In the digital age, it’s easy to forget about how emergency messages were relayed in the past.
“Highways were down, fiber was down inbetween,” said amateur ham radio operator Thomas Germaine on Sunday, “so there was not communication; but there were amateur radio operators.”
And Germaine said if cell towers, land lines and the Internet went down during a disaster, all that we’d have left to get the word out would be ham radios.
“No wires inbetween,” said Germaine as he held the receiver to the ham radio, “and you can do it without infrastructure.”
The technology for ham radios has been around since the late 19th century, but its use became widespread during the beginning of the 20th century.
“You’ve got the antenna there,” said Germaine as he pointed to the top of his red pickup truck, “and then the radio itself.” “And then the battery for this radio,” he added as he pulled it from the back of the device. Germaine said the technology came into play during January’s major flooding in Oregon. “They just wanted eyes so they could really see,” he said, “you know, to see something receding or if something is going up.”
Lane County emergency manager Linda Cook said amateur radio operators were a vital part of the emergency communication network during the recent floods. She said they allowed emergency personnel to monitor the rising flood waters in remote areas. In the areas worst hit by the floods in Lane County, Germaine said portable ham radio posts were up in Veneta, Mapelton and the Mohawk Valley. And at the sheriff’s office in Eugene, the county has a permanent radio room for ham operators during disasters.
Cook said ham radio operators are invaluable.
“Communications are always an issue in any type of emergency or disaster,” said Cook, “And knowing that these guys are fully equipped and capable to get communications back online for use is huge for us.” And she said they are always ready to step up.
“There are those unforeseen situations when all communications could go down,” said Cook, “and the only thing available to us might be amateur radio. So, we’re aware of that, and we want to stay in touch with them.”
Cook said the volunteer ham radio operators are the last line of defense for the county’s communication network. She said they’re the ones who would be there if everything else crashed.