Hoosier Lakes Radio Club Provides A Communication Lifeline
By Phoebe Muthart
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — In severe weather or during a power outage, communication can be unreliable or nonexistent. That’s where Hoosier Lakes Radio Club steps in.
The club was founded in Kosciusko County in 1951 by three amateurs. “It met in various places all over Warsaw,” said Loren Melton, treasurer of the club.
Since then club members have been providing reliable communication in emergency situations, such as a tornado or flood.
The HLRC provides training and activities for amateur radio operators. It currently has 35 members, of which 20 are active.
HLRC conducts classes several times a year. People can take courses to obtain a technician, general or amateur extra license. “The technician class is where to start first,” said Melton. “We try to do a technician class every year.”
The next class people can take is the general class, he said. “It gives you a whole lot of bands,” Melton explained.
A band, sometimes called a frequency band, is a specific range of frequencies in the radio frequency spectrum, which is divided among ranges from very low to extremely high frequencies.
The club’s members also assist during severe weather-related conditions. Ham radio SkyWarn operators are always observing and reporting current conditions to the National Weather Service in Syracuse. SkyWarn operators communicate with each other from county to county. Known as “spotters,” people in the group are trained what to look for.
According to Ken Ledgerwood, the club’s vice president, when power, phones and internet services go down, a battery-powered amateur radio and portable antennas can provide a crucial link to the outside world.
The quickest means of communication is Morse code, which uses very low power to operate. It is still a way to communicate when all other options are unavailable.
Club members can also use two different methods: Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. ARES is a lot more flexible and it is used to assist other counties in an emergency situation. RACES can only be activated by a government official, depending on the emergency.
The club takes part in training exercises several times a year. Winter Field Day was conducted Jan. 28-29. Ham radio operators had equipment, such as antennas, generators, radios and other needed supplies, set up at Warsaw Community High School.
“It tests our ability under an emergency,” said Melton.
This event provided training and demonstrates emergency preparedness through radio communications. In case of a crisis or an emergency, amateur radio is a reliable backup, said Ledgerwood.
“We’ve been out with FEMA after storms to do damage assessment,” said President Gary McDaniel.“We send out (members) in teams of two.”
Members of the group also assist during long races or walks in case an emergency occurs or if a runner is injured.
The club is vital in an emergency situation and is making sure the next generation will carry on the knowledge.
“We are the backup to the backup. When everybody can’t communicate, we can,” said McDaniel. “When all else fails, we can still talk.”
To obtain an amateur radio license, contact Ledgerwood at [email protected] or Melton at [email protected] Visit facebook.com/hlrc.org for more information.