Ian Powell first became interested in amateur radios when he would go hunting with his dad. The 15-year-old said there wasn’t cell service in some of the remote areas; however, they weren’t cut off from communicating with others because of a mobile unit and handheld radio his dad brought on the trips.

That initial exposure, Powell said, has further developed into a personal interest in ham radios. In addition, he said it has helped him in being more social with others, resulting in not being as shy.

“I just like talking to new people,” he said. “I have talked to a lot of nice people on the radio.”

Powell, a member of the Hermiston Amateur Radio Club, was recently a winner in the 2021 Young Ham Lends a Hand Contest. The Boardman teen was one of two youths from across the country to receive the award. Powell was recognized for his welcoming attitude of newcomers and tutoring them in protocols on amateur radio.

Jeff Kelso, secretary/treasurer of the Hermiston club, said it’s important for young people to become active in ham radio to learn about the vital communication abilities it provides, as well as providing service to their communities. Also, he said working with radios teaches people how to troubleshoot technical issues, which can be a marketable job skill. Additionally, he touted the importance of interacting with others.

“The social aspect of ham radio teaches young people how to effectively communicate verbally, which isn’t a skill that is as common as it once was given the prevalence of texting as most teens’ primary form of communication,” Kelso said.

Powell also shared some of the benefits of ham radios, including talking with people, helping in local events and being able to communicate during emergencies.

“I think it is important for people to learn about amateur radio because people should know how to help in an emergency situation,” he said.

In addition to providing logistics support during local events, Kelso said local ham operators communicate with each other and provide reports to the National Weather Service office in Pendleton during severe weather events. They also provide and maintain emergency communications capability to local sheriff’s offices through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

“In that capacity, we regularly participate in exercises that test those agencies’ ability to communicate with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management and FEMA via shortwave radio frequencies using both voice and data,” Kelso said.

Powell purchased his own equipment about a year after he got interested in amateur radios. Kelso said it can be a surprisingly inexpensive hobby to get into. The first handheld ham radio that he bought in 2014, which he still uses on a daily basis, can be purchased for under $30 on Amazon. For a home or vehicle radio and antenna, Kelso said a person can expect to pay between $300 and $600.

“The best way to get started in the hobby is to ask a ham about it or come to a Hermiston Amateur Radio Club meeting. We always welcome visitors and are happy to share our knowledge and experience with anyone.”

The Hermiston Amateur Radio Club meets on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at Agape House, 500 W. Harper Road, Hermiston. In addition to discussing club business and talking about technical issues and matters involving the amateur radio hobby, they conduct a testing session where anyone can sit for a license examination.

For more information about the Hermiston Amateur Radio Club, visit www.ai7ho.org.

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