Ensuring communications during emergencies
By James Card
In the parking lot of the old IGA grocery store there was an odd sight on June 24.
Metal tape measures were stretched out on the ground and locked at full length in all directions. The ends were clipped to the metal base of a radio antenna. Carl Young explained that grounded antennas work much better and this was a hack to get better reception and the tape measures were slick to work with as opposed to wrangling around with coils of wire.
Young is a former U.S. Navy radio operator who was once in a situation where the enemy was jamming all radio communication. He was able to identify and pinpoint where the jamming signals were coming from and he relayed these coordinates to a fighter group that took care of the airwave interlopers with some Hellfire missiles.
“That quieted them down real fast,” he said.
Young and his wife, Carol Young, are members of Waupaca County ARES/RACES. They were part of the American Radio Relay League field day in Weyauwega to demonstrate how amateur radio works and how it is relevant in a world dominated by the internet, smart phones and text messages.
“One of the major reasons for doing this in Weyauwega today was to bring awareness that we actually exist,” said Young.
“We have memorandums of understanding with Red Cross, our county, FEMA and Wisconsin Emergency Management. We support them and that’s our role,” said Chuck Fritz, a former firefighter.
If there was another train derailment in Weyauwega or some other kind of disaster where the city lost power and communication, the amateur radio operators are ready to help. There is a hierarchy of how to works. Mayor Rich Luedke would be contacted first and he would liaison with the Weyauwega Fire Department and Waupaca County Emergency management on what the communication needs would be.
“We did an exercise a couple years ago where everyone took a different fire department in the county and we could contact everyone without going through repeaters. So if something ever happened where the paging system went down, we could have someone at the sheriff’s department dispatch and if they couldn’t page anyone, we could relay a message for an ambulance call. If the system goes down, we’re there,” said Fritz.
He was sitting in a three-year old enclosed trailer that acts as a command post for the group. Inside is a wall-length desk with three stations for radio operators. They put in new flooring, windows and it is fully electrical for plugging in and getting to work.
If there was an emergency and communication was lost, Young recommends using a weather radio for civil defense announcements and news.