Technical enough for “nerdy, geeky people like myself,” according to Sandy Springs resident Mike Cohen, call sign AD4MC, old-school enough to prevail when more vulnerable systems fail or overload, amateur radio stations number about 630,000 in the U.S.
From left, Sandy Springs residents Tom Koch, call sign W4UOC, and
Mike Cohen, AD4MC, demonstrate ham radio equipment.
About 240 of those station operators, called hams, belong to the Roswell-based North Fulton Amateur Radio League, formed in 1975.
“The club features a variety of activities to appeal to the widest range of amateur radio interests,” league president John Tramontanis, N4TOL, said in a statement. “We seek to help every member grow in their skills and enjoyment of the hobby.”
The league holds or attends events like Ham Cram, Ham Jam and Hamvention.
“We invite every ham and newcomer to the hobby to visit the friendliest club in the area,” Tramontanis said. “Our sister club, the North Fulton [Amateur Radio Emergency Service], serves the communities of Alpharetta, Roswell, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.”
The sister club, which began in late 2005 around the time of Sandy Springs cityhood and meets at Sandy Springs City Hall, has a roster of about 10 percent of the main club’s membership.
“The only reason the two groups are separate is ARES has to be certified with the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” said Tom Koch, W4UOC. “We train to support 31 agencies.”
One of the agencies is the Sandy Springs-based Chattahoochee River 911 Authority emergency operations center, aka ChatComm.
“When Sandy Springs switched from Fulton County 911, we manned the center should the service not work,” Koch said.
Koch said hams are good government partners since their services are free, while the activity itself costs about $300 for books, fees and starter radios.
“The cost is far less expensive than golf and there’s no monthly charge,” he said.
Koch, a longtime ham, said he likes “meeting people” all over the world, even if they never meet face-to-face.
“I like the technology, building, testing and meeting nerdy, geeky people like myself. There’s a lot of camaraderie. You can talk for hours,” he said.
League secretary Bill Reed, K4YJI, who participated in a simulated emergency test in October at Sandy Springs Fire Station No. 2, said he talks about five to 10 hours a week.
Some of his correspondents are as far away as Argentina, Poland and Estonia, helping him qualify for the coveted DX status of Distant Expedition operator.
“You never know who you’re going to talk to when you turn on your radio,” Reed said.
Text: Noreen Lewis Cochran