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Amateur, or "ham", radio is a radio service licensed and protected by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has in place rules and regulations that govern the Amateur Radio Service. Amateur Radio is made up of primarily hobbyists, enthusiasts, and some who volunteer their radio communications skills to benefit the community in times of emergency or disaster.
In the past, ham radio has been very efficient in helping during disasters like the major hurricanes of 2005, wildfires in the west and midwest, the 2001 terrorist attacks, and many severe weather happenings around the world. During major disasters, normal lines of communication are often overcrowded or down. Emergency services like police, fire, and ambulance are often ill-equipped to handle large volumes of traffic. In steps ham radio. Providing hours upon hours of volunteer communications to area communities, they have the equipment and the networks in place to support the emergency communications needs.
It doesn't take much to get involved. A little study from an inexpensive study book, pass a simple test, and you are on your way. The material is basic electronic and radio theory, and most people can learn it in less than a few weeks. Often, area clubs hold weekend classes to help those study for exams, which are also offered by area clubs. And, as of February 23, 2007, there is no Morse code requirement!
Once you pass your test, a low-cost transceiver can get you started. You can advance in your knowledge and upgrade your license also, thereby gaining more privileges. With a higher grade license, you can talk all over the world - all for free. Make new friends, join in radio contests, and communicate with other radio enthusiasts in all parts of the globe.