By Joe Ybarra
June 24, 2013
Ham radio operators aid wildfire communications
Amateur radio operators around the country set up for a 24-hour shift over the weekend to show the public what it’s all about and how it’s used in an emergency.
Chris Johnson is an amateur radio operator. His skills are somewhat of a lost art, but useful in an emergency situation. “Ham radio is available when all else fails,” said Johnson.
On Sunday, operators around the country turned their radios on. Some, on a mission to make contacts, while others like the Fresno Amateur Radio Club, simply wanted to put on a public demonstration.
Ham radio operator Ron Hunt said, “We move into a site, set up an emergency communication system, self powered with our own generators.”
A similar system was used during the Carstens Fire in the mountains of Mariposa County, where cell phones and the internet aren’t very reliable. “We’re not dependent on cell towers and satellites and things like that. We can actually communicate from person to person directly with our radio equipment.”
Chris Johnson says ham radio operators also helped in Boston, during the marathon and the aftermath following bombings. “Rapidly those amateur radio operators were shifted to an emergency response and they provided communication between medical personnel and first responders,” said Johnson.
Johnson calls it a challenging hobby, the last line of communication. But to the outside world, it’s a public service.