to the fascinating world of Amateur Radio!
Amateur radio is ...
a form of communication; a hobby; a community service.
It could be a school teacher in Nova Scotia making friends over
the radio with another Radio Amateur in New Zealand; an Alberta teenager
using her computer to upload a chess move through her radio which is
retrieved by a fellow chess fan in Florida via an amateur radio space
satellite; or a truck driver in Manitoba contacting Radio Amateurs in a
hundred countries during a single weekend contest. In particular, Radio Amateurs
save lives as part of an emergency communications network, the most important
aspect of Amateur Radio.
More Emergency Radio Operators are needed.
This unique mix of fun, convenience and public service is what
distinguishes Amateur Radio. People get involved in Amateur Radio for
many reasons, but they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio
technology, regulations and operating principles. All have passed an
examination leading to an authorization to operate on the "Amateur
Bands." These frequency bands are reserved for use by Radio
Amateurs at intervals from just above the AM broadcast band all the way
up through the microwave frequencies. Even though Amateur Radio
conversations may be heard around the world by anyone with a suitable
radio receiver, given the right frequency and propagation conditions,
Amateur Radio is basically two-way communication between Radio Amateurs.
The appeal of Amateur Radio
is the ability to communicate across the country, around the globe, and
even with astronauts on space missions. Some Radio Amateurs build and
experiment with radio. Computer hobbyists find digital modes to be a
low-cost way to expand their ability to communicate. Those with a
competitive streak enjoy "DX contests" where the object is to
see how many distant Radio Amateurs they can contact. Some like the
convenience of a technology giving them portable communication. Others
use it to open the door to new friendships over the air, or through
participation in an Amateur Radio club. Many combine Amateur Radio with
the internet in various ways.
Typical Radio Amateurs
come from all walks of life - lawyers, entertainers, missionaries,
doctors, ministers, politicians, students, workers, shut-ins and retired
folks - all ages, sexes, income levels and nationalities. Some like
voice communication on a hand-held radio. Others prefer Morse code
through a low-power transmitter. Many transmit computer messages through
amateur radio satellites. They all use radio to communicate with their
fellow Radio Amateurs.
What is the history of Amateur Radio in Canada?
In 1901, Marconi transmitted the Morse code letter "S" from
Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to St. John's, Newfoundland.
Soon early radio experimenters were trying out the first
"spark gap" transmitters. To control interference to marine
shore stations, Parliament passed the Radiotelegraph Act in 1913. In
1914 the Radiotelegraph Regulations were issued, prescribing the first
operating and technical proficiency examinations for Amateur Radio
operators in Canada. Administered by various government departments,
Amateur Radio grew in Canada to over 56,000 certificates at present.
How is Amateur Radio different from Citizens'
Band or Family Radio Service?
These unlicensed services are legally limited to voice operation over
low powered equipment on a single frequency band. Amateur Radio may
involve voice, Morse code, computer data, or television modes on any of
a number of bands, either direct or via repeater stations or
earth-orbiting satellites, and may use considerable power and
directional antenna systems.
Why must Radio Amateurs pass an examination?
Although a major purpose of Amateur Radio is recreation, it is called
the "Amateur Radio Service" because it also has a serious
face. The government created this "Service" partly to fill the
need for a pool of experts who could provide communications in times of
emergency or war. Countless lives have been saved when these skilled
hobbyists acted as emergency communicators to render aid during or
following a hurricane, tornado, ice storm, earthquake or other disaster.
In addition, the government acknowledged the ability of Amateur Radio to
advance communication and technical skills, and to enhance international
How are Amateur Radio operators “authorized”
is only one authorization to transmit - an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate
with the Basic Qualification and Call Sign.
Morse Code is no longer required! With
the Morse Code Qualification for 5 words per minute sending and
receiving, added to your Basic Qualification, you receive all privileges
on all the Amateur Radio bands below 30 MHz , except high power transmitter
However, either a Morse code qualification or
a "Basic with Honours" qualification (awarded to persons who
get 80% or higher on the 100-question, multiple choice exam), allows access to
HF. Passing a Morse Code test is no longer required in order to operate
Amateur Radio equipment capable of world-wide communications!
With the Advanced Qualification
added to your Basic Qualification you can build and operate your own
transmitting equipment, sponsor a club station, run higher power and operate
your own repeater station. To
earn this requires passing a 50-question examination on radio theory.
Are there Amateur Radio events during the year?
Most Amateur Radio clubs meet weekly or monthly. Hamfests are popular
events that often feature the sale of new and used equipment and parts.
Various radio contests are held throughout the year. Most important is
Field Day. This contest, with emphasis on emergency conditions, is held
on the last full weekend of June. Operation, using temporary antennas
and generator or battery power, adds to the realism and complicates
How can I learn about Amateur Radio?
Radio Amateurs of Canada publishes study guides and The RAC Operating
Manual, available on-line from the RAC web site and some radio stores.
Best of all, talk to an Amateur. Probably there is an Amateur Radio club
near you that teaches Amateur Radio classes.
What do Amateur Radio operators do during and
Amateur Radio operators are most likely to be active after disasters
that damage regular lines of communication due to power outages and
destruction of telephone lines. They may set up and operate local and
long distance communication networks, as backup for failed or overloaded
communication networks. They may also provide non-commercial
communication for both private citizens affected by the disaster, and
their worried families and friends outside the disaster area.
How Do Radio Amateurs Help in an Emergency?
Radio Amateurs are active as communication volunteers providing backup
communications for their local public safety organizations. In some
disasters, radio communications among public safety or relief officials
fail, when radio towers or other elements in the normal communication
infrastructure are damaged. Radio Amateurs may be able to help using
their technical skills and their own portable or mobile radio equipment.
Radio Amateurs may organize "traffic
nets", operating through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)
or the National Traffic System (NTS). Most ARES groups have formal
agreements with their local municipalities and are included in the
municipal Emergency Plan, for callout in an emergency. The Canadian Red
Cross, as the lead relief agency, coordinates support for other relief agencies and has a formal agreement for ARES across Canada. In areas
that are prone to tornadoes and hurricanes, many Amateurs are involved
in CANWARN, under Environment Canada.
Can I use Amateur Radio to contact loved ones in
a disaster area?
Radio Amateurs in a disaster area are usually very busy helping with
immediate relief problems. Since they may be called upon to assist
emergency officials, you should wait until the crisis has passed and
restoration efforts have begun. At that time, local Amateurs may begin
handling what is known as "welfare traffic." If you know a
nearby Amateur in your community, he or she may be able to send a
message into a traffic net that can then relay it to the affected site.
The message should be brief (e.g. "Fred, We're worried. Call home.
Mother"), with the addressee's name, address and phone number. Once
received at the disaster site, your message may take a considerable time
to reach the addressee. Amateurs there may have no way of reaching your
loved one because of road blockages, or outages in telephone service.
Can I use Amateur Radio to get word out of a
Yes, but have patience. When disaster strikes, all communications are
overloaded. Amateur Radio operators in the disaster area must give
priority to supporting local safety and relief efforts. When the
immediate danger has passed, most provide "welfare"
communications for local residents unable to telephone. If you are in an
affected area, locate an Amateur Radio station (often identified by a
sign or banner) and leave a very brief message (e.g. "All is well
here. Love, John") with the address and telephone number for the
addressee. The Radio Amateur will put your message in line as part of
the daily "traffic", and it will be relayed to the area where
the addressee lives. An Amateur there may then deliver your message by
telephone (but don't expect that Amateur to incur long distance charges
to deliver your message).
How can Amateur Radio help with news gathering
during or after a disaster?
representatives often use Amateur Radio as a source of information and
news about conditions in the affected region. Many Radio Amateurs will
provide interviews concerning information from the disaster site. In
addition, reporters may wish to develop stories on the role of Amateur
Radio in disaster relief. However,
Amateur Radio may not be used to assist the news media in gathering
information in a professional capacity, nor may radio or TV broadcasts
be transmitted by Amateur Radio.
more information about Amateur Radio and how YOU can get involved, please see the Radio Amateurs of Canada website at