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Amateur radio is probably most recognized for its role during natural disasters as an almost "fail-safe" for when other lines of communication cannot function properly. Since it doesn't rely on an infrastructure (no power, cable, internet or cellular towers), it's often used at marathons, races, parades, emergencies and for situation awareness.

September 22, 2017
Writer: Sydney Jensen

It's a skill that been around well since the early 1900's and now Madison County is hosting another session of their amateur radio courses. 

Amateur radio is probably most recognized for its role during natural disasters as an almost "fail-safe" for when other lines of communication cannot function properly. Since it doesn't rely on an infrastructure (no power, cable, internet or cellular towers), it's often used at marathons, races, parades, emergencies and for situation awareness.

But, Todd Smith, the Emergency Management Communications Coordinator for Madison County says there's plenty of fun to be had as a licensed radio operator. 

"There's a lot of things you can do besides emergency communications," Todd Smith, Emergency Management Communications Coordinator for Madison County, told BYU-Idaho Radio. "For example, Morse Code; Morse Code's not required to get your license anymore like it used to be, but it's still a very popular mode...there's a lot of different types of modes, like digital modes...you just attach your radio to a computer and you can send [an attachment] across the air without any infrastructure."

Smith says there's also plenty of competition in the various different modes, including voice, Morse Code, certain digital modes and even regional competitions. 

But, regardless of the use, be it pleasure or professional, anyone who transmits on a radio frequency must have a license. 

"It's really quite easy," Smith said. "There's three different levels of licenses, so there's a technician license which is the very basic, entry-level [license]...then there's two other levels too, a general class and an amateur extra class."

Courses are free, Smith says, but the test cost $14. 

"We have 9-year-old that passing this exam," Smith said. "It's not that difficult."

Class information is available below:

Rexburg

When: September 19, 21, 26 and 28 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Testing Date: Exam takes place October 3 at 6:00 PM

Where: Madison Fire Station (26 N. Center)

BYU-Idaho

When: October 21, 28, November 4 and 11 from 8:00 AM to NOON

Testing Date: November 18 at 9:00 AM

Where: Science and Technology Building, Room 201

You can listen to the full interview below: