Ham radio operators play vital role in hurricane response

(Source: WBRC video)
Updated: Sep. 12, 2018 at 7:43 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - With winds barreling towards the east coast at 150 miles an hour, Hurricane Florence could knock out lines of communication for days.

If she does, amateur radio operators like Vann Martin will be vital.

“Amateur radio is a means of communication without reliant on modern technology like cell phones or landlines,” Martin explains.

“We can use batteries. We can set up an antennae practically anywhere. We're able to get to the site, as quickly as anyone else, barring first responders and we become a helpmate to these organizations.”

Martin, the head of Amateur Radio of Alabama, has seen such help during natural disasters--like Hurricane Katrina and Snowmaggedon.

He especially remembers information ham operators were able to relay about Bessemer during the April 2011 tornadoes

“In this instance, these people were able to listen to amateur radio on a scanner, they were not operators, but they were able to have a hand held scanner and hear our information and seek shelter in time that practically saved their life,” he says.

With a network of more than 12-thousand licensed operators in Alabama, Martin has already reached out to his counterparts in the states Florence is slated to hit letting them know they are ready to help.

“So it has many aspects from the fun, to the served to actually can we make a difference in somebody’s life.”

Officials with the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency certainly realize the benefits of amateur radio.

In their radio room, they have a ham operation set up in their radio room.

Several EMA officers are already amateur radio operators and by mid-December, all the EMA staff will be.

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