Although amateur radio (also called 'ham' radio) can be characterised as a hobby for geeks, it really doesn't have to be. Many in the
hobby are as far from being accused of being a geek as one could be. True, we have our fair share of geeks on the airwaves but
you'll find plenty of the opposite everywhere you look (er listen). You won't have to look far to find others who've joined the hobby
simply to have that life line to others when cell phones and internet goes down due to a storm. While some become hams to help out
during these times, others do so for the hobby aspect. In just about every community within the US, you'll find repeaters that are
designed to allow for hams to communicate with each other from one side of the county to the other (and often beyond) by only
using a handheld radio operating on the VHF & UHF bands. Many new hams are able to 'get on the air' rather easily now due to some
very inexpensive radio equipment. The old adage 'you get what you pay for' still holds true, but when a radio can be had for as little as
$30, it's hard to resist.
Being aware of local emergencies and conditions
There are many hams that keep handheld radios or mobile radios in their vehicles.... it is neat being able to chat with others
during the daily commute, but also advantageous when there is a traffic jam or accident. It doesn't happen often, no, but you'll hear
about it from a fellow ham before you do elsewhere. This holds true for weather events too. Hams are often calling in weather reports
to the National Weather Service during inclement weather and reporting events, well in advance of that same information being sent out
from the NWS. You'll hear these reports being sent to the NWS in real time (and you'll be encouraged to send in pertinent information
Keeping in Touch
Whenever a major tropical storm or hurricane hits an area, the reliability of cell phones and internet goes out the window. Cell phones
may operate on just battery power, but the cell tower you need to make it work is relying on the power company. Most cell phone
carriers in our area do not provide back up power options in case of extended power failure. This makes your cell phone useless at making
calls when the power goes out. And internet has a crutch on the power grid as well, it varies by area, but the farther you are out from a
metro area, the less reliable the internet becomes in most cases. A ham radio will keep you in touch with others with just a 12 volt battery
(same as in your car or boat). A small inexpensive solar setup will work great too but isn't required. In the event of a emergency, or
just the need for info, one can contact another amateur radio operator.
Meeting new folks and making friends
No doubt, you'll meet many folks on the radio... many will become familiar voices that you may never put a face to, while others will
be considered friends. While talking to others on the radio is kind of the point here, you'll have plenty of opportunities to meet face to
face with others during monthly club meetings, weekly lunch gatherings, club contest events, and much more. It's not all always about
radio either. Sometimes it's building a electronic kit to learn something new (be it a blinking light or even a Tesla Coil), but it's not
uncommon to find others sharing a tried and true recipe for dinner or advice on how to tackle an issue on a vehicle.
Ham Radio isn't just a matter of buying a radio and talking... you do need to take a test (and pass), which requires study, but you'll
enjoy it as it is a terrific hobby. Not only that, you'll meet some new people, likely make good friends, and have that reliable 'back up'