Although often viewed as a volunteer support group helping out with communication during natural disasters, most amateur radio enthusiasts simply enjoy the do-it-yourself nature of putting together and improving their radio stations while communicating with the global community.

According to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the National Association of Amateur Radio in the United States defines amateur radio as a valuable voluntary emergency communications service and public resource. Since 1914, amateur radio – also known as amateur radio – has been working in basements, attics and outdoor areas, tinkering with theirs and communicating with other amateur radio operators around the world. People from all walks of life use amateur radio to talk in the city, around the world, or even in space, all without the internet or cell phones.

However, unlike citizen band (CB) radios, all amateur radio operators must pass the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exam. Interest in the use of amateur radio equipment, and particularly in preparing and conducting FCC tests, has increased with it exponential increase in coronavirus Outbreak.

The FCC reports that there are more than 765,000 amateur radio license holders in the U.S., while the number of new ham licenses has increased since the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Various websites offering online courses to prepare for an amateur radio test also confirm the increasing interest. For example, HamRadioPrep.com claims it saw a huge surge in new students in the last weeks of March 2020 and states that the number of people enrolling for the amateur radio license courses has increased by more than 706% since the news The coronavirus outbreak dominated the headlines. At the same time, the FCC recorded a 7.1% increase in new amateur licensees in the first week of March 2020 compared to the same week in 2019. “

Image source: Facebook post by George Zafiropoulos, DIY amateur radio operator Answer the COVID-19 call

In addition to supporting emergency communications, amateur radio operators were involved in the construction of do-it-yourself medical devices during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, George Zafiropoulos (KJ6VU), a ham operator in the San Francisco Bay and well-known ham podcaster, designed a development board for amateur radio projects with microcontrollers (Arduino, PIC, Raspberry Pi, Feather). Some other hams have taken up the design and are now using BenchDuino to test valves in University of Florida home-brewed ventilators. Check out theirs Facebook Page to learn more.

George is a regular Ham radio workbench The podcast is geared towards the hands of DIY-type technical hams. For details on the BenchDuino design adopted from the U of F ventilation project, see this link.

Do-it-yourselfers and technicians can see details of the ventilation project on groups.io by looking for news topic is “High Cycle Rainbird and Passive Valve Testing”. Many amateur radio operators were involved in this project including Jack Purdum, W8TEE, Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, Farhan in India and many others who worked in partnership with the University of Florida.

Image source: Adobe Stock

A more traditional way ham operators help during the national crisis can be found in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). The MRC was formed as an extension of the Freedom Corps, which was formed as a coordinating council after the 9/11 2001 attacks with the aim of “working to strengthen our service culture and find opportunities for every American to volunteer. “The MRC is closely linked to the agencies within the MRC Health departmentBecause of this, the main goal of the MRC is to act as a resource for medical first responders.

Amateur radio operators help the MRC in many ways. For example, the operators support uncritical HIPAA-compliant communication via PODS (Points of Dispersing) stations, e.g. B. those who offer older patients or first aiders vaccines against influenza or possible COVID-19. Such patients are often best cared for in isolated, temporary health care locations that avoid the public eye. This support also helps to retain key medical professionals and relief supplies that are urgently needed in regular hospitals.

General wellbeing is another area where amateur radio operators have contributed in emergencies. In a public crisis, the MRC typically employs call centers and COVID-19 hotlines for local communities. To reduce cellular network congestion, amateur radio operators can provide another communication mechanism between volunteers who provide food or supplies.

Another of Ham’s wellness activity is hosting daily wellness discussions through their local repeater antennas. Granted, this usually only helps older hams feel connected rather than alone. Nevertheless, it offers them a possibility to reduce the range to primary channels.

The coronavirus outbreak has proven to be a very different type of crisis than natural disasters such as hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. During these disasters, ham operators usually support communication for relief functions with the Red Cross.

“In practice, the Red Cross is better suited to larger-scale situations where the focus of international humanitarian aid is, e.g. For example, during severe storms or property damage like 9/11, Katrina, Sandy, Tornado, etc., ”explains Steve Bossert (K2GOG), a ham operator who works in the MRC chapter in Dutchess County, NY. “The chapters of MRC are designed to operate from county to county to directly serve the areas for which they are responsible. The MRC can also think better about using VHF / UHF resources in this way than RF resources from an amateur radio perspective. “

The Overlook Mountain Amateur Radio Club (OMARC) in New York is just one of hundreds of amateur radio clubs in the nation creating wellness networks. OMARC offers such networks every evening at 6:00 p.m. on a large 2-meter repeater.

The popularity of amateur radio among home improvement cannot be denied. The hobby and service even found their way to Hollywood. An example from a few years prior to the ABC television series Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen showed an amateur radio cabin.

If you currently have a ham license or are hoping to have one soon, make sure to get in touch with the ham operators mentioned in my story. You could even catch me at KG70NX in the evenings or on weekends.

Image source: ARRL, John Amodeo

John Blyler is a senior editor for Design News, covering electronics and advanced manufacturing areas. With a BS in technical physics and an MS in electrical engineering, he has years of experience in hardware-software network systems as an editor and engineer in the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored systems engineering and electronics books for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.