From the radio

When all else fails, amateur (HAM) radio works

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 8:00pm

    Over the last week, wildfires have been raging across most of the state of California.

    On Wednesday, one of my life-long best friends named Donna, who lives about an hour south of San Francisco, Calif., and some of the fires out there, had internet but no phone service in her town of Belmont, California.

    Donna posted two photos commenting: "This is the smoke in the Bay Area! Smells like a bonfire. The firestorm is about an hour away. We are fine here, but in the northern Bay Area there are 115,000 acres destroyed and fire is still raging. Praying for their safety "

    Seeing that, I posted a reply expressing my happiness at finding out she and her family were alive and well. But I also wanted to offer any help I could provide, be it from my tiny town of Waldoboro, Maine, over 3,000 miles away, even without my having a currently set-up FM radio rig and antenna that could reach her.

    Using the resources I had access to, namely the internet, to assist, I posted an online link for her to see California's online fire maps and their containments and a link for her to hear online scanner Police/Fire/EMS calls in her county.

    I typed, "", ... and "This is your county's scanner radio (Police/Fire/EMS) for online listening: Scroll down to the grid to listen to your choice of Police/Fire/EMS radio calls online."

    Donna thanked me for my post and replied to another friend's post saying: "Thank you. I know so many friends here that have family in the fire areas. Our neighbor can't communicate with his elderly parents as phone lines are down."

    I replied, "Tell your neighbors to use this website to contact loved ones when the phones are down. When all else fails, HAM radio works. Use the search to type in your town and state and select individual and a license class (Extra is the highest and best). From the list of Ham operators, I suggest they select one of them (an Extra License Level operator) and asking them to send a free radiogram to their loved ones. Spread this message to all your neighbors and friends in California."

    I also entered Donna's town of "Belmont, CA" into ARRL's website's Amateur (HAM) Radio operator search and cut and copied the search results into a post with my Facebook reply.

    The search had come up with a list of about a dozen Extra Class Amateur (HAM) Radio operators in her town (one living right on her street) who could possibly help send out word of her neighbor's welfare. I told her to try to contact the Extra and ask him to send out a free radiogram to her neighbor's relatives.

    I wouldn't doubt, if maybe one or both of Donna's two sons, in the future, decides to get into Amateur (HAM) radio for fun and safety because of my reply posts on Donna's Facebook post this past week.

    What have I learned from this experience?

    Well, one thing I've learned is that even an Amateur (HAM) Radio relative newbie operator, like myself, even without an operating Ham radio station with antenna, can still be of help in the community, and this experience has made me want to continue to learn more about and get even more involved in Amateur (HAM) Radio.

    Amateur (HAM) Radio is not only a great hobby, but Amateur Radio operators across the world save lives, too. Responding to wildfires, earthquakes, tornados, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters, Amateur (HAM) Radio operators make a difference. I urge all interested and those who even think they may be interested in Amateur (HAM) Radio, to visit the ARRL's (American Radio Relay League) website and find out more about becoming an Amateur (HAM) Radio operator.

    The ARRL website about page states, "ARRL is the national association for Amateur Radio in the US. Founded in 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim as The American Radio Relay League, ARRL is a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active radio amateurs in the nation and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in amateur affairs. ARRL's underpinnings as Amateur Radio's witness, partner and forum are defined by five pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, Technology, and Membership."

    As a form of emergency communications, it is often and truly said, "When all else fails, Amateur (HAM) Radio works!"

    James P. Blier, KC1AKT, lives in Waldoboro