As the popular by-line goes “When all else fails, there is Amateur Radio“. How true this is. In power failures, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. cell phone towers and land-line telephone lines are very vulnerable to catastrophe. The towers themselves are “in the clear” to maximize range and effectiveness which makes them equally at the mercy of high winds and other factors. Further, Internet service is generally provided by fiber optic or cable lines on the same telephone service poles.
What is needed is a way to communicate “off the grid”. Enter Amateur Radio! Every day, somewhere in the United States, emergency nets are meeting on VHF (Very High Frequency) and/or HF (High Frequency–also considered Short Wave frequency) bands. While typical participation in the nets are by stations with electrical power, such is the beauty of these nets. Resourceful amateurs lacking utility power but with automobile batteries or another source of 12 volts DC, can communicate with them on the VHF or HF bands with relative ease. For example, a catastrophe in the Maryland area can be countered with radio amateurs making long-distance contact with radio amateurs outside of the problem area using short wave communications. Further, VHF communications on the 2-meter (144-148 mhz.) band can reach 5-7 miles with modest equipment thus enabling contact with police and fire resources in the same area. Granted, a modest number of cell towers in each area are tied to emergency power but some amateur radio VHF repeaters are also tied to emergency power which enables city-wide VHF amateur radio communications using simple HT (handy-talkie) style radios. A major point is that one should never rely solely on the availability of electrical power and telephone service in an emergency situation.
Efforts are underway to revitalize the Baltimore County ARES system. They are seeking hams to get involved with ARES in Baltimore county group. An interim Emergency Coordinator is needed; also someone to design and host the MDC website. Please contact either Chris Van Winkle firstname.lastname@example.org or Don Jennings email@example.com. Lets get this going folks!!
RACES and ARES services of Amateur Radio routinely have trained amateurs in place at community, Red Cross, county, and state emergency centers. These amateur radio services insure high-quality backup to other communications resources of the given governments.