There are some important first steps that newly licensed operators in the KC Metro area can do to help them get off to the right start. These first steps are designed to get you on the air and help you get connected to other experienced hams in the area.
- Check out one or more Amateur Radio Club in the area. Kansas City is blessed with several vibrant, friendly and diverse clubs that meet regularly. Club activites range from formal programs to regular social-get togethers and you will be welcome as a visitor at any time. Hams are friendly and welcoming by nature and they really enjoy getting to know new operators. Visit at least a couple of different clubs to get a feel for what each group is about, their meeting and social styles, and how you fit in with the personality of the group. This web site provides an up-to-date list of metro area clubs.
- Join Larry's List. Larry's List is an E-mail distribution list run by Larry W0AIB. Larry is a long-time ham in the area and is devoted to keeping Metro area hams informed about activities and events in the area. Larry's list has over 1000 subscribers and it often considered the glue that binds the diverse ham community together across geography, club affiliations, and interests. There is also a web site that summarizes much of the information that Larry disseminates. That site contains a link to the Larry's List Groups.io page which is how you subscribe.
- Obtain some equipment. You can't get on the air until you have a radio, but there are options that fit every budget and circumstance. Kansas City is lucky to have it's own local ham radio equipment store -- Associated Radio -- in downtown Overland Park. They have a full selection of radios and related equipment and helpful staff that can answer your questions. If new equipment isn't in your budget, there is lots of used equipment available in the community and your best bet in finding that is through Larry's List and networking with club members. New hams often agonize over whether their first radio should be a portable hand-held unit or a mobile unit for the their car. You'll probably get as many opinions about that as you care to listen to. The truth is that if you plan on being an active ham, you'll eventually have at least one of both types, so it probably doesn't matter which one you get first!
- Listen. Being able to listen as an amateur radio operator is a skill that is at least as important as being able to talk on a radio. As a new operator, listening is especially important. By listening to the folks you meet at clubs that you check out and by listening to traffic on the local repeaters, you'll learn a lot about how to operate, a lot about your equipment, and a lot about where some of the friendliest people hang out on local repeaters.
- Check into some nets. "Nets" are peculiar to ham radio and are basically just a scheduled time to get together and share information. There are two basic types of nets - directed nets and informal nets. One characteristic of both types is that there is a net control operator who will request stations to check into the net and generally control the radio traffic during the net. Directed nets are generally more formal and may be limited to members of a group or organization. Informal nets are usually open to all licensed operators and often provide more of an opportunity for folks to talk. There are several nets held on various repeaters every night of the week. As always, it's a good idea to listen in a couple of times to get a feel for how a net is run and the purpose of a net before you jump in. Once you're comfortable with what you're hearing, check in and have fun.