Hams can save the day

Dear Editor,

The recent spate of bad weather reminds us that while our area has avoided recent large-scale natural disasters anything can happen, and it is best to be prepared.

The tornado that touched down recently in Lewis County shows us the potential. We only have to look back about 15 years to see the havoc wreaked by a major ice storm in the St. Lawrence Valley and northwestern corner of the Adirondacks.

A slight change in weather conditions and it could have affected large areas of the Adirondacks. Sooner or later it will happen.

A major component of emergency preparedness and response is communications. You can't direct relief efforts or call for help if you can't communicate.

While it seems that between the Internet and cell phones everyone now has virtually instant mobile global communications nearly everywhere all the time, this is an illusion. Any communications system that relies on infrastructure such as telephone lines, fiber optics, cables, cell towers, repeaters, or dispatch centers can and very well may fail or become severely degraded in an emergency.

Damage to one fiber cable has disrupted telephone service in large portions of the county. When the power fails, cable also usually fails. No complex infrastructure-based system is foolproof.

Even if the systems don't fail they may quickly become overloaded when everyone picks up the phone to check on friends and relatives or just gossip about the situation.

The most powerful solution to personal communications, independent of all public and commercial facilities, is Amateur Radio. No, you can't just pick up the radio and call anyone, anywhere, any time; but you can always contact someone somewhere who can get the message to where it is needed.

In addition, hams organized in local emergency communications groups such as ARES and RACES are a huge benefit to communities. They can provide reliable communications to support emergency operations.

The Hamilton County Amateur Radio Club was organized for just this purpose. It is open to anyone with an interest in communications and emergency preparedness.

An Amateur Radio license is not needed to join and training is available. Please contact me or check the Northern New York Amateur Radio Association web site nnyara.net for more information.

Peter Newell

Northern New York Section Emergency Coordinator

Amateur Radio Emergency Service