Per §97.103, one is responsible for the proper operation of one's station, which of course includes that no unlicensed person uses it to transmit.

I have heard suggestions (no link handy, sorry) of taking actual physical security measures such as keeping HTs and critical components with oneself or in locked boxes, or inserting key-switches in the power connections to transmitters. While effective and not infeasible, this seems like overkill to me outside of the presence of children or other unreasonable people.

Is there “good amateur practice” about a sufficient standard of prevention? Is it sufficient for me to rely on my judgement that the people I live with wouldn't do such a thing, nor permit guests to?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I may be wrong, but might one part of this be the exact meaning of "station" in context? After all, in amateur radio, it's you as an individual who is licensed, not your equipment. Of course, that would imply that you are legally required to take steps to ensure others do not use your call sign without your permission, which could be kind of hard... $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 22, 2014 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I haven't seen a formal definition, but the impression I've gleaned is that “my station” is whatever equipment I choose to use. But, saying that it's not mine while it's in my house but I'm not using it seems a little bit gerrymandered. I'd be interested to hear about that topic, but preferably with actual references (whether to law or consensus) rather than speculation. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Feb 22, 2014 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ Like I said, I may be wrong. I'm not even in the US. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 22, 2014 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


That depends largely on your environment. If you have a separate room, and guests, children, and others are unlikely to enter, and more unlikely to touch anything if they do enter, then it's probably fine to simply leave your radio on and tuned into your preferred frequency 24/7 with the key or mic on the desk.

If you need to leave it in the living area with a multitude of children and guests around who have little social conditioning that tells them not to touch things that aren't theirs, you'll probably want to switch your output to the dummy load, turn the transmitter to receive only, turn it off, and put away or otherwise hide the key, microphone and other controls as you are able, and turn off the power strip. It would take some knowledge to set up the station so it would transmit, and at that point you might as well have that person tested and then you won't have to worry.

Of course you could lock it up behind a door if you had significant concerns about this, but I haven't yet run across anyone that felt this level of security was necessary for the purposes of preventing unlicensed transmissions. Usually the lock and key people would put their equipment under was primarily due to concerns of theft for thousands of dollars of radio equipment.

If you do have any specific concerns, describe your environment more specifically in terms of location, traffic, people who might have access to it. You'll probably receive may ideas on how to secure your station while still keeping it easy for you to use.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The first time I read "have that person tested", I thought you mean tested for insanity. :) $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2014 at 18:09

As a licensee, you are being trusted to use your best judgement of the situation.

Do you need to lock up your station?

If you look at the FCC enforcement actions in http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/AmateurActions/ you will notice that most of the actions are warnings. I would think that if you had children, and your child was found talking on the radio without your supervision or a license, you would (a) realize that you had better educate your child, and (b) could go to the expense of locking things up as a good faith response to a warning from other hams or the FCC.

People who are fined either had multiple warnings or are usually alleged to have done something egregiously wrong, such as interfere with a genuine distress call or transmit profanity at children or organized nets. When fines are given out, they tend to be many thousands of dollars.

Please note that this is not intended as legal advice. I am not a lawyer and I do not know your particular situation. This is a general observation from the tone of the FCC enforcement website and my 25 years as a ham. The tone of enforcement could always change in the future.

How to lock up?

A used, enclosed 19-inch equipment rack can often be found fairly cheap.

A friend of mine has an enclosed rack cabinet about 7 feet tall in his garage. The cabinet encloses two HF radios, a VHF all mode, a UHF all mode, amps for VHF and UHF, a tuner, a rotor control, a 50Ah 12V battery, various switchwork, and a solar charge controller. It also has a keyboard and flat monitor in a slide out drawer.

And.. I believe it has a lock on the front.

Most people, though, don't go to this extreme. One advantage is that it is not too obvious what might be in the cabinet when it is locked, although I suppose a locked cabinet with wires going inside might still look interesting to a thief.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the interesting suggestion, but this answer seems to be mainly about how to lock up a station, which is not what I am asking. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Mar 1, 2014 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ I added a bit at the beginning to deal with this. $\endgroup$
    – Paul
    Mar 2, 2014 at 0:12

I do believe that it is indeed good amateur practice to do what is prudent to keep your equipment from being misused, yes.

But let's examine the legal aspects of the rules:

To quote the section in question:

§97.103 Station licensee responsibilities.

(a) The station licensee is responsible for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC Rules. When the control operator is a different amateur operator than the station licensee, both persons are equally responsible for proper operation of the station.

The only issue mentioned is "operation" of the station.

Back up a but and you find this:

Subpart B—Station Operation Standards

§97.101 General standards.

(a) In all respects not specifically covered by FCC Rules each amateur station must be operated in accordance with good engineering and good amateur practice.

(b) Each station licensee and each control operator must cooperate in selecting transmitting channels and in making the most effective use of the amateur service frequencies. No frequency will be assigned for the exclusive use of any station.

(c) At all times and on all frequencies, each control operator must give priority to stations providing emergency communications, except to stations transmitting communications for training drills and tests in RACES.

(d) No amateur operator shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communication or signal.

It is very clear that the rules are very specifically addressing the operation of stations.

There is no rule guidance regarding idle equipment since it cannot violate these guidelines.

It is very clear that operation of equipment requires certain conditions be met, as per:

§97.7 Control operator required.

When transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person:

(a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS consolidated licensee database, or

(b) Who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part.

[63 FR 68978, Dec. 14, 1998]

§97.9 Operator license grant.

(a) The classes of amateur operator license grants are: Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra. The person named in the operator license grant is authorized to be the control operator of an amateur station with the privileges authorized to the operator class specified on the license grant.

(b) The person named in an operator license grant of Novice, Technician, General or Advanced Class, who has properly submitted to the administering VEs a FCC Form 605 document requesting examination for an operator license grant of a higher class, and who holds a CSCE indicating that the person has completed the necessary examinations within the previous 365 days, is authorized to exercise the rights and privileges of the higher operator class until final disposition of the application or until 365 days following the passing of the examination, whichever comes first.

[75 FR 78169, Dec. 15, 2010]

Therefore, any uauthorized operation violates the rules, and the violator is the person who initiates such unauthorized emissions.

So, to answer your question: "Do I actually need to lock up my station?" - the answer is based on your opinion of whether you feel a responsibility to prevent others from utilizing your equipment to break the law, and whether or not it requires that specific action.


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