If you have obtained your Technician, General or Amateur Extra HAM license, you might be wondering about joining your local HAM club. Whether you have experience in your shack or not, there’s no better way to learn than by talking shop with fellow radio enthusiasts.
Not all radio clubs are created equal. You might need to attend a few different meetings with a couple of different clubs to see what is the right fit for you. Try to find a club that has people you can have fun with.
Something to think about when choosing a HAM radio club to join is how many members are in the club. The more members there are, the more people who can help you out and the better chance that you’ll meet some lifelong buddies.
Generally, all HAM enthusiasts are friendly and respectful people. When you walk into your first club meeting, you should be greeted with a welcoming smile. They might ask where you’re from or what your call sign is.
What happens at a HAM radio meeting?
After you’ve been greeted and made yourself comfortable, you can expect to hear about some club business. This might include topics such as club voting, dates for the next meetups and contest, and possibly testing.
Most clubs will also have a presentation prepared about interesting topics in HAM radio which is great for learning more about the subject. A few examples of what you could learn about in these presentations would be HAM radio and arduino, stealth antennas and HAM radio in the national parks. This is a really neat way to learn more about HAM radio, be able to ask questions, and make some new friends.
After the presentation is over, you can expect some time to socialize. This is an important part because other group members will have experience and can help you out with things such as buying your first radio or other new gear, setting up your HAM shack, antennas and antenna placement and more. The experience of other people can be a great resource.
A good club will give its members what they want and schedule activities that will allow the members to get some hands on experience. Look for a club that organizes luncheons or antenna building meetings or field days to get their members involved and learning. This allows people an opportunity to start talking to each other and working together on projects.
Another positive aspect for attending a meeting is that you might score some much needed gear at a reasonable price. People at HAM meetings are always buying, selling and trading gear and if there’s nothing for sale, there’s always someone to talk to about where you can pick up something you need in your price range.
Different Kinds of HAM Radio Clubs
There are all kinds of different clubs out there to think about joining. If you are in high school or college, consider checking out what clubs might be offered from your school. Some elementary schools are even teaching young kids about HAM radio.
There are womens’ clubs who support women in HAM radio. If you work for a large company, you may be surprised to find out that your place of employment has a HAM club to join. Walt Disney World hosts a club called DEARS which stands for Disney Emergency Amateur Radio Services.
ARES, CERT and RACES
ARES, CERT and RACES are all groups of licensed amateur radio enthusiasts who are ready to volunteer their services in a time of disaster. Any licensed amateur is eligible to apply for membership.
ARES stands for Amateur Radio Emergency Services and is organized by the AARL. You must be a licensed HAM operator but do not have to have affiliation with a club or the AARL. Some extra training may be required to become equipped with sustaining skills in emergency situations.
CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team and is organized by their local emergency teams. Not all CERT groups utilize radios as emergency response so check your local CERT group to see if you could help out.
RACES stands for Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service and is organized by the city, county, state, and federal government. If a national crisis were to happen, the president can actually shut all HAM stations down except for operators who are members of RACES in order for them to assist.
Definitely go to a couple meetings and try out a few different clubs before you decide to join. Do not join a club online that you haven’t yet visited. Find a club with people you really connect with and can have some fun.
Give some thought to offering your HAM radio services to your local emergency response team! This could be an exciting way to serve your community and HAMs are always in need.
People say that HAM radio is a dying technology, but not if we keep it alive! We must support our local clubs and our hobby by keeping a community with people of the same interest.
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