KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va (WOWK) – We’re always hearing the latest trends in cellphone and internet technologies.
But what happens when you are not able to use them in emergency situations?
MORE INFO: What Constitutes Ham Radio?
Our area certainly has seen its fair share of weather emergencies over the last several years. Some events that come to mind include the Great June 29th, 2012 Derecho, the historic 2016 flooding, and most recently, the supercell that crossed the Kanawha Valley back in June that dropped a pair of tornadoes.
CHECK OUT: About the National Association for Amateur Radio
These events have at times crippled methods of communication, such as phone calling, internet infrastructure, and texting.
But an old technology you probably haven’t heard of meanders around communication problems when severe weather strikes.
CHECK OUT: The National Association for Amateur Radio – West Virginia
Jim Damron (N8TMW) is an amateur ham radio operator in Kanawha County. Ham radio is a hobby and service that brings together people, electronics, and communication. People use ham radio to talk across town or around the world without the use of the internet or cellphones. Though many see it as a fun hobby, it can be a lifeline during times of need.
“The big plus of ham radio is that in emergencies, it can provide communication when none are available,” remarks Damron.
In times of disaster when regular communication efforts may fail, hams can swing into action helping emergency communications efforts and working with public agencies.
CHECK OUT: Kanawha Amateur Radio Club
“Cell phone are great – the internet is great. What crashes, the first thing when an emergency its? Usually cell phones because cell towers are overloaded, the internet is overloaded,” warns Damron.
For example, the amateur radio service kept New York City agencies in touch with each other after their command center was destroyed during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio also came to the rescue during Hurricane Katrina, where all other communications failed, and comes in very handy during other natural disaster events, such as widespread flooding.
“This is my station alone, and I’m the only operator here but there are many people like me all over the valley,” comments Damron.
CHECK OUT: Eastern Panhandle Amateur Radio Club
To become a ham radio operator, you’ll need to pass a quick and inexpensive FCC test. Once you pass, you’ll get your own radio identification just like Jim (N8TMW) and WOWK-TV.
Jim says that though it is very fun to be able to communicate across the world with his own equipment, there’s more to it than just a different means of talking.
“It’s a fun hobby, but you can also help your community and the nation.
CHECK OUT: Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Amateur Radio Society