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Hurricanes, Huntsville, and an Anniversary


*Email: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com


– 73, Rich W2VU

Hurricane Dorian is beginning its march up the U.S. east coast as I write this, flooding Charleston after pummeling the Bahamas for days. Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” is playing on the radio ... both appropriate scene-setters for CQ’s annual Emergency Communications Special.

As this is written in early September, reports of damage and destruction in the Bahamas are only starting to trickle in, and we haven’t yet heard the extent to which amateur radio played a role in communications on the islands during and after the storm. With sustained winds of 185 miles per hour and gusts over 200, it’s doubtful that many permanently installed antennas or towers survived. It’s likely that any radio communications from the island were conducted using makeshift antennas, which also happens to be the focus of this issue’s “Antennas” column.

Since Dorian is just starting to move north along the Atlantic Seaboard as I write this, it is too early to know what impact, if any, it will have on the coastal states, or how much ham radio communications help will be needed. One thing is clear, though. Our changing climate is resulting in storms that are more intense and more destructive, and thus more challenging for our overall communications infrastructure. The importance of amateur radio as a backup is greater than ever, and growing.

While many ham radio activities, such as DXing, contesting, or construction, are frequently conducted alone (you and the world or you and your soldering iron), most emergency and public service communications are conducted by groups. In this issue, we focus on a few different groups, ranging from local clubs to regional or national organizations, and how they fulfill their emergency and public service communication roles.

We start on the national scale, with a report on how SATERN, the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network, was a key player in a regional disaster exercise run by the federal government. Next, we learn how a public-service focused radio club in Kentucky was “rescued” by the local American Legion post and how their joining forces has benefited both groups (amateur radio has been part of the Legion’s emergency response planning since the 1930s). And from Arizona, we hear about the help provided by the local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group in efforts to fight a major wildfire earlier this year. “Learning Curve” editor Ron Ochu, KOØZ, describes a variety of EmComm-related ham organizations as well as larger organizations with which hams regularly work. Several other columns include EmComm focused topics as well.

An important aspect of many of these articles is that formal training and certification in emergency communication practices and procedures have gone from recommended to essential, and in most situations, a ham with an HT who shows up at a disaster scene without proper certifications will be turned away (see “Gordo’s Short Circuits” for more on this specific aspect). Emergency preparedness today requires more than just knowing how to work your radio. If you haven’t done so already, join a group, get trained, and be really ready when needed.

Yes, We Have Young Hams!

Anyone who has doubts about the future of amateur radio, and claims there are no young people entering the hobby, needs to attend the Huntsville Hamfest (see article, “The Huntsville Kidfest,” on page 22). Each August, some of the best and brightest young people in our hobby are there, and their accomplishments are showcased at not only the Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award presentation but also at the ARRL Alabama Outstanding Youth Ham Award presentation, and at the Youth Lounge, pioneered in Huntsville by 2004 Young Ham of the Year KG4IUM. Carole Perry, WB2MGP, also highlights young hams at her annual youth forum at Dayton and through the Radio Club of America’s Young Achiever’s Award (see her article in the August issue). Most of these young hams are in their teens (or sometimes younger), but we are also seeing a growing number of young hams in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are already becoming leaders in the hobby.

If you’re not seeing young people getting into ham radio in your community, then it’s time to do something about it. Get your club involved with youth groups, robotics groups, schools and colleges. But don’t just invite young people to meetings. Plan an activity that involves ham radio — such as a foxhunt, a high-altitude balloon launch, or something similar — and get the kids / young adults involved in the planning. You’ll be surprised at the interest you can generate. As a side benefit (as we’ve noted here before), you’ll find your club growing as well, since young people aren’t the only ones drawn more to activities than to meetings. A club that does stuff grows (see the American Legion article on page 16).

A Personal Note

This issue marks the completion of my 20th year as Editor of CQ. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Al Dorhoffer, K2EEK, became a Silent Key and Dick Ross, K2MGA, asked me to slide over here from CQ VHF. The years have passed with amazing speed and so much has changed, in the world, in each of our lives, and in our shared hobby of amateur radio. One thing that has remained constant, though, is the amazing people who make up this hobby, their amazing generosity with their time, knowledge and, frequently, equipment (I will resist the temptation to include their amazing, um, thriftiness, HI). We are all truly blessed to be part of this worldwide group of friends. Thank you for a great 20 years … and counting!

Finally, to cap things off, I wanted to share a “ham radio moment” from, of all places, my car’s dashboard display! As you’ll see in the photo, it has ham radio written all over it, from the thermometer to the odometer! (And no, the photo has not been doctored!) Enjoy, and take advantage of fall weather to do some outdoor hamming.

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