[TCRA] Iowa ham operator tunes in to help

Paul Brooten brootenp at bnso.org
Fri Sep 9 20:26:31 CDT 2005

Iowa ham operator tunes in to help

September 1, 2005 

Carson Haring can't afford to pack up and head south to help with the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

He can, however, help out from his home in the southern Iowa town of

As a "ham" or amateur radio operator, he's doing all he can to make sure
health and welfare messages coming out of the disaster areas of Louisiana,
Mississippi and Alabama are being recorded accurately and delivered.

"I haven't had to deliver a message yet, but I've been jotting them down for
accuracy, in case anyone has a question," said Haring, 45.
The sign shop owner spent Tuesday and Wednesday listening to one of eight to
10 radio frequencies through which messages are coming out of the disaster
area. The amateur radio frequencies are being used to relay messages because
cell phone and land-line service is down in areas.

"Just being on the air and listening for anyone in the area, I'm hoping to
be of help to anybody," Haring said. "I can maybe help a family know that
someone is OK."

Radio operators are passing along messages for people to go to certain
homes, that a house was OK or damaged, but they shouldn't try to come home,
Haring said.
"The messages I'm hearing are coming from the Red Cross radio operators," he
said. "There also are people in the disaster area who have ham radios and
are operating them on emergency power, but that will soon run out."

The Red Cross brings in emergency amateur radio operators when there is a
disaster. Unlike land-line telephones and cell phones, ham radios can
communicate antenna to antenna rather than depending on cell towers and
phone lines.
Although the radios need a source of power, they can run for a long time
just on a car battery, Haring said.

In Iowa, there are more than 6,000 licensed amateur radio operators, said
Jim Snapp of Altoona, the emergency coordinator for the Amateur Radio
Emergency Service and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service .

He said several hundred operators in Iowa could be listening to take
messages and pass them on locally.

Neither Snapp nor Haring was aware of any Iowa amateur radio operators
headed south to assist with communications.
Megan Chamberlain, emergency services director for the Central Iowa Chapter
of the Red Cross, said ham radio operators are crucial during times of

"In the past we had people trying to call down to the disaster areas, but
now we are taking a more practical approach, bringing in satellite phones
and ham radios," she said.

Chamberlain said her office had at least 30 calls Wednesday from people
trying to find news about relatives in the disaster areas.
"All we can do right now is check on people with serious medical issues,"
she said.

Haring and Snapp said the Federal Communications Commission has discussed
taking some of the amateur frequencies for cell phone use. "So far, we've
been able to show that the frequencies we have are needed for emergencies,"
Snapp said.


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