This article was contributed by Clark Stone and Heatherly Takeuchi.
Amateur Radio (also known as ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town and around the world, without the use of the internet or cellular phones. Most importantly, ham radio provides an essential and critical means of communicating during emergencies such as fires, floods, and earthquakes. When all other communication services are inoperable or disrupted, ham radio provides a way for communities and their residents to communicate with each other and local emergency services.
In San Benito County, the San Benito County Amateur Radio Association (SBC ARA) is a local volunteer organization that deploys and maintains radio resources throughout the county for ham use. In a rural county like San Benito, ham radio is a vital means of communicating for many people across the county.
SBC ARA maintains ham radio repeaters that provide the means for ham operators to communicate countywide and to other ham radio operators outside the county. SBC ARA also provides amateur radio communication services in support of local events such as the San Benito County Fair and the Sea Otter Classic bicycle event.
Before a person can operate a ham radio and use frequencies set aside for their use, they must acquire a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles and pass an examination for the Federal Communication Commission license. Locally, SBC ARA conducts four class and testing sessions each year in Hollister, Gilroy, and Morgan Hill to assist people in obtaining their FCC license to operate a ham radio.
SBC ARA’s testing sessions resulted from the efforts of Heatherly Takeuchi, a licensed operator who relocated to Hollister in 2007.
“When I moved to Hollister with it being so rural, I realized how vital it is to be able to call for help myself, so I decided to earn my amateur radio license,” Takeuchi said. “I had to travel to Cupertino to take my first test, and later to Sunnyvale and Morgan Hill to take my advanced license tests. I realized there was a real need in San Benito and south Santa Clara counties for amateur radio licensing tests, and that SBC ARA could address that need.”
The SBC ARA’s testing group began in September 2011 with six licensed Amateur Radio Volunteer Examiners (VEs) helping three people obtain their first licenses. SBC ARA’s VE group currently consists of over 20 volunteers who conduct four popular class and testing sessions a year. Their new licensees have ranged in age from 11 to 83 years old, including schoolteachers, boy scouts, grandmothers, attorneys, and even city council members.
A significant milestone for SBC ARA’s VE group was reached at its Feb. 1 class and testing session in Hollister. Seventeen people passed their first license test, bringing the total of new ham radio operators who obtained their licenses in the past ten years to 501!
Diana Gordon of Gilroy became the group’s 500th person to earn their first amateur radio license. Diana is a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) member where she is preparing to help others in her community in the event of emergency; an amateur radio license in one part of being ready.
Future Amateur Radio license class and test sessions in 2020 are scheduled for May 2 in Morgan Hill, Aug. 8 in Hollister, and Nov. 7 in Gilroy. For more information on the SBC ARA and to become a member or classes, visit: www.sbcara.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sbcara/