Hams - The Forgotten Heroes

By: Marti Talbott

On Good Friday, March 27, l964 approximately 12,000 square miles of the Alaskan seafloor shifted causing one of the worst earthquakes in US history. When the shock waves subsided and the massive tsunami receded, loss of life and injuries were compounded by yet another tragedy -- a total communications blackout.

Then at last, a lone Ham Radio Operator managed to send a message -- a cry for help that was repeated by other Hams and sent all over the world.

History is rich with stories of Hams - 1996 a fierce lightning storm in Oregon/California, 1998 Flooding in Texas and Hurricane Bonnie, 1998 Ice Storm in Canada, 1999 Hurricane Floyd/Earthquake in Taiwan - and the list goes on.

So what happened to Ham (Amateur) Radio Operators and why don't we hear about them anymore? Believe it or not, they still live among us and they're still responding to cries for help, up to and including 9/11 and the 2002 fires in Colorado.

The world wrongly assumes that with the Internet and cell phones, we no longer need Hams. But disasters cut electricity and cell phones need working towers every three miles. Yet Internet search engines list Amateur Radio sites under "hobbies," a classification totally unwarranted and highly resented.

Hams are a lot more than high school kids fiddling with radios. They are a network of highly trained people -- men and woman of all ages who are willing to drop whatever they are doing to look for a lost child or aid overworked emergency personnel. Like an old-fashioned fire brigade, they pass the information bucket from one to another warning of severe weather conditions, hazardous spills, railroad disasters and much, much more.

Ham Radio Operators are indeed forgotten heroes, but they shouldn't be. Every year they meet in groups all over the world to train for the next major disaster. Yet sadly, their numbers are dwindling - in evidence on hospital "help wanted" bulletin boards all over the America. Sad indeed will be the day they aren't there when we need them.

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