Want to help first responders? Amateur radio may be for you

  • Bob Dickerman of Northfield, WA1QKT, shows Scott Duffus of Gilford, V.t., KC1BZC, how to make a contact during the Franklin County Amateur Radio Club Field Day at Poet’s Seat Tower in Greenfield. Greenfield Community College and the Franklin County Amateur Radio Club Inc., are holding a $15 amateur radio licensing course at GCC, starting March 26. Recorder File Photo/Micky Bedell

Recorder Staff
Sunday, March 11, 2018

GREENFIELD — If you want to help first responders in a disaster or weather emergency but don’t know how, then getting your amateur radio license may be the choice for you.

Greenfield Community College and the Franklin County Amateur Radio Club Inc. are holding a $15 amateur radio licensing course at GCC, starting March 26. The class will provide students with the opportunity to gain FCC-issued amateur radio licenses, which can reach around the world and help in emergencies.

“In the hill towns, the amateurs keep communication going, and FEMA and MEMA use amateur radio during disasters,” said Jeanne Dodge, a GCC instructor who is helping to coordinate the course.

The course will prepare students to take a licensing examination for becoming licensed amateur radio technicians.

The technician level is the lowest of three levels currently available through the FCC, with the next two levels, in order, being general and extra licensing. In addition, there are three license levels that have been grandfathered in, according to the FCC website: novice, technician plus and advanced.

According to Al Woodhull, president of the Franklin County Amateur Radio Club, a technician has the proper licensing to utilize radio frequencies that can allow for communication over a relatively short distance. This distance can cover the entirety of the county, Woodhull said.

However, with the use of repeaters, which helps to relay the signal by sending it from point to point, communications can occur over a larger area, Woodhull noted. “Hams” can also use a free website called EchoLink, which uses audio-streaming technology to connect users from 151 different countries in the world, and is accessible only with an amateur radio license.

Amateur radio operators also have the ability to assist first responders by establishing networks over the radio waves and keeping communication lines open.

These networks can prove useful during disasters when cellular technology may become unreliable, Dodge said. Dodge also noted that the technology and licensed amateurs are used during large public events, such as the Amherst Triathalon and Boston Marathon.

The course will be held at the GCC East Building, beginning March 26 and ending April 11, Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. The class carries a $15 fee, which will be used to cover the license examination charge, but there are no additional fees, according to Dodge.

You can reach Dan Desrochers at:


413-772-0261, ext. 257