Disaster communications exercise will test radio operator skills at SSCC this weekend
'Hams' are our lifeline when other systems fail
We all rely on the Internet, cell phones, email and other forms of modern communications; however these systems are vulnerable to disruption. Every year whole regions of the country find themselves in the dark. Tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, storms, ice and even the occasional cutting of fiber optic cables leave people without the means to communicate. In these cases, the one consistent service that doesn't fail and provides back-up for communities is Amateur Radio.
These radio operators, often called "Hams" are organized into teams that provide back-up communications for agencies responding to emergencies including the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, American Red Cross, area hospitals and FEMA. During the weekend of Saturday and Sunday June 22nd and 23rd, four Seattle amateur radio groups join together forming one local team competing in the National ham radio Field Day Event with thousand of Amateur Radio operators making radio contacts throughout North America. This event is a good opportunity for operators to demonstrate their emergency communications capabilities. The public is invited to visit the event hosted by South Seattle Community College, at the West Seattle Campus.
Seattle's team will be exercising the newest digital and satellite capabilities, voice communications and even historical Morse code as they compete in the contest making as many radio contacts as possible with other teams to win points. Operations will be conducted under simulated emergency conditions with ham radio equipment being powered by batteries, generators, wind turbines and solar arrays.
This year's team is comprised of members from the Auxiliary Communications Service and Medical Service Team that support the Seattle Office of Emergency Management. Also participating in the event are members of the Puget Sound Repeater Group and the West Seattle Amateur Radio Club, rounding out the crew. Seattle's team will join with over 35,000 other amateur radio operators showing off their emergency preparedness capabilities, erecting ham radio stations in community parks, campgrounds, schools and emergency centers through out the country.
Field Coordinator for the Seattle event, Curt Black said, "The public is invited to see what ham radio is all about and have a chance to try their hand at making radio contacts and experience how much fun it is to operate an amateur radio station. This is a chance to meet and talk with Seattle's radio operators and see what modern Amateur Radio Emergency Service is all about. During the two day event we will have demonstrations of Satellite communications, a digital communications workshop and an opportunity to learn how to get your own FCC radio license before the next disaster strikes."
The City of Seattle through the Office of Emergency Management sponsors this event as part of its plan to provide support to community preparedness programs organized by neighborhoods in several Seattle communities. Ham radio is a primary resource that the City calls on should telephone, cellular systems and the internet fail.
The staging area for the Seattle city ham radio event is provided by South Seattle Community College and is located in a large grass field in the south east sector of the Campus near Olympic Hall. On-Air operations start at 11 Am Saturday they will continue till 12 Pm Sunday.
Over the past year, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications during unexpected emergencies in town across America including the Moore, Oklahoma storm aftermath, and other events world-wide. When trouble is brewing, Amateur Radio's people are often the first to provide rescuers with critical information and communications.
"The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications," said Allen Pitts, spokesman for the ARRL. "From the tornado in Moore, to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, ham radio provided the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the event. Because ham radios are not dependent on the Internet, cell towers or other infrastructure, they work when northing else is available. We need nothing between is but air."
Amateur Radio is growing in the US. There are now over 700,000 Amateur Radio licensees in the US, and more than 2.5 million around the word. Through the ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Services program, ham volunteers provide both emergency communication for thousand of state and local emergency response agencies and non-emergency community services too, all for free.
For more information about preparedness and amateur radio - please visit:
Seattle Emergency Management: http://www.seattle.gov/emergency/default.htm
Seattle Auxiliary Communications Services: http://www.seattleacs.com
Western Washing Medical Service Team: http://ww7mst.org
West Seattle Amateur Radio Club website: http://www.westseattlearc.org/
Puget Sound Repeater Group: http://www.psrg.org/
ARRL the national association for Amateur Radio: http://www.arrl.org/