Local Radio Operators Prepare for the Worst

Amateur Radio Operators gathered at Bachmann Park in College Station for the annual Amateur Radio Relay League Field Day. 28 June 2014
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COLLEGE STATION - When Hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters strike, we rely on emergency personnel for information that could save our lives.

But who do we turn to when traditional communications are no longer an option in life-threatening situations?

Ham radio.

"It is the only single form of communication that we have today that doesn't rely on any sort of major infrastructure that's provided by the city or whatnot," said Vice President of the Bryan Amateur Radio Club, Jeremy Carter.

When disaster strikes, and even in the aftermath, organizations like the Red Cross depend on ham radio operators when traditional cell phone towers and other means are no longer an option because they're either overloaded or destroyed altogether.

"We can literally deploy anywhere and make contacts point to point between two radios across the world," Carter said.

Even the government relies on their capabilities.

"Both the city of Bryan and College Station and Brazos County have communications and emergency communications built into their emergency plans for anything that would happen in the area," said Ham Radio Operator Mike Wisby.

They operate on battery power and airwaves, so they're totally portable.

And it's not just voice communication going over the air.

"WE can do video, we can do photos," Wisby said.

On this day, they are having a field day.

"Well this is a national event..where all the ham clubs around the United States will set up today," Wisby said.

Hundreds of thousands of amateur radio operators, or "hams" across the US and Canada are practicing their craft.

"You're working off emergency power in the field," Wisby said.

And even competing…

"So what you're trying to do is contact as many of those stations around the country as you can."