Harvey, Walt, Marty, and Our Future
BY RICH MOSESON,* W2VU
YHOTY Time … from left, Emmett Hohensee, KDØDTS, of RadioWavz Antennas; CQ Editor Rich Moseson, W2VU; 2017 Newsline Young Ham of the Year Marty Sullaway, KC1CWF; and Amateur Radio Newsline anchor Don Wilbanks, AE5DW, on the stage at the Huntsville Hamfest in August. Yaesu and Heil Sound are also corporate co-sponsors of the award. (Photo by Theresa Williams, KE5MUX)
As we wrapped up this issue — our annual Emergency Communications Special — in late August, Tropical Storm Harvey was still dump.ing tens of inches of rain on the nation's fourth-largest city and surrounding areas. While the amounts of rain and severity of flooding in and around Houston are of historic proportions, the amateur radio response to date has been quite limited, in part because conditions have been too dangerous and in part because public safety agencies and cellphone providers have strengthened their communication networks in the wake of previous storms.
The ARRL reported that, while ARES nets were oper.ating and collecting situation reports from throughout the affected areas, most hams were operating from their home stations because cities such as Houston were under "shelter-in-place" orders and officials were warn.ing residents not to leave their homes unless it was absolutely essential. ARRL Harris County Public Information Officer (PIO) Mike Urich, KA5CVH, told WGMD radio in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, that virtu.ally all Emergency Operating Centers (EOCs) in the region had ham stations up and running, but that the durability of public safety and cellphone infrastructure had been greatly improved in recent years.
In fact, the FCC reported on August 28 that only one 911 center was "down with no re-route" and that except in the three hardest-hit counties (Aransas, Calhoun, and Refugio), most cell service was operating close to nor.mally (roughly 95% region-wide).
Urich told WGMD that most hams in the area were reporting on conditions and needs they could observe from their homes or vehicles (if they were able to get around). He also noted that he and a partner had just finished a marathon 44-hour shift at his county's EOC because, once they were inside, the rising floodwaters made it impossible for them to leave or for any relief operators to come in.
If you're wondering how a ham radio PIO from Houston came to be interviewed by a local radio station in Delaware, there might be some connection with the fact that WGMD's Program Director is Walt Palmer, W4ALT, who — as of this issue — is also CQ's new Emergency Communications Editor. Welcome aboard, Walt! We promise you it won't always be like this!
Walt's first column (on page 54) was written well before Harvey but much of what he wrote is directly relevant to what hams in Texas and Louisiana were facing. Walt also spent much of the last weekend in August keeping our social media sites updated with information on Hurricane Watch Net and SATERN activations, includ.ing information needed from amateurs in affected areas and frequencies to keep clear for storm-related traffic nets. (Thanks, Walt!)
A Turning Point
We will provide a summary of amateur response to this historic storm in upcoming issues, but it is already clear that this storm may have been a turning point in the amount and nature of communication services that served agencies will need from ham radio in the future. While amateur radio (and radio amateurs) were stand.ing by as always to fill in gaps "when all else failed," the bottom line in the case of Harvey is that all else didn't fail, despite this likely being the worst-ever flooding dis.aster in U.S. history. As WB6NOA reports in his "Gordo's Short Circuits" column this month (p. 64), the upcoming rollout of "FirstNet" hardened cellphones for emergency responders will further reduce traditional ham radio EmComm needs. But, as Gordo also points out, there will also be new opportunities.
We still have "one-to-many" communication paths that are impossible with cellphones; our data modes are capable of letting us send long lists of names, medica.tions or supplies between shelters and distribution cen.ters. Plus, we understand radio and radio networks. We can put together ad hoc networks as the need arises, and as Mike Urich pointed out in his radio interview, we have an unparalleled ability to provide interoperability.
"I can come up to Delaware," he told the host, "and with just a few minutes of programming, can talk with all the local hams up there." But, Mike pointed out, if pro.fessional emergency responders with their sophisticat.ed digital radios were to come help out in Houston, their radios most likely would not be able to communicate with those of local responders.
We need to be sure that our equipment and training match up with the anticipat.ed needs of our served agencies, and that, as KOØZ points out in this month's "Learning Curve" column (p. 58), requires building relationships in advance with your local emergency management agen.cies and officials.
As you can see, our "EmComm" special is chock-full of important info on providing emergency communications. In addition to our EmComm-focused columns this month, we have several features on equipment and antennas for field use, as well as a modified form of video confer.encing over HF. The future of ham radio EmComm is bright, as long as we keep up on the techonologies and skills that will let us continue to help served agencies … even if all else doesn't fail.
Young Hams (of the Year)
Speaking of the future … I once again had the privilege of participating in the annual Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, Memorial News-line Young Ham of the Year award pre.sentation at the Huntsville Hamfest. This year's honoree is 15-year-old Marty Sullaway, KC1CWF, of the Boston suburb of Waban, Massachusetts. Some of you may already be familiar with Marty, as he is a regular on W5KUB's "Amateur Radio Roundtable" broadcast, produces his own podcast (phasinglinepodcast.com), is an active contester at several big multi-multi stations, is a member of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club and QSL manager for several special event and DXpedition sta.tions. He also presented at the 2016 Dayton Youth Forum and runs his own business, installing IP networks for neigh.bors and local businesses. Just writing about all this is exhausting! And yes, he also manages to go to school and camp and do other "kid things."
CQ has been a corporate co-sponsor of the YHOTY program for over 20 years, and I have been involved in it, both as a member of the selection committee and as a presenter, for about 15. Every year, when I review the candidates' accom.plishments and achievements, my opti.mism for the future of ham radio is renewed. There are young people get.ting into ham radio; many of them are doing great things with and for the hobby, and a few of them are doing extraordi.nary things.
How does YHOTY recognition fare in terms of predicting future leaders in ham radio and beyond? I decided to take a look back and see what I could find about the last three decades' worth of winners and what they've accomplished. The list is really quite impressive.
We have on our list a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, two nurses and a pharmacist; sev.eral attorneys (including one who is a Special Counsel in the New York State Attorney General's office); a couple of col.lege professors; several engineers of var.ious stripes, and a few inventors thrown in for good measure.
Overall, most of our YHOTY winners over the years have maintained their ham licenses and many have become leaders in their professions and/or communities. Some retain direct radio connections — for example, Erin McGinnis, KAØWTE, the 1989 winner, is currently the State Training Officer for the Kansas Division of Emergency Management; and Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT (1997), has stayed very active in amateur radio, currently serving as the ARRL's Second Vice President — but it is impossible to under.estimate the value of having people who understand and appreciate amateur radio serving as leaders in their communities and professions. We are confident that Marty will continue this proud tradition, and that ham radio's future will continue to be in good hands. – 73, W2VU