Ham Radio Operators

Communications of last resort

South Carolina Radio Network
June 22, 2018 - 10:30 am

JUNE 22, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON (South Carolina Radio Network)

When disasters take out commercial communications services, emergency officials turn to amateur radio operators, or hams, to spread their messages.

Amateur Radio Field Days in Myrtle Beach (Source: Gerald Mooneyhan, Grand Strand Amateur Radio Club)

They also provide supplemental communications when normal systems are inoperable or overloaded. After Hurricane Maria, 50 volunteer amateur radio operators went to Puerto Rico for three weeks, providing 12,600 man-hours of communications assistance, valued at over $300,000, not including the cost of the equipment used.

“Infrastructure designed for daily use can’t always handle what an emergency will bring,” said Gordon Mooneyhan with the Grand Strand Amateur Radio Club. “Ham radio operators, we’re basically the communications of last resort. When all else fails, we’ll be there.”

Mooneyhan said some of our modern technology was developed by ham operators.

“Cell phones are the direct result of ham radio,” he said. “Ham radio operators invented the microwave. The first television broadcast from Europe to the United States of both video and audio without a cable was done by ham operators.”

Ham radio technology also provides good educational opportunities.

“The math and everything’s important so it meshes nicely with the STEM programs that schools are teaching now,” he said.

Mooneyhan said despite a prevailing stereotype, ham radio operators are a variety of people.

“We’re not the weirdos that sat in the basement years ago fiddling with banks of radios,” he said. “We’re all normal people.”

You can meet ham operators and see what they do this weekend at the annual Amateur Radio Field Day. It’s a nationwide effort to introduce the public to the world of ham radio.

“A chance for amateur radio operators and clubs to get out into a public setting, meet the public, show them what we do in an emergency,” he said. “We’ll be operating under simulated emergency conditions.”

South Carolina will have about 20 field day locations Saturday. Some locations also will have stations to allow the public to get on the air and talk with other ham operators worldwide.  Click here to find a location near you.  

Anyone may become a licensed Amateur Radio operator. There are more than 725,000 licensed hams in the United States, as young as 9 and as old as 100. Local ham clubs help interested people get involved.

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