The terrible three hurricanes of 2017, Harvey, Irma and Maria, left nothing but widespread destruction in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — putting a black veil over emergency communication.
In Puerto Rico, 130 licensed amateur radio operators, armed with the ability to adapt, gathered their equipment to provide weeks of critical emergency communication that saved countless lives during the disaster.
“Since the 1930s, amateurs across the nation have taken equipment literally into the field and to other emergency locations to set up independent stations which can carry critical information after an emergency,” said Stan Broadway, Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator, Vice-President Delaware Amateur Radio Association. “We don’t anticipate a hurricane here in Ohio, but there are many other potential problems that do face Central Ohio, which could be equally devastating to communication.”
This past weekend the airwaves crackled with conversations as amateur radio operators participated in the American Radio Relay League’s annual “Field Day.” The American Radio Relay League was founded in 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim, and is the national non-commercial organization of radio amateurs.
The Delaware Amateur Radio Association (DELARA), a local club located in Delaware County, spent the weekend participating in the nationwide emergency exercise.
“In order to stay ready for any emergency, our operators set up six communication stations at the Delaware Red Cross over the weekend, June 23-24, in order to participate in the national “Field Day” exercise,” said Broadway. “We talked heavily with the eastern United States, some with the western states and we talked all over Ohio.”
Broadway said that DELARA is based at the Red Cross on 380 Hills-Miller Road, where the amateurs have permanent stations established that are always ready for any communication requirements. The radio operators ran communications for a 24-hour period, making contact with as many stations as possible. He said the Red Cross is a minimal staff these days and the old director’s office is where the group now works from.
Broadway said the group of about 50 amateurs even made an attempt to contact a satellite, but a connection never was established. He said it is better to find the problems during practice as opposed to when things are critical.
When the organizers of the Ironman 70.3 Ohio came to Delaware, there was only one group to trust the communications of the race too, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).
“When Ironman came to town last year, the organizers wanted ARES to handle the communications on the course,” said Donn Rooks, ARES Delaware Area Emergency Coordinator, to The Gazette the day before the 2017 Ironman 70.3 event. “We’ve been here from the beginning.”
Rooks said last year that the Delaware ARES is the backup for the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency’s communication system.
“Should there be a failure in their system, they’re going to need us,” he said. “That’s where we ultimately report.”
The now-retired ARES member Dr. Bob Dixon discovered a way to get live video of the Ironman course. According to Broadway, the group couldn’t get over a hill at Delaware Lake last year and they probably won’t try to provide video of the race this year.
“If the emergency services can’t do it themselves, we can do what they can’t do, and we’re a non-funded group,” Dixon said last year while setting up communications for the 2017 Ironman. “Nobody pays us to do this. Amateur radio is all self-funded, volunteered labor. We’re doing this because we think it’s important to do. We paid for all the equipment on the cell towers.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.