"Hams" Test Emergency Communications in Dothan, Houston County, Alabama
Posted by: Adam R. Owens
Date: Oct 05 2012 8:39 AM
Dothan, Alabama, Oct 6TH, 2012 - The backup emergency communication skills of
area Amateur Radio operators, often called "hams," are being tested in Dothan
as Amateur Radio operators conduct their annual Simulated Emergency Test.
This year the Dothan Amateur Radio operators will be replicating a category
three hurricane hitting the gulf coast of Florida and Alabama.
The hams have the slogan, "When all else fails - Amateur Radio!"
According to James M. Nelson, KE4GWW, spokesperson for the Wiregrass Amateur Radio
Club, "The hams of Dothan take that quite seriously."
Using emergency powered radios and working with local agencies, the hams
will have only a few hours to create extensive radio communications
networks which can be used should there be a failure or overload of normal
services. The hams' ability to get back "on the air" quickly is a
critical following major incidents. In addition, the ham radio operators
provide "interoperability" - they can pass information between the many
government and volunteer agencies which are needed in disasters but often
have incompatible communication systems.
Amateur Radio volunteer operators around the country respond to many calls
for aid each year. They provide their services and equipment freely to
their communities, saving both lives and thousands of dollars for
neighbors. They are "Amateurs" only in that they are not paid, but their
service in a disaster can be priceless. As FEMA Director Craig Fugate
remarked, "When you need them, you really need them!"
Despite the Internet and cell phones, interest in ham radio is growing
rapidly in the US. There are now 700,000 FCC Amateur Radio licensees in
the USA and over 2.5 million worldwide. They are able to get and transmit
information, both locally and world-wide, without depending on other
systems. During Hurricane Irene, the hams were critical in providing
immediate, ground-level reports to the National Weather Service. After
the storm, hams continued to provide help in the many flooded communities
and areas that lost electric power.
James M. Nelson, KE4GWW
Houston County Emergency Coordinator - ARES