Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Ham Radio Chapter 2
Originally published June 12, 2013

A few weeks back I wrote a column on the relevance of amateur radio as it relates to disaster preparedness. Researching for the column sparked an interest in the topic and since then I have taken the training, studied, tested and earned my technician level ham radio license. Call sign: KG7CZK. I haven’t sprung for any gear just yet, so it would be fruitless to try to contact me on the airwaves. But keep your fingers crossed.

Following is an email sent by a reader, Bob Weed, regarding an incident some years back in which amateur radio played an active role in a disaster right here in Coos County:

My Dad, Chet Weed, W7TLQ and I, W7SCY were the only communications between Myrtle Point and the outside world in December 1955 during the West Coast floods. Myrtle Point was isolated by floods toward Coquille and slides between the Powers Junction and Roseburg, and the phone lines were out too. During that time, John Cawrse in Remote managed to get a short phone call through to tell me that a slide had covered a home just east of Remote. Since the Oregon Emergency Net (an Oregon network of Ham Radio operators) was mobilized during the emergency, I was able to contact a fellow ham in Roseburg and he put together a caravan of an ambulance and a bulldozer on a truck, as well as the ham, (Don, W7SHA), to try to get to Remote for a rescue. Don had a “mobile rig” in his car and he accompanied them and kept in touch with us to report their progress. As I recall, it took them most of the night to get there, unloading the bulldozer at several slides and clearing the road to get to the scene of the accident. Sadly, all the residents of the home were deceased. (Editorial research discovered there were actually two survivors in the house.)
Dad and I both received a “Public Service” award from the American Radio Relay League for our communications during that time and I still have mine in my records. I am still a licensed ham and still active on the Oregon Emergency Net when we are in the Oregon area, to maintain that emergency preparedness.
Again, thanks for the memories!

Thanks for the story, Bob.

Even in this day of internet and cell phone high tech communications, ham radio is every bit as relevant as it was in 1955. If the power grid were to collapse in time of earthquake, it is likely the cell phone system would be rendered inoperable as well. Ham radio does require electricity, but many hams are set up to run off alternate power sources such as solar, generators and vehicle electrical systems. For this reason many first responder agencies have forged partnerships with the amateur radio community. Hams will be pressed into service to provide communications with other agencies and with the outside world. A well-equipped amateur radio operator can bounce signals off the moon and communicate with hams on the other side of the planet. To combine a hobby with a needed service during times of disaster is rewarding indeed.

As always, if you have questions, comments or know where I can get a killer deal on ham radio gear, email me at disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson