Network of radio volunteers set to help : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

News from Iowa Link

Operators of ham radios ready to help

By WILLIAM PETROSKI Register Staff Writer 08/02/1999

Ham radio operators, who played a key role in the 1993 Iowa floods, are getting ready to help battle the Year 2000 computer bug.

Planning is under way to develop a statewide network of ham radio volunteers to be on alert New Year's Eve and to provide communications if regular telephone service is shut down, said Jerry Ostendorf, a bureau chief for the Iowa Division of Emergency Management.

If outdated software hasn't been fixed when clocks roll over to Jan. 1, 2000, experts say computer failures could lead to massive electrical and telephone outages, a lack of heating in homes and disruptions in food and water supplies. Ostendorf hopes to have ham operators available in all 99 Iowa counties if needed.

Ham radio - also known as amateur radio - has been a big help in responding to Iowa disasters in the past.

For example, during the Flood of 1993 in Des Moines, amateur radio operators helped to monitor high waters in strategic areas and coordinated work by volunteers. When communications for fire and police were lost, ham operators filled in the gaps. Ham operators also assist the National Weather Service during severe weather.

Ham operators use two-way radio stations from their homes, cars, boats, and outdoors. They communicate using voice, computers and Morse code. Some ham operators use hand-held radios that fit into their pockets, while others use larger radios that can be powered by gasoline generators during emergencies.

Jim Snapp of Altoona has been designated as the state coordinator for the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, which can handle intergovernmental communications. He is also the state representative for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, which can assist agencies such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

"I don't expect anything major" the night of Dec. 31, Snapp said. "But we are preparing for the worst, just in case. We have a sense of responsibility for the state, all the agencies and everyone else."

"The advantage of amateur radio is its versatility. We can connect people between agencies, and our people have their own equipment that they can bring if necessary," Snapp said. "We cannot charge for services."

Duane Bower of Des Moines has been designated as Polk County emergency coordinator for ham radio operators. He and his wife, Melanie, plan to be stationed at Veterans Memorial Auditorium on Dec. 31. He and other Iowa ham operators recently held a field day at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in which they set up radios using generator power.

"Ham operators, when they find out someone is in trouble, they will pitch in and help, if at all possible," Bower said. "They will travel miles to do so."

Expo planned

* A Y2K readiness expo will be held Aug. 14-15 at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines. About 30 to 35 vendors will offer freeze-dried foods, grains, water filters, alternative energy products, books, videos and other items. Admission is $3.

-- y2k dave (, August 02, 1999


Clueless questions:

Are ham transmissions picked up on a shortwave radio?

Are these the same type of frequencies, or totally different?

-- mabel (, August 02, 1999.

Your shortwave radio may be a general coverage radio and may be capable og getting to the frequencies used, or it may not. If you can receive stuff in the 50-55mHz or 140-150 mHz, or 440--450 mHz, then you can listetn to them on the typical Emergency Response 6m, 2m, and 440 bands. If you want to listen to lower frequencies, where the folks talk over LONG distances, you need to be able to get down below 50mHz.


-- chuck @ work (, August 02, 1999.

Thanks, Chuck and Dave.

-- mabel (, August 02, 1999.

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