Ham Radio Operators Prepare For Disasters

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Across the country this weekend, amateur radio operators, also known as ham radio operators, set up temporary transmission facilities as part of an annual 24-hour field day exercise.

Using only a gasoline operated generator, the Bryan Amateur Radio Club got going at 12:00 pm Saturday and set up a public station at the Southwood Athletic Complex pavilion to test their skills.

"Ham radio is different from for example CB radio in that every amateur radio operator has to have a license from the Federal Communications Commission," said Kevin Phillips, president, Bryan Amateur Radio Club.

Operators say ham radio is mostly a hobby, but it can provide a service to the community. It's often used during disasters when regular communication systems, like phones and internet fail.

"In the event of an emergency or natural disaster when all other means of communication fail, then ham radio operators are stand-ready," said Phillips.

"Agencies have their own radios, but they're busy if their tower goes down we'll back that up with our people," said Dick Zimmer, Bryan Amateur Radio Club.

Zimmer got his first feel for ham radio when he was in high school in the 50's. Since, he has worked with major disaster teams and used the skill to help save lives.

"We would have our operators go out with the Red Cross personnel. They would go back to the headquarters about what they see in the way of damages," said Zimmer.

Zimmer is just one of close to 400 hams in Brazos County. Hopefully, they're disaster skills won't be needed anytime soon, but if they are Saturday's field day will help them to be prepared without much notice.