Ham radio operators important during major disasters

Updated: Sep. 3, 2019 at 5:23 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Jefferson County EMA City Hall is tied into the ham radio/amateur radio network across Alabama.

Their goal is to get out as much information as possible during crisis times like when a hurricane or tornado hits. This could be the only source of information available if a storm takes down much of the power grid in a community.

People around the world continue to watch the movements of Hurricane Dorian. The reports coming out of the Bahamas have been slow because of the powerful storm and damage on the islands.

Amateur radio operator Clay Redden out of Montgomery is one of the numerous ham radio operators who have taken to the airwaves looking for the latest information on Dorian.

“You hear weather reports, wind reports, storms reports, those type of things. Unfortunately, the situation has gotten so bad some stations have gone off the air and we have not heard from them,” Redden said.

Redden is a member of the American Radio Relay League which oversees ham radio operations. Bill Mayfield with the group said it plays a vital role when disasters and storms hit.

Redden says not much is needed to get a ham radio operator up and on the air.

“Quite frankly all you need is a radio and a wire, and a power source and you can transmit around the world. That is why amateur radio is so vital in these types of situations,” Redden said.

When it comes to taking precautions with a coming storm, Mayfield said you not only need supplies, but you need to prepare for communications in case the worst happens.

Redden says that means locating the amateur radio person in your neighborhood.

“Most emergency centers around the Caribbean, Alabama, Florida and Georgia, everywhere in the United states, always have an emergency radio station ready to go,” Redden said.

Jefferson County EMA Director Jim Coker said amateur radio can even transmit documents of information digitally now. Also, amateur radio has helped in Jefferson County with the relocation of patients from Trinity Medical Center to Grandview Medical Center in the past.

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