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West River Radio Club

About Us and Ham Radio!


The West River Radio Club is Windham County's and Vermont's newest Amateur Radio Club.  On November 4, 2003 ten stalwart Amateur radio operators, often called ham radio operators or simply "hams", from Southeastern VT braved a dark, drizzly night to attend an exploratory meeting for a new Ham club in Windham County. This idea was the brainchild of Tim Bell, KA1ZQX, and Richard Pierce, N1JSG (SK).  After a discussion of the benefits and possibilities for a club in this area it was unanimously decided to proceed with the formation of a Ham club.

Come join us at our regular meetings which are kept to presentations and information sharing.  Our Board of Directors meetings are the business meetings behind the scenes, with some good conversations and eating good food.  We keep these separate to maximize your interest.  The Board of Directors meetings are open to everyone who is interested or cannot make our regular meetings in Townshend.

What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur radio is a hobby with millions of participants around the world that use radio transmitters and receivers to communicate with other Amateur radio operators. A retired military officer in Vermont makes friends over the radio with a ham in London, England. A local teenager uses a computer to upload a chess move to an orbiting space satellite, where it's retrieved by a fellow chess enthusiast in Japan. In California, volunteers save lives as part of their involvement in an emergency communications net. And at the scene of a traffic accident on a Chicago freeway, a ham calls for help by using a pocket-sized hand-held radio.

Amateur Radio has been shown to be a critical piece in modern emergency management planning. Amateur Radio operators provide volunteer communications for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and thousands of state and local emergency management offices across the country. In the State of Vermont, the West River Radio Club is a very strong member of the Vermont Emergency Management - RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services) Division, ARRL ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) and the LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Commission).  We provide backup communications for Vermont Emergency Management to help protect people who might be within an emergency zone.  We also become the eyes and ears for the National Weather Service by reporting real time weather statistics, and we help our in special events like marathons, walk-a-thon's, search parties, special events and much more.  Fact, during the recent tsunamis and in many areas during the 2004 Florida hurricanes, Amateur Radio was the only effective communications that survived while other means of “tried and true” communications failed

This unique mix of fun, public service and convenience is the distinguishing characteristic of Amateur Radio. Although hams get involved in the hobby for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology, regulations and operating principles, demonstrated by passing an examination for a license to operate on radio frequencies known as the "Amateur Bands." These are reserved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by hams at intervals from just above the AM broadcast band all the way up into extremely high microwave frequencies.

Things you can to do with amateur radio

  • Talk around the world - With HF radios hams can talk to other hams in literally any part of the globe.
  • Talk around town - With small portable VHF and UHF transceivers hams enjoy extremely reliable communications within their local community.
  • QRP - Communicating with "very low power" is a challenge that many hams enjoy. QRP is usually practiced on the HF bands.
  • Packet radio - The internet over ham radio? Not really ... but ham radio operators enjoy a digital network of their own, all without wires!
  • International Morse Code - Forget it ... You can now get a General or Extra Class License without knowing one dit’s or dah’s of Morse Code.  The Morse Code 5 words per minute code requirement is no longer required to operate on the HF bands.
  • Amateur television - It's just like real television because it is real television.
  • Slow Scan TV - Send pictures around the world for little or no cost.
  • Contests - You can put your radio operating skills up against other hams and teams of hams.
  • Order pizzas - It used to be a long standing joke around ham radio operators about what you can not do over ham radio ... Now it's perfectly legal! You can call you favorite pizzeria on your ham radio and order take-out dinner on the way home from work. Hopefully you'll use your radio less for calling your doctor, the police, emergency road-side assistance, 911 and other telephone-linked services.
  • Emergency and other volunteer services - Floods, hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes, ice storms ... when ever `normal' communications go out, hams are ready to use their radios to provide emergency communication services to their communities.
  • Satellite communications - Hams have their own satellites ... really! (Amateur's satellites are easy to use too.
  • Traffic handling - "Ham telegrams" are used to send messages to people around the world at no cost to the sender or the recipient; all done by ham radio operators volunteering their time and resources.

So who is an Amateur Radio Operator? 

Anyone can be!  Some operators are Astronauts, singers, actors / actresses, communication professionals, TV and radio personalities, racers of many venues, sports figures, computer operators, kids and people just like you.  We are an excited group of folks who have fun helping out our local communities, communicating with individuals and friends near and far, and much more.  Some of us are new to Amateur Radio and just starting to study for our first license while some of us are well versed.  We all enjoy sharing our knowledge and helping others.  You do not have to have a license to join our club or have any experience at all.  You just have to have a desire to help out and be with folks like you. 

How to become an amateur radio operator

All hams in the United States are licensed by the FCC. A 35 question multiple-choice test and paying $14.00 is all it takes. The FCC doesn't even give the test ... Ham “VE’s” (Volunteer Examiners) give the test to people that want to become hams. These volunteer examiners then file the paperwork with the FCC and your ham radio license is set to you in the mail.

There are many ways to go about preparing for and taking your ham radio license test.

  • Classes - For those that like a structured approach, the West River Radio Club organizes meetings and classes to teach the basic skills of radio operation and prepare people for their ham radio license test. At the end of the classes, a test is given. If you pass, you're a ham!
  • Elmer’s - An Elmer is the ham equivalent of a "Yoda." Many new hams are taught my other hams. (Helping people is a common thread throughout the ham radio hobby.) An Elmer knows the stuff you need to pass your test and will help you prepare. While an Elmer can not give the FCC examination, he or she will be in touch with other hams in your area and know where public examinations are held.
  • Self-study – There are many web sites, books and videos available if you do not have time to devote to a classroom structure.  What you do not get form the Self Paces structure is the answers to topics that just stump you.  You cam always contact a ham or and Elmer who can help you through that tough topic.

We invite you to come join us at one of our meetings.  You do not have to be a member to attend the meetings and try us out.  Our meetings are scheduled for the second Tuesday of each month at the Grace Cottage Hospital EMT Training Room at 7 P.M.  If you are interested in joining us, please bring in a completed application, which is available by clicking on either of the links below, to our next meeting or mail it to the address on the form.  Even if you do not have a license, but are interested in amateur radio, emergency communications or helping the public, we invite you to come to one of our meetings and join in on the fun.   If you have further questions, please email us at West River Radio Club.

For your convince, you can now fill out our Membership Application on your PC, within Adobe Acrobat, and print it out

(All of our documents are in PDF format)

West River Radio Club Membership Application

West River Radio Club Pamphlet and Application

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