November 23, 2014

When storms topple towers, HAM radio can help save the day

When modern communications systems in Nebraska were knocked out by recent tornadoes and severe storms, local officials had no way of calling for help or reporting damage.

That’s where amateur radio, or “HAM” operators stepped in. Tom Reis, a Skywarn coordinator for the National Weather Service, says HAM operators are a valuable asset who can get out messages that help save lives.

“The National Weather Service recognizes the importance of ground truth information and a variety of methods to get that information to them at the Weather Service office,” Reis says. “And one of those methods is via amateur radio. The Weather Service has a quite extensive amateur radio station that they staff when the time arises, when the need arises.”

HAM radio operators can confirm sightings of severe weather as it approaches and damage after the storm passes, while providing communications support to local officials.

Reis says it shows how the amateur radio operators provide a community service and provide for their community in a variety of different ways. Reis says it doesn’t take much to become an amateur radio operator and people of all ages enjoy the hobby.

He also recommends everyone attend a free spotter training course and purchase a NOAA weather radio. The six-digit codes can be programmed with assistance from your local emergency management office or by finding your county and surrounding county codes at www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/nwrrcvr.htm.

By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic