The North Mason Amateur Radio Emergency Services (NMARES) Club was established in April 1994. The Club is a group of amateur radio operators based in Belfair. They either hold an amateur radio license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or are seeking their license. An FCC license is required to operate an amateur radio.
NMARES tries to meet on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Belfair Timberland Library. The Library is not always able to accommodate the fourth Thursday so the schedule may change accordingly. Training topics and special speakers are frequently presented to help members in their quest to understand areas or modes of interest.
In the beginning, NMARES focused heavily on responding to calls to support emergency services. NMARES members have provided communication services in Mason County to assist parade personnel and the sheriff's department with the Tahuya Days and Grapeview Parades and other events. NMARES was heavily supportive of the Mason County Department of Emergency Management (MCDEM), Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), the American Red Cross, HazMat surveys and training sessions, National Weather Service Skywarn Program, Search and Rescue, Mason County Sheriff's Department, Mason General Hospital, state Department of Natural Resources and the District 2 Fire Department as well as Collins Lake Fire Department. NMARES members provided support for several fire departments with the installation of antennas and radios for emergency communications. Some members teach amateur radio classes to get licensed with the FCC.
NMARES became less active in providing support for emergency services activities as it became more difficult to obtain an MCDEM card due to the instilling of mandatory Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) course training, CPR, and Pathogens training. NMARES fell to mainly being a support to amateurs who needed help with their amateur radio stations or to learn various modes of the hobby.
NMARES provided a vital service that has saved lives when regular communication systems failed. In times of disaster, Amateur radio operators swing into action to aid emergency communications efforts and work with public service agencies. When cell phones, land phones, the Internet and other systems are down or overloaded, Amateur Radio operators still can get the message through. NMARES participates in ARRL Field Days which is a once a year worldwide event. Amateurs set up stations to make contacts around the world using stations set up to be off the electrical grid as though it was an emergency situation.
Today, NMARES helps people get started in the hobby by providing technical support. Anyone can be an amateur radio operator, no matter their age, gender, or physical ability.
Being an Amateur Radio Operator is much more than using a microphone with a 12-volt battery and antenna to talk over a radio wave. While a Morse code key may still be on the desk, it is probably next to a modem and a computerized radio communications system capable of operating with or without a supportive infrastructure. Some are attracted by the ability to communicate across the country, around the globe, even with astronauts on the International Space Station. Amateur Radio Operator can talk to jets, ships, submarines, or bounce signals off the moon. One can use telegraphy, voice, digital, even images in communication by interfacing with computer screens. Operators exchange trading cards of sorts postcards that include their contact information) to confirm whom they've talked to. Some foreign contacts use radio conversations to practice their English. Some play long-distance chess and enter into contests while others may send and receive photos.
For some, amateur radio opens the door to new friendships over the air or through participation in one of more than 2,000 amateur radio clubs throughout the United States. Others build and experiment with electronics, sometimes constructing home-built equipment. Amateur Radio folks are on the cutting edge of many technologies. Computer hobbyists enjoy experimenting in wireless digital communications, software-defined radios (SDR) and long-distance
digital and image transmissions. "Off the grid" power sources and other concepts undreamed of just a few years ago are now common. "There is something for everybody" in the hobby. Operators can take
amateur radio wherever they go. A hand-held portable radio can be use when hiking in the Olympic Mountains. Radios can have built-in GPS and a TNC (terminal node controller) that translates the digital GPS latitude and longitude to an audio signal, which is then transmitted into an APRS (auto packet reporting system) that gets "digipeated" by APRS "digipeaters." The information is received by home stations and Internet stations which can see the location where the radio is transmitting from.
NMARES is there to answer questions, provide clarification, and supply additional information, as well as serve as mentors (Elmers) for new operators. Testing is normally offered once a month at the Shelton PUD.
Knowing Morse code is no longer required for obtaining a radio license.