Alfonso Faustino: FCC HAM License: (K6ASF)

I’m truly happy to be part of the HAM community; and, yesterday, 23-March-2017, I met several awesome experienced HAM operators: Tom (N6MVT), George (W6SUV), and Jim (N6MED).  These three HAM operators are pivotal players behind the CARLA communications network, which provides emergency assistance and other types of communications resources throughout Northern and Central California and Western Nevada.

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Tom (N6MVT) created the CARLA’s System 2 Repeater, located in San Francisco’s Financial District, to be a communications vehicle for HAM operators to socialize; and, most importantly, to be a communications vehicle for HAM operators to communicate vital information during times of emergencies and civil catastrophes. I’ve heard HAM operators from Oregon on CARLA’s System 2 Repeater.

Last night, 23-March-2017, @ 1930 Hours PDT, I participated in a net control meeting with ORCA, which was led by another cool HAM operator, David (WB6NER).  Net control meetings are a great place to meet other HAM operators that work on public safety issues in order to be prepared for an emergency situation. ORCA’s net control meets every Thursday, at 1930 Hours PST/PDT, on repeater WB6NDJ.

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People of all ages and backgrounds legally use the HAM network; and, I’m noticing an upward trend in the HAM network within my social circles.  Even though Twitter, Instagram, and other social platforms exists, people are starting to integrate themselves into the HAM network.  In my opinion, it’s nice to connect with people via voices and physical presence.  It’s nice to talk about our respective HAM rigs and shacks and exchange new ideas of using the HAM transceiver.

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Several theories exists as to the meaning and origins of the term, HAM. The theory I like to believe is the following from an article in the Florida Skip Magazine, 1959:

“The word “HAM” as applied to 1908 was the station CALL of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club. They were ALBERT S. HYMAN, BOB ALMY and POOGIE MURRAY.

At first they called their station “HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY”. Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to “HY-AL-MU,” using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station “HYALMU” and a Mexican ship named “HYALMO.” They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station CALL became “HAM.” 

For this reason, supporting the theory of HYMAN, BOB ALMY and POOGIE MURRAY, I use the term HAM versus ham or Ham.

Also, I prefer the term transceiver versus radio.  During my CB days, I learned about the term transceiver.  A transceiver is a radio that transmits and receives signals.  A radio can receive and transmit signals, but radios ALSO exist that can ONLY receive signals, like your car stereo.  So, for me, using the term transceiver is more accurate and precise.  When I use the term, transceiver, the person on the other end knows that I’m specifically talking about a radio that transmit and receives radio signals — no room for misunderstanding.

We take for granted that our mobile phones, iPhones and Androids, will work whenever we pick them up to send a text message, view the internet, or make a phone call.  While most of the time, they will work and won’t let us down; but, when a civil catastrophe takes place, such as, a class 5 storm, 8-point-something earthquake, or a zombie apocalypse, most likely, the mobile networks won’t be available to us due to damage or usage beyond their load and bandwidth capabilities.

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In comes the HAM transceiver, which is not dependent on the mobile networks nor power grids.  They send radio waves and can use portable power sources, which will operate in any emergency or civil catastrophe.  For this reason, it is important to consider getting your FCC license to transmit over the HAM network with a HAM transceiver.

During an emergency situation, anyone can transmit over a HAM transceiver without an FCC license; BUT, the FCC is very clear about its definition of situations that fall within the purview of an emergency situation; hence, if you transmit without an FCC license, and your situation is not an emergency, you can get into big trouble: fine and jail-time.

Some people transmit over the HAM network without a license on a social level, and they do so with the risk of getting caught. Unlike the CB radio network, the HAM network is strictly and actively regulated by the FCC and the licensed HAM operators themselves. If a HAM operator suspects that he or she is talking with an unlicensed operator, the licensed HAM operator will work with the FCC agents to locate the unlicensed operator; and, the FCC will find him or her with a visit to that unlicensed user’s address of operation.

People transmitting without a license are fooled into a false sense of security by thinking their transmission is a nebulous radio wave without unique identifiers linked to their transceivers. The FCC doesn’t need a unique identifier like a mobile phone number. The transmission signal an unlicensed operator puts out is all the FCC needs to eventually find them. It might take some time to find an unlicensed user, but the FCC will eventually him or her, as they have with many other unlicensed users.

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Using a HAM transceiver is not easy.  You cannot just pick one up and start talking away like you can with a CB radio.  Each HAM transceiver uses a repeater or simplex to receive and transmit signals; and, programming a HAM radio to access a repeater or simplex is the complicated part.

A Yaesu HAM transceiver has different programming steps than an iComm, Kenwood, or Motorola to get to a repeater or simplex; but, if you’re an experienced HAM operator, you can figure out the way each HAM transceiver works. If you’re a newbie, without education, practice, or training, the HAM transceiver you come across will be of no use to you other than being a paperweight with really cool dials, needles, and LEDs.

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This is another reason to get your FCC license.  With your license, you will be able to practice programming and communicating with your specific HAM transceiver during peace-time.  When an emergency situation or civil catastrophe comes up, and the mobile networks and power grids are not functioning, you will be able to effectively use your HAM transceiver and effectively communicate and receive vital information from-and-to other HAM operators: family members, friends, news stations, military, law enforcement, fire departments, and so on.

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So, take the time to study for the exam; take the test; and, after you pass the test, get yourself a quality HAM transceiver and antenna; then, learn to use them — educate, practice, educate, and practice.

HAM transceivers were pivotal during the 1989 Earthquake in San Francisco, Katrina, and other civil catastrophes.  During these catastrophes, land-lines and the mobile networks were damaged; and, the damage prevented many people from communicating with their mobile phones.

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It was during this time, HAM operators kicked into action assisting the local fire departments, National Guard, local law enforcement, and the military in tactical communications.  These emergency HAM operators helped pass along vital information between the general public and the emergency response teams like the fire department, National Guards, law enforcement, and the military in assisting public safety.

When I experienced the 1989 Earthquake in San Francisco, the television and phone networks were down; and, I was getting information from the HAM transceiver at my company.  The news networks were all down or held up in blocked traffic; but, the people that were mobile and had access to their HAM transceivers provided the news to the fire department, gas & electric company, and law enforcement of various areas of critical damage and civil upheaval (e.g., looters).

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Two organizations are specifically trained, as volunteers, to act in an emergency catastrophic situation: Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).  It’s unfortunate to read some HAM operators discarding these volunteers.  In my opinion, these volunteers are awesome, needed, and provide vital communication operations during emergencies and civil catastrophes.

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Vitally important is the everyday HAM operators, who are not part of RACES or ARES, but created repeaters throughout the world and a base station in their homes or other locations, so they can assist in the transmission of emergency communications between the general public and the emergency response teams: fire departments, law enforcement, National Guards, news networks, and the military.

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The presence of the HAM community is so important that most entities, such as, corporations, news networks, law enforcement, fire departments, space stations, and military have a dedicated HAM radio shack as their contingent emergency communications medium.

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In my bug-out pack, I carry my Yaesu VX-6R handheld HAM transceiver for emergencies and civil catastrophes .  Although it is only 5 watts, if there is a nearby repeater in my area of distress, such as, CARLA’s System 2 Repeater, I can attach my signal to that repeater, and it will send my transmission out hundreds of miles away from my present location.

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If the repeaters go down during a civil catastrophe, then my Yaesu VX-6R is restricted to simplex line-of-sight communications at around 1-5 miles — unobstructed; but, that’s okay; because, if I’m in a big city like San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles, I’d be seeking immediate local help — I wouldn’t be contacting a person in Australia nor a person from a different state to help me.

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For my mobile (car), portable (bug-out pack), and base-station (home) communications operations, I use the Yaesu FT-857D.  It is packed with 100 Watts, which is powerful for any type of communications operations.  With this transceiver, I can contact people locally, nationally, and internationally.  It’s loaded with tons of useful features, and it is multi-band.  I really don’t need any other HAM transceiver — the Yaesu FT-857D exceeds my radio communications needs.

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I prefer this unit over the dedicated base-station HAM radios; because, this unit can do everything a dedicated base-station can do; but, in addition, this unit can also be used for portable or mobile operations.  Of course, due to its transportable size, navigation to various features are a little bit more cumbersome than the bigger dedicated base-station transceivers.

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My portable power source for my Yaesu FT-857D is the LiFePO4 12v portable battery by, Bioenno Power.  I use this portable battery to juice up my Yaesu FT-857D in the event I take it out from my home to the field.

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The LiFePO4 12v portable battery by, Bioenno Power, has lots of power to keep me receiving and transmitting for many hours out in the field.  It is safe, long-lasting, powerful, and rechargeable.

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It keeps a close-to-steady charge from start to drain.  It is light-weight and easy to tote around in my PCB (Portable Communications Bag) for my city-walks and short drives.

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If I go on longer treks requiring cars, boats, or planes, LiFePO4 12v portable battery fits perfectly in my PCC.

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So, give some thought to getting your FCC HAM Radio License; after you pass your test and get your license, purchase a quality HAM transceiver, like Yaesu, iComm, Kenwood, Motorola, or other quality brands.

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Pick up a quality antenna for your specific frequency band(s) of interest.

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Learn and practice all you can about HAM communication activities.

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Get to know the awesome HAM operators out there like, Tom (N6MVT), George (W6SUV), and Jim (N6MED) over at CARLA, and ORCA‘s David (WB6NER).  Participate in net control meetings. Volunteer with RACES and ARES. Get to know the schedule of the NASA Space Station and try to communicate with an astronaut.

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Most importantly, keep your ears open to a person in distress that is calling out for help on the HAM network.

HAM community is a fun network during peace-time and a vital tool during an emergency or civil catastrophe.

Check 6!

/s/ Alfonso Faustino (K6ASF)

My deepest thanks to all the HAM operators around the world.  Our HAM transceivers are tools so we can communicate with each other, foster alliances with each other, and experiment in creating new communications technology to make transceivers more effective and efficient;  but, also, most importantly, the HAM social network we created is an invaluable network that provides a strong communications tool and resources during emergencies.  I, especially, want to thank the HAM operators that created all the repeaters throughout the world.  The service and equipment you provided for all of us is invaluable; and, I wanted to make sure you know that I appreciate all the work you’ve done for me, as a HAM operator.  

Thank you — check 6! — Alfonso Faustino from San Francisco’s Top Of Nob Hill (KM8ASF)

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