Friday, March 11, 2011

The Importance of Communications

Thought for the day: Amateur radio is more than a hobby.

Not a funny thought, but true.

We've all seen communications towers like the ones in this picture. We've seen towers for cell phones, for radios, for TV, for various government entities, etc. They're all over the place. In your state, in my state, all over the country, all over the world.

But what happens to those towers in a major earthquake? Or a tsunami? Or a hurricane, tornado, flood, wildfire, or terrorist attack? What happens when the phone service is silenced, and internet connections are lost? When the local 911 service is down, and most of the emergency personnel are trapped in the disaster area themselves?

When all else fails, there is amateur radio.

Yes, it IS a "fun hobby", but licensed amateur radio operators all over the world also provide vital emergency communications when the usual backbone of communications is broken or destroyed by disasters. Amateur radio operators (AKA "hams") study, train and conduct exercises, both among themselves, as well as with the professional emergency management and response groups they support. This hones their communications skills, keeps them up-to-date on the latest  modes of communication, and prepares them to be ready to "grab" their equipment bag and "go", to get safely and sanely to the affected areas, and to establish communications as quickly as possible.

It's happened where I live. We had heavy tornado damage in our area just before Easter of 1998. As soon as the tornados left the area, hams mobilized, established a base of operations at a local school, and for the next two weeks, scores of ham volunteers provided communications for the Red Cross, from the shelters,  the Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) and between the damage assessment teams in the field and the net control back at the school.

It's happened in Florida many times following hurricanes. After hurricane Katrina, amateur radio provided the ONLY means of communications in many areas throughout the gulf coast. It happened in Haiti following their earthquake, in Indonesia after their tsunami, in every part of the world following every disaster imagineable,

It's happening in Japan now.

So, trust me, amateur radio is more than a hobby. It's a service.

If you'd like to find out more about how you can become a ham and become involved in Amateur Radio Emergency Service, (ARES) please visit

Or ask me. I'd be happy to provide you with all the encouragement you need.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. Really.


  1. My hubs was a ham radio operator when he was a kid (WN4PIR -- expired now). He loved it.

    I imagine the advent of the internet reduced the number of operators significantly. Thank goodness there are still enough of them around to help out in situations like the Japan earthquake.

  2. Hi, Linda.

    Tell your hubby it's never too late to come back to the fold and fall in love with amateur radio all over again. At one of our test sessions, a gentleman well into his 80s earned his first license. Said it was something he always wanted to do, so he finally went for it.

    Since your hubby had a WN call, he was probably only licensed for a year, so maybe the morse code requirement discouraged him from advancing? If so, let him know that code is out now. I had to pass 20 wpm to get my extra class license, but nowadays, no code is required at all, so he might consider giving it another look.

    And actually, the number of operators has gone up. The demise of the code requirement has something to do with it, but as far as the internet goes, hams have actually come up with modes of operation that integrate the computer, and utilize the internet. Improvise, adapt, and overcome!

    Take care.

  3. Oh, he learned morse code -- he thought that part was fun. He'd probably enjoy getting into it again, but free time is an issue. Theater is a demanding mistress. ;) Maybe once he retires he can look into again.

  4. So many fun things to do in life, so little time, eh? To tell the truth, I would've loved to get involved with our community theatre group, but never found (made?) the time.