Ham radio provides you many wonderful things to do and discover, yet it’s a service. The expectation is that beyond using ham radio just for personal enjoyment, you’ll contribute a little to the public in return for use of the public airwaves.


Prepare yourself for emergencies.

The best thing you can do for emergency preparedness is make sure that you and your family are ready. In an emergency, take care of your home and family first. Only then should you think about ham radio. If you’re not ready at home, you can’t provide assistance to others.


Prepare your community for emergencies.

Find out what emergency response groups (such as CERT and Skywarn) are active in your community. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) section manager or district emergency coordinator is a good person to ask.

If an emergency group is active in your area, join it. If no group exists, maybe you should consider starting one.


Volunteer in your club.

All clubs need people who are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel. Whether you’re limited to providing minor services or can volunteer for a leadership position, your time and effort are welcome. If you’re a new member, you’ll find no better way to become part of the family than to help out with a chore, no matter how small.


Perform public service.

Public service is an easy, rewarding way to make a contribution. Start by asking the ARRL section manager whether you can pitch in at a fun run, parade, or sporting event. By lending a hand, you help everything run more smoothly and practice for emergency communications. The National Weather Service’s Skywarn program and numerous local severe-weather-monitoring nets depend on the contributions of hams as well.


Experiment — and share your results.

The amateur radio service is also intended to foster technical innovation in radio technology and techniques. You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize laureate to make your own antenna, write a simple program, build an emergency power system, or experiment with propagation.

Be sure to share your results, which is easier than you may think. Newsletters, blogs, social networking sites, and magazines can help you spread the word.


Monitor for intruding signals

The amateur bands sometimes host accidental interference or unwanted intruders who take advantage of the bands to avoid paying licensing fees. The ARRL Intruder Watch program needs your ears to help keep these interlopers out. If you’d like to assist ham radio’s self-policing nature, find out what qualifications are required to become an ARRL Official Observer.


Serve as a product tester.

Hardware manufacturers and software authors often need testing assistance from hams, the potential users of their products. If you’re a new ham, your questions and observations are particularly valuable. Watch for test requests on websites and in Internet forums. If you have a favorite program, contact the author and offer to test new versions.


Represent amateur radio.

Write your government representatives about issues that affect ham radio. Don’t limit yourself to state and federal issues. Many issues on which representatives could use your input happen on the local level, such as zoning, planning, covenants, and permitting.

Also, discovering proposed actions that could have an adverse effect on the service can save everyone a lot of trouble if you notify the proper authorities in time.


Be a mentor.

When you’re a full-fledged ham, put on your Elmer hat and give a hand to those who are just starting out. If you’re relatively new to the hobby yourself, you’re in a great position to understand what newcomers need to know and what may be confusing to them. If you don’t know something yourself, you can help new hams find the information they need.


Make lifelong friendships.

One of the most important aspects of building and maintaining a vital and dynamic service is the friendships formed by hams. Hams knit the hobby together and make it an enjoyable activity to return to over the course of a lifetime. By enjoying one another’s company and sharing in successes and failures, hams build a community that grows stronger with every new voice.