How to Build Safety into a Ham Radio Shack - dummies

How to Build Safety into a Ham Radio Shack

By H. Ward Silver

Whatever type of ham radio station you choose to assemble, you must keep basic safety principles in mind. Don’t think that you can ignore safety in the ham shack. Sooner or later, equipment gets damaged or someone gets hurt. Take a little time to review the safety fundamentals.

Basic safety

Safety isn’t particularly complicated. Being safe consists mainly of consistently observing just a few simple rules. These tips can keep you out of more trouble than almost any others:

  • Know the fundamental wiring rules for AC power. The National Electrical Code (NEC) contains the rules and tables that help you do a safe wiring job. The NEC, as well as numerous how-to and training references, is available in your local library or at home-improvement centers. If you’re unsure of your skills, hire an electrician.

  • Deal with DC power carefully, especially in a car, to prevent short circuits and poor connections. Either situation can cause expensive fires, and poor connections result in erratic operation of your radio. As with AC power, read the safety literature or hire a professional installer to do the job right.

  • Think of your own personal and family safety when constructing your station.

    Don’t leave any kind of electrical circuit exposed where someone can touch it accidentally. Use a safety lockout (a device that prevents a circuit breaker from being closed, energizing a circuit) on circuit breakers when you’re working on wiring or equipment. Have fire extinguishers handy and in good working order. Show your family how to remove power from the ham shack safely.

How to build lightening safety into your ham radio shack

The power and destructive potential of lightning are awesome. Take the necessary steps to protect your station and home. These steps can be as simple as disconnecting your antenna feed lines when they’re not in use. Alternatively, you may decide to use professional-level bonding and grounding. Whichever option you choose, do the job diligently and correctly.

How to build safety from radio-wave frequency (RF) exposure

The signals your transmitter generates can also be hazardous. The human body absorbs radio-wave frequency (RF) energy, turning it to heat. RF energy varies with frequency, being most hazardous in the VHF and UHF regions. A microwave oven operates at the high end of the UHF frequencies, for example.

Amateur signals are usually well below the threshold of any harmful effects but can be harmful when antennas focus the signal in such a way that you’re exposed for a long period of time. High-power VHF and UHF amplifiers can definitely be hazardous if you don’t handle them with caution.

A comprehensive set of RF safety guidelines is available. As you construct your own station, do a station evaluation to make sure you’re not causing any hazards due to your transmissions.

First aid

As in any other hobby that involves the potential for injury, having some elementary skills in first aid is important. Have a first-aid kit in your home or shack, and be sure your family members know where it is and how to use it. Training in first aid and CPR is always a good idea for you and your family, regardless of your hobby.