As my attorney friends like to say, I was “shocked and amazed” at my answer to that question!
Ham communities vary, of course. But I suspect that you may not be as aware of the licensed amateur radio operators who live in your general vicinity. Some are simply not “active,” whatever the heck you want to say that is. We tend to see through our personal windshields rather than a bird’s eye view those hams who are engaged in some visible activity. Hearing them on the air (very strong nearby signals perhaps), seeing them at radio clubs or local ham fests, and that sort of visibility is mostly how we gauge our impressions of other hams nearby. But I suspect that many, many hams are simply not visible to us that way.
We tend to look up specific call signs through a variety of resources, the most popular of which is the venerable QRZ.com. The results can be viewed on a map. But it is most always just the single call sign. And that is very useful. For some purposes.
But Ross KT1F in New Hampshire—his FCC record says he lives on Sleepy Hollow Road (!)–has published a very clever map of most all FCC ULS records for licensed amateurs. It’s about four years old now. As someone who has been involved in GIS and related technologies since the early 1980s, I am very impressed with KT1F’s ambitious project. Geocoding address records, especially about 750,000 of them requires either a lot of crunching against an enhanced TIGER street database (or similar source), $$$, or a clever way to use relatively free sources. See his site at to find out how he’s done this.
Here’s a screenshot of the map from Ross’ website with my location annotated. I had previously been the only licensee in the EM42xk grid. But no longer! As this graphic illustrates, there are several hams who now reside in this grid square, both on my side of the Reservoir as well as in the Fannin Landing neighborhood across the water.
I was very surprised at the number of hams around me. Driving by many of these neighborhoods on a daily or weekly basis, I would never know that so many had licensed ham operators living there. I just don’t see many obvious antennas. If you’d like to check out your neighborhood, here’s the website below (clicking link will open a new tab):
What did you find in your neck of the woods? Are you rather isolated? Or less isolated than you imagined?
What Can You Do With This Map?
There are a number of very useful and productive things you can do by judicious use of Ross’ map tool. Here are just some thoughts that crossed my mind.
Yep, the idea of a local area club jumps out but there are likely existing clubs if there are enough hams in the general vicinity. But it’s clearly a thought. However, contacting your neighboring hams who are close by can be good for numerous other things, too.
One is periodic gatherings in a park or other suitable area. Saturday Morning Amateur Radio Time is a “smart” move but other times work just as well. A quarterly gathering with rigs, antennas and some food/beverage can grow into a low maintenance and enjoyable collective activity. If the locale is a park listed in the Parks on the Air (POTA) map, activate it! Announcing it on the POTA app website and on their Slack channel can draw a crowd on the air. You only need 10 contacts for it to become official. And, you get to know your neighboring hams.
A careful investigation of this map in your area can identify hams who live in HOA-governed neighborhoods. If you live in one, pizza night at a local restaurant (or elsewhere) can be a welcomed time of sharing. How do others deal with the ubiquitous rules against ham antennas in their neighborhood? Perhaps if enough hams join in over time, this group can request meetings with relevant HOA Boards to just inform them about the hobby, convince them that Herman Munster really isn’t a ham (or a real person), and that ham antennas do not have to be nearly as onerous as above ground utility poles, cell towers, marinas with boat masts that have marine radio antennas on them (like mine). Plus, during bad weather or other events, having an active ham in the neighborhood can be a real asset. But, right now, they probably do not know that.
Looking for area organizations and institutions, such as libraries, schools, assisted living centers, can often give concentrations of hams ideas about public service.
Library programs can be easy to schedule as Directors are all about programs as much as books and magazines these days.
Schools? Not so much from outsiders who would take up valuable curriculum time—-unless you have an insider connection on staff at an area school. I’ve talked with numerous school administrators. They estimate that there’s only about a 3 our of 10 chance to get into a school, regardless of whether there’s a connection with a school. Private schools tend to be more challenging than public schools. The race to gain the “best” college application packet quickly fills up a middle or high school student’s dance card. Just ask any parent of one or more such school children. (They were the first Uber drivers!)
Assisted living centers vary but the ones with resident mobility could be promising for area amateurs to arrange a visit. Doing a brief show-and-tell about amateur radio could well be a boon for residents. Those who know about amateur radio, were exposed to it earlier in life, or who just get struck by the hobby’s excitement could become very interested in the hobby. Most retirement counselors suggest retiring “to” something (e.g., a hobby) instead of just “from” something (work). A Tech license and an HT courtesy of you area hams could be lifeline for one or more residents. Remember, those who are still ambulatory and get out in the community can be as active as you are! (I gave a professional friend who moved into such a center in the Chapel Hill, NC area an inexpensive HT programmed with all of the repeaters in the Raleigh-Durham area. He had maintained his amateur license for decades but the last radio he had was a 2M Goonie Box.)
Is there an RF noise problem in your area? Are their neighborhoods where area hams live where the noise is not so bad? With cooperation, pooling a few dollars into a kitty for a web-based SDR (KiwiSDR, etc.) with a loop or other broadband antenna could be used by other hams in the area for RX (CATSync is a great tool for that). Password-protect it so that just your “team” can access it if the host’s Internet bandwidth is an issue.
Getting acquainted for an “unclub” group to meet and exchange ideas on projects, contacts, events and so forth can be useful. You can also check out others to see if they are individuals with whom you feel like spending time with. The issues with clubs are legion: just read the Clubs board on eHam! But not every club has to be like Walmart. Not every ham is someone with whom everyone else would like to break bread with. Or them, you. We “should” welcome all as a general value position but, honestly, all hams do not behave that way. So meeting without the formality of an official club is often an unobtrusive way to find other area hams with whom you’d like to meet with from time to time.
Of course, your best ham buddies do not have to live nearby. Some of mine certainly do not. But I was “shocked and amazed” that so many licensed hams to live near my QTH. Perhaps you will be, too.
There are other uses of KT1F’s map tool. These are just a few I’ve thought of as I was writing this blog post. What are your thoughts?