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Using HAM Radio during natural disasters

WSBT 22

It's unlikely we'll see many strong earthquakes here. But when things like tornadoes touch down some areas have few options for contacting others.

There's a group of people who can communicate despite the lack of connection. This way of communicating has been around since 1914.

It doesn't need help from cell phone towers or electricity to send a message from here to other places throughout the world.

Even when Mother Nature creates heavy damage this machine can send for help.

One-way emergency responders communicate when the lines are down by using HAM radio.

"It doesn't require any external wires or antennas. We can do it all with what we pack in or what we bring in our own vehicles. Sometimes literally in backpacks,” said Goshen Amateur Radio Operator Dave Menges.

Menges says they can hear damage reports from Puerto Rico through a network called Saturn.

“That's a Salvation Army Network where they will put operators down there and then Health and Welfare messages can be relayed back to other countries. Particularly the United States or main land or other countries or islands. Without having to depend on a military network or something from the government to be setup,” he said.

Roger Mertz has been operating HAM radios for 15 years. He's spoken to people in the Netherlands, Russia and France.

Mertz says HAM radios use the atmosphere to operate.

"Part of the atmosphere we can bounce signals off of the atmosphere. And bounce that all the way around the world. A lot of the HAM operators have their own power supplies. Batteries, solar connections. This station runs off of a generator. So we don't have any real connection to any outside utilities,” Mertz said.

Even though ham radio is a hobby these men use their skills to help local emergency responders.

"It's the important part to be able to use the airways. So we want to be prepared to pay back the community with our service,” said Menges.

Amateur radio operators use several techniques to communicate -- including Morse Code.


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