Frequently Asked Questions

What is Ham Radio?

Ham Radio, or more formally Amateur Radio, is a hobby in which participants, known as "hams," use various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other hams for fun, learning, and public service.

Although hams get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles, and have passed an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the "Amateur Bands." These bands are radio frequencies reserved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by hams, and occupy intervals from just above the AM broadcast band all the way up to microwave frequencies.

Hams enjoy personal (and often worldwide) communications with each other and are able to support their communities with emergency and disaster communications, when necessary. There are over two million hams throughout the world!

Why do you need a License to be a Ham?

In all countries that allow their citizens to use Amateur Radio, operators are required to pass a licensing exam displaying knowledge and understanding of key technical and operational concepts. In exchange, hams are granted operating privileges in large segments of the radio frequency spectrum, using a variety of communication techniques and with high power levels permitted. Compare this with unlicensed radio services such as CB radio or FRS radios that require FCC-certified equipment that is restricted in both frequency range and power.

How do I get my Ham Radio License?

To get your Ham Radio license—or "ticket"— from the Federal Communications Commission, you need to pass a written exam. The most popular license class is Technician. Technician privileges include the very popular 2-meter band. Many Technician licensees enjoy using small (2 meter) hand-held radios to stay in touch with other hams in their area. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes. The FCC Technician License exam covers basic regulations, operating practices and electronics theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications. Morse code is not required for this license.

In Western Nevada, license exam sessions are conducted by the Sierra Nevada Amateur Radio Society and the Sierra Intermountain Emergency Radio Association. Click on the links for scheduled exam dates. In addition, Washoe County Amateur Radio Emergency Service often puts on "Ham Review," study sessions where in all the questions in the exam question pool are reviewed, followed by an exam session. Contact John Phillips (KL7RI) for more information.

What is ARES?

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) is a field organization of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and consists of licensed Amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. ARES was formed to provide better coordination of Amateur communications during emergencies, and to provide a pool of trained and disciplined Amateur operators who are ready and able to serve in times of emergency.

For more information about ARES, visit the official website at http://www.arrl.org/ares.

What is the ARRL?

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the national membership association for Amateur Radio in the USA. The ARRL provides leadership and a voice for Radio Amateurs, whether in dealings with the Federal Communications Commission, the World Administrative Radio Conference, the International Amateur Radio Union, or with the general public. The ARRL is the primary source of information about what is going on in the ham radio world. It provides books, news, support and information for individuals and clubs, special operating events, all sorts of continuing education classes and other benefits for its members.

For more information about the ARRE, visit their website at http://www.arrl.org.

What is RACES?

The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), administered by local, county and state emergency management agencies and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is a part of the Amateur Radio Service which provides radio communications for civil-defense purposes, during periods of local, regional or national civil emergencies.

RACES was organized during the Cold War, to meet a potential need during an enemy attack. Having never been called upon for that purpose, RACES has since evolved to encompass all types of civil emergencies, including natural disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe winter storms.

As a Ham, how can I help my Community?

Now that you have your Amateur Radio license, it's time to become active in Washoe County Amateur Radio Emergency Service! Join today at our Sign Up page!