Ham radio operators play crucial role during weather emergencies

Ham radio operators play crucial role during weather emergencies

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By Rich Luterman
Fox 2 News


WHITE LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJBK) -- Dangerous, even life threatening weather, it does happen in metro Detroit from summer storms and tornadoes to the winter storms that bring heavy snow, wind and ice.

How many times have we seen widespread and long-lasting power outages when it takes days to have power fully restored?  During these events when up-to-the-minute information can be spotty, especially in rural areas, a volunteer network of amateur radio operators jumps into action to relay crucial information.

Even with the popularity of cell phones, the passion for ham radio is alive and well, and that's evident at the National Weather Service office in White Lake Township.

Modern ham radios are very reliable and have mostly replaced the old tube types used for generations.

During my recent visit to the National Weather Service, local operators were talking to fellow ham operators as far away as Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

"We have 17 different counties that we talk to, emergency operation centers.  We check in with them, they check in with us, and they, in turn, have amateur radio operators out in the field in the counties that are under the weather, warnings or watches," said ham radio operator Ted Davis.

During weather emergencies, a break down of communication can be a matter of life and death when cell phones and land lines are not always working.

"The amateur radio community could be very important during a major tornado outbreak, which we have seen in our past," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Rich Pollman.  "Probably the other thing that would most affect our infrastructure like electricity and phone lines would be an ice storm where you have a lot of people without power, phone lines would be down, and then the amateur radio community would be vitally important to keep communications."

Information on the ham radio community and how you can be a part of it can be found at www.arrl.org.

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