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The City Journals

Hamming it up in South Jordan: local resident teaches new amateur ham radio operators

May 08, 2018 01:03PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Students learn the ins and outs of amateur ham radio use while preparing for a technicians license. (Lance Homer)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected]

South Jordan resident Lance Homer has opened the Salt Lake Valley to a new hobby and raised awareness for emergency preparedness by offering annual classes in amateur ham radio.

“When I moved to Daybreak, I wanted to get involved, so I decided the best way to help emergency communications was to help get more amateur radio operators, so l decided to hold a class in emergency communications,” said Homer. 

Homer got his amateur radio license in 1992 while a student at Brigham Young University. Five years ago, he was called as emergency communications director for his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation in South Jordan.

“At the time, there were just 13 amateur radio operators in the neighborhood, and over the years we’ve been able to grow the number from 13 to 70,” said Homer.

One of those is his 12-year-old daughter, Sonora, who has been attending the classes since they began. Sonora passed the Amateur Radio License exam in 2017 after two failed attempts the previous year. 

“My dad was the one who got me interested in Ham Radio,” said Sonora, who was thrilled to get her own radio and call sign. “I was super excited and felt really accomplished this time.”

While her friends haven’t quite caught the fever, Sonora said she plans to continue to attend the classes to support her father and eventually try for higher level technician licenses eventually.

“I'll still be on the air and talking to other hams around the world and experiment with other radios,” said Sonora.

One of the older attendees was attracted to the class because of her interest in emergency preparedness and the belief that it’s becoming more important and necessary. 

“It was kind of a foreign language to me in the beginning,” said the resident who spent a week studying before the class and test. “I've been around people that are ham operators, but learning all the lingo was interesting.” 

Initially, she attended with two of her friends because one of them had challenged her to go and see what she could do and was happy with the way the class was taught even if it was a little out of her depth at first.

“It was just kind of a challenge to see if I could pass the test and maybe learn something along the way,” she said.

Homer said the class is not just for locals or electrical engineers. The class, taught by Gary Davis with the help of volunteers like Ed Sim, have included people from Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming thanks to social media advertising, reaching out to local ham clubs and word of mouth from past students. This year, Chuck Newton, a former South Jordan City Councilman and class member from two years ago, helped co-host the event. Of a class of 87, 81 passed their amateur radio exam with a 75 percent or higher on the multiple-choice test of 35 questions.

“It’s been a good way to get the word out and grow the popularity of a technology that easily could be lost because of cell phones, but it still has a purpose in today’s world,” said Homer.

Those interested in the free class don’t even have to own a radio to participate or pass the test, which requires a $15 fee by the Federal Communications Commission to take, but Homer hopes that they’ll become interested enough to purchase either a handheld, car or desktop radio, which start at $35 on, but a 50-foot tower in the backyard is not necessary for the majority of people.

“Amateur radio has become more accessible to people because the radios have become less expensive with Chinese manufacturers making them,” said Homer, though he added you will get what you pay for.

Homer and many of the other 200 amateur radio technicians spend Sunday nights connecting with each other and holding small informational classes on air as well as volunteer at many public events such as parades and marathons to help with communications. They have also assisted first responders when emergencies have come up and cell towers have gone down.

Homer said that in an emergency, amateur radios do not rely on a grid infrastructure for both power or communications, so if the cell towers go out, the internet goes down or power goes out, you have a device that is battery operated and can talk from one radio to another radio over the same frequency.