Volunteers may use amateur radio lawfully only if they have a valid FCC Amateur Radio license (Technician, General or Extra). Taking the exam is inexpensive (generally, it is a fee of $15); but, most people need to study for the exam in order to successfully pass it. A helpful overview of the process is described here: http://www.arrl.org/getting-your-technician-license.
There are a number of different methods to prepare for the exam, and you can use one or several of them:
- Take a classroom exam preparation class: amateur radio clubs throughout the metro area periodically offer exam classes free of charge (though you must still pay $15 to take the exam). The time commitment for classes will run anywhere between 6 to 24 hours, and schedules vary. For a current list of known classes in the Portland metro area, please view the document at: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem/article/563400. Often (though not always), students have an opportunity to take the exam immediately after the class ends.
- Use online resources to prepare: the internet makes many exam study resources available, including online videos and practice exams. We recommend in particular:
The Ham Whisperer: Online video-based lessons to help you prepare to become a radio technician.
AA9PW.com: Probably the easiest and most hassle-free sample exam resource; no sign ups, no page navigation...just get in there and go.
NC4FB.org: Free resources and lessons for exam prep, including sample exams.
- Borrow or purchase an exam textbook for study: The national association for amateur radio (American Radio Relay League or ARRL) offers a print textbook at their website store. Volunteers may find new textbooks to be expensive. However, used (and reduced price) copies are easy to find through online booksellers. You can also check them out from Multnomah County libraries.
After you pass the exam and receive your license and call sign, you can choose to take further training to become a NET ARO (receiving your license is a step towards becoming an ARO, but you must complete radio operations training before receiving an ARO card). Either way, please be sure to update your volunteer profile with your new call sign! Licensed radio operators receive information and exclusive training opportunities.
You can also check out radios from PBEM, and participate in the Sunday evening radio check-ins (which are ideal for beginner radio operators). The radio check-ins take place every Sunday at 8:00 pm at 147.04MHz +600kHz offset 100Hz PL.