Ham Radio Operators Are Storm's 'Unsung Heroes'


Rowland - K7RWB <slick56@...>
 

Thought you would all like to see this article.  This is what it is
all about. It was forwarded to me from the Red Cross Seattle Chapter.

POSTED: 6:08 pm PST December 4, 2007

UPDATED: 11:45 am PST December 5, 2007


PORTLAND, Ore. -- When parts of Oregon were overwhelmed by wind and
water during the recent storm, vital communication often was lacking,
with trees down and across phone lines and cell coverage limited.

Even the state police had difficulty in reaching some of their own
troops.

But ham radio worked.

In fact, amateur radio operators were heralded by state emergency
officials as heroes. Ham radio is more than just a hobby to some. It
can set up networks for government and emergency officials to
communicate when other communication services fail.

"One of the problems in this is always communication," Gov. Ted
Kulongoski said after a visit Tuesday to Vernonia and a fly-over
there and other affected areas. "I'm going to tell you who the heroes
were from the very beginning of this...the ham radio operators. These
people just came in and actually provided a tremendous communication
link to us."

A network of at least 60 volunteer amateur radio operators working
along the coast and inland helped from keep crucial systems such as
911 calls, American Red Cross and hospital services connected. They
relayed information about patient care and relayed lists of supplies
needed in areas cut off by water.

In addition to getting an FCC license to operate, certain groups of
operators are cleared by the federal government to work as emergency
responders.

"You are amateur in name only," said Steve Sanders, a spokesman for
District One of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, which helped in
several key counties hit by the storm.

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management said the radio operators
were tireless in their efforts to keep the systems connected.

It was ham radio that kept New York City agencies in touch with each
other after their command center was destroyed on 9-11, according to
the National Association for Amateur Radio. When hurricanes like
Katrina hit, amateur radio helped provide life-and-death
communication services when everything else failed.

Amateur radio works on a set of radio frequencies known as "amateur
bands" just above the AM broadcast band all the way up to high
microwave frequencies. Operators use their own equipment to
communicate with other operators, using different equipment and
frequencies than emergency responders.

So when some services won't work, they can relay messages.

Sometimes it takes creativity and a lot of leg work, such as setting
up a new link on the top of a mountain when no other options are
available.

The only major limitation, Sanders said, is the number of volunteers.

"This was just the poster child storm for what we do," Sander said.