Ham Radio operators can be life-saving in severe weather - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Ham Radio operators can be life-saving in severe weather

Posted: Updated:
Hearing about severe weather makes many people affected by the severe 2012 July storm panic, wondering what might happen this time around.
But when the power goes out in a storm and communication is scarce there is one thing that can save lives, and that's an amateur radio. 

Ed McKinney has been a Ham radio operator for decades. And he also happens to be a trained Skywarn severe weather spotter in Raleigh County, WV.

He says during times of severe weather, Ham operators are sometimes lifelines to agencies like the national weather service and our local department of emergency services.

"When something of this nature occurs we have capability of communicating no matter what is going on whether its hail, thunderstorms, flooding ... and we relay it to the proper authorities," said McKinney.

We learned just how easy it is for a Ham Radio Operator to set up shop in their back yard and potentially save people in desperate times. After just a few minutes, we had the antenna flying, the radio powered up and we were ready to roll. And one of the best things about a Ham radio is the operator can plug it into any 12-volt battery and use it without any power.

McKinney said in one instance, having his Ham radio handy when he witnessed a car accident actually saved someone's life.

"Cellphones are slow," he said. "This is about a minute and a half quicker, and I heard two weeks later that this actually saved that man's life."

It takes a certification to become a Ham radio operator, but anyone just wanting to listen during emergency situations can get a scanner and tune in. The the frequency for any area can be found through a quick Google search, and a scanner costs less than $100 online. There also are several Amateur Radio Apps that can be downloaded to a smartphone.