Hundreds of people flocked to Culver City’s downtown Fire Department station last weekend to watch local ham-radio operators show how they can quickly swing into action and provide critical help when traditional communications sources have been knocked out by wildfires, earthquakes, floods or other unexpected emergencies.
The event capped the weeklong “Amateur Radio Week,” sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League. The ARRL is the national association for such operators, who are commonly referred to as “hams.”
More than 30,000 operators in hundreds of communities across the U.S. and Canada took part in last weekend’s public demonstrations, with thousands more participating from overseas.
Using only diesel-burning generators, heavy-duty marine batteries and other emergency power supplies, the hams employed technologies ranging from old-fashioned Morse code to the latest digital and satellite capabilities to demonstrate how they can disseminate important public information, news reports and even summon fire and police services when a catastrophe cripples telephones and other traditional communications systems.
The event provided the public a chance to learn more about the way that ham radio works, while providing operators themselves with practice for the next time their emergency-communication expertise will be needed during or after a disaster.
That training could literally prove to be a life-saver. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, ham radio was virtually the only way that millions of Southerners could talk to each other or summon help, aided by the hundreds of amateur operators from across America who voluntarily rushed to the disaster area.
The local demonstration was held at the emergency operations center of the Culver City Amateur Radio Emergency Service, or CCARES. The center is behind Fire Station No. 1 on Culver Boulevard.
There are more than 650,000 licensed ham radio operators in the U.S. and over 2.5 million around the world. Local residents who’d like to learn more about ham radio can e-mail Bob Pine, director of CCARES, at K6RMP@ca.rr.comor by visiting the American Association for Amateur Radio’s web site at www.emergency-radio.org.