Amateur Radio

History of Amateur Radio

Throughout the history of amateur radio, amateur radio enthusiasts have made significant contributions to science, engineering, industry, and social services. Research by amateur radio operators has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives in times of emergency.

Amateur radio is a hobby and, by law, completely non-commercial. Individual amateur "ham" radio operators pursue the avocation for personal pleasure through building their own radio stations and communicating with their fellows globally, and for self-improvement via study and practice of electronics, computers, and radio and TV wave behavior. Radio amateurs are, thus, "amateurs" in the true sense of the word: pursuit of an activity only for the love of it. Radio amateurs can not broadcast or transmit music and other general public entertainment programming. The amateur radio use of the air waves is for personal satisfaction and for forwarding the "state of the art" of electronics and communication techniques. Amateur radio operations can be detected in designated bands throughout the radio spectrum, using a variety of modulation methods including Morse code, voice and digital modes, and image modes such as television and facsimile.

Amateur radio came into being after radio waves (proved to exist by Heinrich Rudolf Hertz in 1888) were adapted into a communication system in the 1890s by the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. In the late 19th century there had been amateur wired telegraphers setting up their own interconnected telegraphic systems. Following Marconi's success many people began experimenting with this new form of "wireless telegraphy". Information on "Hertzian wave" based wireless telegraphy systems (the name "radio" would not come into common use until several years later) was sketchy, with magazines such as the November, 1901 issue of Amateur Work showing how to build a simple system based on Hertz' early experiments. Magazines show a continued progress by amateurs including a 1904 story on two Boston, Massachusetts 8th graders constructing a transmitter and receiver with a range of eight miles and a 1906 story about two Rhode Island teenagers building a wireless station in a chicken coop. In the US the first commercially produced wireless telegraphy transmitter / receiver systems became available to experimenters and amateurs in 1905.  In 1908, students at Columbia University formed the Wireless Telegraph Club of Columbia University, now the Columbia University Amateur Radio Club. This is the earliest recorded formation of an amateur radio club, collegiate or otherwise. In 1910, the Amateurs of Australia formed, now the Wireless Institute of Australia.

American Radio Relay League (ARRL)

Founded in 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim, ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is the national association for Amateur Radio in the US. Today, with more than 161,000 members, ARRL is the largest organization of radio amateurs in the world. ARRL's mission is based on five pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, Technology, and Membership.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. 

Membership Requirements   

Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Training may be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. Please inquire at the local level for specific information. Because ARES is an Amateur Radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership. 

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (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.

RACES operation is strictly controlled, and limited to official civil defense activity authorized by emergency management officials. Amateurs operating in RACES must be officially registered with the served civil defense organization. For this purpose, Washoe County Amateur Radio Emergency Service members are registered with Washoe County Emergency Management. Although RACES and ARES are separate entities, this dual membership allows Washoe County Amateur Radio Emergency Service members to "switch hats" as necessary, with no interruption of service.

ARISS, or Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ISS), was formed to design, build and operate Amateur Radio equipment in space for educational purposes. In 1996, delegates from major national Amateur Radio organizations, such as ARRL, and from national Amateur Radio satellite organizations, such as AMSAT, in the eight nations involved with the international space station, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form ARISS.
NASA and the Russian space organization Energia have signed agreements that spell out where the physical location of the Amateur Radio equipment will be set up on the ISS. A technical team was officially established by NASA to serve as the interface to support hardware development, crew training and on-orbit operations.

Nevada AUXCOMM - Amateur Radio Emergency Communications

What is AUXCOMM?  AuxComm is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Incident Management System (NIMS) compliant program adopted by Nevada Emergency Management (NDEM) for all auxiliary emergency / public service communications within the state. AuxComm encompasses Amateur Radio, RACES, CERT Team communications, citizens band and other non-public safety communications services. While AuxComm stands for Auxiliary Communications, within the state of Nevada, AuxComm is considered a Primary Emergency Communications asset and is overseen by qualified Amateur Radio personnel. Nevada AuxComm, with the full support of NDEM, is tasked with establishing at the county level, county AuxComm units led by appointed and qualified volunteer AuxComm Coordinators. The Nevada AuxComm program does not replace RACES or the ARRL-ARES programs within the state but provides Certification and support not otherwise available for volunteers.

The AUXCOMM program in Nevada provides auxiliary communications resiliency to Public Safety entities as well as supporting the Local Community and Public Charities with trained volunteer auxiliary communicators and a wide variety of two-way communications equipment. Additionally, AuxComm provides training to local Amateur Radio operators, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) personnel and others in emergency communications response. All members are volunteers and no one receives any payment for their services.

The Nevada DEM has an active, well trained core of volunteer Emergency Communicators who perform within the Incident Command System (NIMS), SkyWarn (Storm spotting), Basic and Advanced Emergency Communications as well as many other aspects that enhance our ability to assist our served agencies during emergencies / disasters as well as other organizations during public service events.

As a specially trained Ham Radio Operator serving as an AuxComm Auxiliary Communicator, you can be asked to perform many different tasks associated with Emergency Communications: 

  • In a FEMA Emergency Communications Unit 
  • In an Emergency Management Agency Communications Unit 
  • In an Emergency Operations Center 
  • In many other types of public service events  
As an AuxComm you’ll NEVER be asked to perform tasks not related to communications.

Auxcomm Requirements

You will need a FEMA Student ID to take the online courses. Go to FEMA SID Website and register for a FEMA SID.

  • A current Amateur Radio License (Tech class to start, General or better expected within one year)
  • Successful completion of ICS online courses: IS-100c, IS-200b, IS-700b and IS-800c
  • Successful completion of the CISA Auxcomm Course (can be deferred until available)
  • A completed and endorsed Position Task Book

FEMA Certification

The FEMA Independent Study Program offers a variety of online courses on emergency planning and operations. Of particular importance to Auxcomm members is the series of four National Incident Management System (NIMS) courses, listed below. Some organizations may require completion of one or more of these courses before allowing an individual to assist in a disaster. In any event, they are valuable and interesting in their own right and every ARES member is encouraged to take them.

These courses are offered by FEMA's Emergency Management Institute Independent Study Program, which also offers a number of other relevant courses. Check out their complete course listing here or try their FAQ page if you have further questions. All of the Independent Study courses are free of charge.