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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ramblings on why Ham Radio Operators, "Get IT wrong"...

That is when we try and sell ourselves to the S&P community!

First off, let me offer up this disclaimer. I am a Ham Radio operator and I, myself, am guilty of some of the following things. This may ruffle some feathers, but it is my hope that we as Hams, don't try and sell the hobby, but instead sell the reason and capabilities to those in the S&P mindset.

Second, let me make it VERY CLEAR, I admire and respect the hams that provide public service to emergency organizations. My hats off to you and keep up the good work. This is in no way disrespectful of what you do...

OK, so why do ham radio operators get it wrong, when trying to encourage others to join our hobby so those of the like mind can be prepared???

It is in my opinion, that we sell it as an expensive hobby (sometimes), one where we will be stuck in some shelter for days on end providing communications, to talk to another human being on the other side of the world for no other reason than to make a friend. I can think of many more, but these always get mentioned!

When you extoll the many wonders of ham radio to someone new, you know you lost them when you say," I worked a JG1 call last night on LSB on 40 meters, running 5w from my FT-817 into a G5RV @ 40' signal was 5 by 9, ain't that cool???" as their eyes glaze over and quickly try and change the conversation!

The S&P (Survival & Preparedness) person that may be interested into learning about ham radio, does not care about what you do with it, but rather... WHAT IT CAN DO FOR THEM!!!

For example, you may have headed down to New Orleans with all your ham gear in tow and VOLUNTEERED a MONTH of your time to man a shelter so they would have a link to the outside world since all the normal means of comms were down, but to the average prepper, that does not sound like something he may want to do.

However, mentioning that sometimes the power fails, telephones are down, cable out and cell phones are a NO GO, but with ham radio you were able to talk into or out of those areas that not longer had any communications infrastructure... now that sounds pretty cool!

I don't think, in our hobby, that we sell ourselves very well in the S&P part. Telling folks that I and several other hams spent a week on a ghost town off of the Outer Banks of NC operating ham radio on solar and generator power for a week is much more interesting than talking about the latest contact we made the other night in Europe after supper.

Not to say there is not a place and time for such things, but it is not usually the 'HOOK' that make the non ham, wish to become part of our hobby.

S&Pers want to know WHY they should get licensed, how to use it WTSHTF/TEOTWAWKI, what are the benefits and so on. It is our job as hams to get those folks interested in ham radio. Maybe some of the S&P hams we recruit will go on to be a world class DXer, head of the county or state ARES/RACES, or maybe ham radio will be nothing more than a vital link to those they wish to communicate with when all other methods are not viable. Either way, it is a win for all hams, and a benefit to anyone that knows how to use a ham radio when the chips are down!

I have helped recruit many S&P minded folks into ham radio, often buying the study manual and telling them to 'pass it on' once they got licensed. Once they got a taste of what ham radio could many became involved in ARES/RACES, MARS, SKYWARN, and/or other emergency organizations. Some just wanted to capability to talk around town on repeaters and with a licensed spouse used them to communicate around the homestead.

I will be coming up with some ideas on how to use ham radios WTSHTF in the next week or so, to hopefully inspire folks to 'think outside the box' when it comes to ham radio and not use the 'old marketing' techniques that have been in place for so long.

Like I said, I mean no disrespect to any ham radio operator who volunteers their time for using their ham radio to provide comms, I just want us to think about how it sounds when we describe our hobby to others.

I mean come on... we have to compete against iPhones and computers that can do MANY of the things that ham radio can do (although hams were doing similar things years before the technology was perfected, and in many cases were the folks who came up with the ideas that inspired many communication technologies) as long as EVERYTHING is working right!

This should be an easy sell to those of the S&P mindset, so lets explain how it will benefit the user in the long run... Once they get their taste of what ham radio can do, THEN they will find out about the hobby and service aspects of it.

That may be why I think this way, for I never came from it from the 'ham radio is a cool hobby', but rather, ' ham radio is a vital skill for me as prepper' mindset. Once I played around with my new skill, I found out the best way to increase my skills was to learn the many different ways to send a message across town or around the world.

I hope that we hams of the S&P mindset, will stop and take a look at how we sell ham radio to folks, and quit trying to talk about the hobby and talk about it as a preparedness skill. We also need to do a better job in explaining HOW you can use this skill in your preparedness plan as a prepper and NOT just a ham radio operator. Just saying...

Thanks for reading and 73.



Larry and Jo said...

As a pre-newbie to ham...I agree!
I'm all set up radio wise, with 2m equipment, but have yet to take the test.
Since you (ZombieAxe) are not my next door neighbor, I think my best course of action is to tag along with the local ham group. There, I will hope to find at least one local member that's willing to work with me, at my speed, while I learn.
Hate to say it, but it can be intimidating when the lingo flies faster than this 50 year old can comprehend.
Kudos to you ZombieAxe...you've hit the nail on the head!

Illicit Dreams said...

I like you came from the mindset, that HAM Radio would be a valuable asset to my preparedness plans.

I actually got involved in SKYWARN, and CERT before I got into HAM Radio.

I've found as a hobby, or a prep essential, it's an easier sell to some more than others as the immediately see the value of incorporating HAM into their routine.

I do admit though that I don't get on the air near as much as I should or want to, especially since I got my upgrade to General class. I need to remedy that.

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