During severe weather, power lines and cell phone towers often take a hit.  But there's one method of communication that never fails – amateur radio.  On Saturday about 100 ham operators gathered at Locust Fork High School in Blount County for Freeze Fest.  During this time ham radio operators can buy, sell, and trade amateur radios.  This is also an excellent place for them to fellowship.

Ken Brownson has been a ham radio operator since he was 12.  Now he's 48 years old.  "I started off as a kid and it was a great hobby to get into and it had a lot of exciting things and people I could talk to all over the world," Brownson said.

Brownson's radio call letters are KT4KI.  Many people at the Freeze Fest introduce themselves by their call letters.  For example, Randall Murphree is WX4DEU.  He's the First Vice President of the Blount County Amateur Radio Club and he's been a ham radio operator since 1983.

"I wanted to learn more about electronics and how radios work," said Murphree.

Over the years Murphree has learned ham radio operators are valuable tools when it comes to covering severe weather.  "Cell phone towers are down, power lines, phone lines, hard lines are down and amateur radio comes into play there," said Murphree, "When everything else fails, ham radio picks up where everything leaves off."

Ham radio operators really stepped up to the challenged on April 27th.  "The hams got out and provided communication particularly when communication wasn't available we had a lot of hams involved in the tornadoes that were actually on the ground," said David Drummond with the Amateur Radio Relay League.

Because they can play vital roles in emergencies, some ham radio operators in Alabama are hoping to recruit from the younger generation.  "It's a hobby as well as a public service," said Murphree, "It's all volunteer."

"It's challenged by cell phones and other communication, but this is amateur radio.  We have a lot of people coming in and out of the hobby," said Drummond.

Even as new technology develops, Drummond says this will never be a dying field because there will always be a need for it when other communication methods fail.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.


Source: www.myfoxal.com - Clare Huddleston

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