to change the questions or answers and they are all multiple choice. There is a pool of 394 total questions that 35 test questions will be pulled from.
HamStudy.org – This is probably the website I used more than any other. This website has flashcards and practice tests that will help you memorize the questions on the tests. Remember, practice and repetition, and then some more practice and repetition.
HamWhisperer.com – This website was a little confusing to me in the beginning because I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. But after you use the Ham Study website for a little while this all starts to make sense.
ARRL – ( the American Radio Relay League) This is the official website for ham radio, this is the National Association for Amateur Radio. You can probably find out just about anything you want about ham radio on this website.
iPhone and Android Apps – Any time I had a free moment I would always pull up the app on my phone and practice some of the test questions. The apps are different for android and iPhone but there are many free ones available.
HAM Radio basics and beyond – This is the Facebook group I put together for everyone who is interested in getting their license, has recently gotten their technician license and even people who have had their ham radio license for a while. Everyone in the HAM community is very helpful and this group is no different. If you want advice or have any questions this is a great place to ask.
Not only are Jake and I in this group, you will meet Nick (KK4ZUX) Ian in the U.K. (M6IMA) Thompson (KG7KYI) as well as others who have their ham radio license or are in the process of getting one.
So what are you waiting for?
When I first started studying I thought getting my ham radio technician’s license was going to be more difficult than it actually was, but keep in mind everyone in the ham community wants you to get your license and everyone is really helpful.
I was also worried about taking the test and being nervous ( I am a terrible test taker) but it was easier than I thought it would be. The test was at the local fire station and like I said, everyone was very helpful and made it much easier than I expected.
Ham radio is one of those things that we can do that requires very little money and could be something that will be invaluable when there is no other method of communication. You not only have the ability to help in a disaster scenario, you also get to be the go to person when people need information about what is going on around them.
Whether you take a month or you take a week to get your license, just take the leap and get started…it’s really not as hard as you think.