In the event of severe weather, most people tend to turn on the television or open their laptops to get the scoop on the latest developments. There is a network of individuals working together to share information and keep people informed.
Ham radio operators are one of many tools used by the National Weather Service to get information in and out, especially if the normal infrastructure of communication is not available. These ham radio operators send messages and communicate all over the country to ensure everyone can stay in the loop.
The Hoosier Lakes Radio Club is a group of Kosciusko County residents who are a part of what is a worldwide network of radio operators. Club member Charlie Mills explained that, “Nearly 90 percent of weather information comes from handheld radio.” Mills elaborated on how radio provides a reliable means of communication in the event of a weather emergency, and stated, “People trapped in an area might use it to contact family or to request emergency supplies in the event of cell phone failure. Most of the information coming out of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina was coming from these radios.” Club President Gary McDaniel put it most simply when he said, “When all else fails, we still talk.”
Hoosier Lakes has earned a reputation as one of the most dependable in the state. McDaniel surmised that, “From talking to other people, I think we are probably the most active club in the state of Indiana.” The club has about 60 members, and is continuing to expand its efforts.
Club member John Hart, a retired fireman, received his operator’s license in 1987 and has been involved ever since. Hart is currently spearheading an effort to put communication antennas in fire stations for radio use in the case of emergency.
McDaniel explained that the State of Indiana will be building and installing high frequency “packet stations” throughout the state. Packet stations allow for information to be sent in a digital form that, as he put it, “would be comparable to text messaging on a cell phone.” McDaniel has offered to host one of those packet stations in Kosciusko County. Hoosier Lakes is also in the process of building four emergency communication kits that can be deployed and set up anywhere in the county. These kits allow licensed operators to broadcast a more powerful signal in the event of important development.
Mills detailed how there are many possibilities in regards to obtaining a radio signal, and told how a ham radio operator from Honolulu, Hawaii, was able to fashion a coat hanger in such a way that it sent out a mayday signal that was eventually picked up by the Coast Guard, resulting in his rescue.
The club is hoping to get more people involved, including children. Members are hoping to begin teaching classes to Boy Scouts, Girl Scout and other youth organizations. All of their frequency testing events are open to the public. Jan. 24 and 25, the club will be working around the clock from the Marsh Supermarket parking lot in downtown Warsaw to establish radio contacts around the world. Anyone interested in learning about ham radio operation is encouraged to show up. For more information on the Hoosier Lakes Radio Club, click here.