LOGAN — “And we are live on-the-air with Amateur Radio Emergency Coordinator for American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and Hocking Valley Amateur Radio Club members, to find out why the Ham radio is still important.”
Hocking County Amateur Radio users who enjoyed the June 22 ARRL Field Day of 2019 were among thousands of people worldwide who still enjoy and find this form of communication important.
Despite the rapidly advancing cell phones and Internet, there is still a place for the Ham radio.
James Martin, the Community Communications Director for the Hocking Hill’s Tourism Association, has a citizen’s band radio (CB) that inspired his interest in widespread communication.
“It’s a hobby I promised to get myself back into from back in the day when I had a CB in the 1980s,” shared Martin.
When explaining the importance of Ham radios in today’s society, he said, “It has proven itself to be useful, as it is one of the only means of communication that survives a power outage.”
Many people only remember seeing CB systems mounted on truck driver’s dashboards or in the front of a school bus from decades ago, when it was the most commonly used system of remote communication.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Millions of amateur operators in all areas of the world communicate with each other directly or through ad hoc relay systems and amateur-satellites. They exchange messages by voice, tele-printing, telegraphy, facsimile, and television.”
There are over 170,000 FCC-licensed Amateurs just in the national association known as ARRL.
Emergency coordinator, Dave Brimner of Hocking County and member of the ARRL, shared a story of how he became acquainted with amateur radio communication systems.
“In the 80s I was working as a paramedic at Hocking County EMS and had a handheld radio for use with the EMS that also worked on the Ham bands.
“A good friend, who was a Ham-user, moved to Nobel County. Since long distance calls were expensive, he suggested I get my Amateur Radio license so we could still chat.
“A guy at the hospital was vice president of the local Ham Radio Club and helped me get my license. So, when I got my call sign, I joined the club.”
Clubs as well as individuals who enjoy the “tinkering of equipment, on-air broadcasting among other enthusiasts, as well as preparing for emergency management, join together on what they call, the ARRL Field Day each year.
Participants from all over the United States and Canada meet up, “on-the-air” every year on the fourth weekend in June.
Many make it a fun day with families and friends gathered around picnic lunches or cookouts, but you can bet the current of communication is not just chatting among guests.
Families get involved in the hobby and learn from each other. And, clubs try to pass on the skill by mentoring novices. Without the passing down of information, the interest and skill could easily be lost to a fast-paced world of technological advances.
With Brimner’s help and encouragement, his wife and nephew have both taken an interest and have their FCC licenses to be Ham operators.
Field days include competitions, networking with others and conducting a type of “mock disaster for Amateur Radio,” as Brimner describes. The competitions are often to see who can connect with the most stations.
Brimner brings an image of what the day is like stating, “Of course the big annual event is our Field Day, which is held the last weekend of every June.
“We set up radios and antennas with emergency power in a remote location and for 24 hours try to see how many other operators we can contact across North America and even foreign countries.
“It is a fun contest, but it teaches us how to set up in the event of a true emergency.”
At the end of a Field Day, and everyone is signing off, they share their “best regards” to fellow broadcasting amateurs.
The Amateur Radio Service has been around for a century, according to arrl.org. It attracts people of all ages, backgrounds and careers.
They become trained by peers and licensed through the FCC and are supported by their fellow enthusiasts as they learn and interact with a world of communication that exists outside of the typical commercial market that society has come to rely on.
“Over the years, Ham radios have become much smaller, lighter weight and much more affordable, which leads to much more portability and better quality communications.
“On the usage side, with the increase in social media and texting, fewer young people seem to see the need for amateur radio because they think their cell phone or Internet will always be there.
“However, when the power is down for days like the 2009 ice storm, it is likely that landlines and cell phones will fail after a few days. When that happens Ham, radio is extremely important,” cautioned Brimner.
“And now you know the rest of the story,” as famous American Radio Broadcaster Paul Harvey would say.
When considering the future use of the radios from just “tinkering with tech” to utilization for emergency situations, Brimner is confident that Ham radio is still serving the community as one of the relied upon, first responders.
“If the interest is there, the future is bright. The FCC has made it easier than ever to obtain an Amateur Radio or (Ham) license.
“If you like gadgets, it’s a great hobby to get into. Not only will you learn a lot and make a lot of great, new friends, you will be providing yourself, your family and your neighbors a means of communications, when all else fails.
“You can also join Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and provide much needed assistance for our county or others in the time of a true emergency.
“Look at any large-scale disaster such as a hurricane where all power and phone lines are ripped down. Amateur radio is often the only communications for days or weeks,” Brimner described.
On a local level, Brimner shared that they have been called out numerous times over the years to natural disasters or community events.
They are called out “when there are wide spread power outages that last for days, like after the major ice storm in 2009, after the Athens County (The Plains) tornado in 2010 or the Derecho of 2012.
“We provide communications between the Emergency Management Agency – Emergency Operating Center (EMA – EOC) to emergency shelters or an Incident Command Post and the hospital when the commercial phone lines and cell phone towers fail.
“We have also been called to assist on search and rescue efforts with public service agencies. We have a radio room inside the EMA, Homeland Security office and an emergency communications trailer we can pull out to an incident site, if needed.
“We also do numerous public service communications for bicycle events like the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA) or Pelotonia, when they are in Hocking County.
“We provide communication points along the route of the annual Indian Run at Hocking Hills and help with setup of local parades such as the veterans and Christmas parades,” Brimner thoroughly explained.
So, there really is a “Big Brother” out there watching over the people. One not seen, but who can be heard — only if on a Ham.
Clubs are always looking for new members and from the looks of it, it’s a great way to give back to a community through a relied upon public service.
“Nearly all clubs meet once a month and discuss a variety of topics related to radios. We hold a weekly “net” which is like a short emergency communications practice followed buy some general conversation about radios and other interesting topics.
“We occasionally hold a potluck or even an occasional fox hunt where one person goes out and hides with a transmitter and the other operators try to locate him by means of directional antennas,” Brimner concluded.
“The Hocking County Amateur Radio Club meetings are held at the EMA office at 52 East Second Street, starting at 7:30 p.m.,” according to Brimner.
And, as Jimmy Durante, one of America’s popular radio personalities would say, “I’ll be seeing you on the radio.”