How radio is used

There are several different ways amateur radio is used or deployed in society today. These ways have not change much over the years and have been around since the beginning of amateur radio.

Making new friends and having fun

Making new friends and having fun, is maybe one of the reasons many people get involved in amateur radio. With each new day brings the possibility of meeting a new person in a different city, state, or even country. Also, each day on the air waves, are what are called “nets”. Nets are a group of people who meet on a specific radio frequency and at a predetermined time, to just talk with each other or pass messages.

Storm Spotting

Each year during storm season, many radio operators participate in storm spotting, by providing the National Weather Service and local emergency managers, with vital information on storm structure, location, and intensity. They are also able to put eyes on a storm and provide ground truth to what the meteorologists are seeing on a radar. As advanced as radar is today, it is still not able to tell if there is a tornado or funnel cloud, actually present in the storm. The radar only lets the meteorologists know that there is a possibility there is one.

Emergency Communications During Natural Disasters / Public Utility Outages

In times of crisis and natural disasters, amateur radio is often used as a means of emergency communication when wired line phones, cell phones and other conventional means of communications fail.

Unlike commercial systems, Amateur radio is not as dependent on terrestrial facilities that can fail. It is dispersed throughout a community without “choke points” such as cellular telephone sites that can be overloaded.

Amateur radio operators are experienced in improvising antennas and power sources and most equipment today can be powered by an automobile battery. Annual “Field Days” are held in many countries to practice these emergency improvisational skills. Amateur radio operators can use hundreds of frequencies and can quickly establish networks tying disparate agencies together to enhance interoperability.

Recent examples include the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan in 2001, the 2003 North America blackout, Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 and the flooding of Albert Pike Recreation Area in Arkansas, where amateur radio was used to coordinate disaster relief activities when other systems failed.

Public Service Events

Public service events are an opportunity for amateur radio operators to give back to their community. All throughout the year, Amateur Radio Operators volunteer their time and equipment to help support a wide variety of events. These events include, but are not limited to, parades, walks, runs, and bike tours. While Amateur Radio operators are primarily communicators, they in many cases get heavily involved in the actual operation of the event. Whether it be helping to plan logistical support or responding to event emergencies, Amateur Radio Operators play a vital role in the health and safety of event participants and overall event success.

Amateur Radio in Hollywood

Tim Allen (KK6OTD)

Amateur Radio is part of the storyline in the ABC television series Last Man Standing, starring Tim Allen who is a real ham operator.

Amateur Radio was part of the American TV sitcom The Munsters


Amateur Radio was part of the American Cartoon sitcom Family Guy

Amateur Radio was part of the American Cartoon sitcom The Simpsons

Amateur Radio operators come from all walks of life — doctors, students, kids, politicians, truck drivers, movie stars, missionaries and even your average neighbor next door. They are of all ages, sexes, income levels and nationalities. Whether through Morse Code on an old brass telegraph key, voice communication on a hand-held radio or computerized messages transmitted via satellite, all hams use radio to reach out to the world.

Find out what you can do with ham