Section Index Owatonna Steele County Amateur Radio 01-Jul-2015

OUR VIEW: OSCAR ready to respond in case of emergencies

Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Owatonna People's Press Editorial

To the uninformed, they may have seemed just like a bunch of individuals sitting around playing on their two-way radios in an effort to see how many people around the country they could contact in a 24 hour period. And, in essence, that’s what they were.

But the members of the Owatonna Steele County Amateur Radio Club, dubbed OSCAR, were doing more, much more, than playing with radios when they gathered over the weekend on the grounds of Willow Creek Intermediate School in Owatonna. OSCAR members were participating in the annual Field Day — a time when amateur radio operators, often referred to as “ham radio” operators, test their equipment just so they will know how well the radios work in case of an emergency.

When amateur radio operation as we know it today began in the early 20th century, the term “ham radio” was used as an insult to mock the amateur radio operators. But over the years, the phrase was embraced. Even more importantly, the practice of using the radios and the amateurs who operate them was also embraced.

In other words, we began to realize what an important role amateur radio operators play in response to emergencies.

Nowadays, when there seem to be so many different communication venues, it may seem like the ham radios have outlived their usefulness. However, just the opposite is the case. In fact, it is when other forms of communication, such as wire lines or cell phones, go down, ham radios, often powered with gas generators are most useful. Consider some incidents within recent memory that ham radios and their operators have been an important avenue of communication during emergencies:

  • The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
  • The Northeast blackout of 2003 — a widespread power outage that ranged from Massachusetts to Ohio and Michigan.
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
  • Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
  • The Sichuan earthquake in China in May 2008.
  • Hurricane Ike later than same year.
  • The Boston Marathon bombing, where cell phone systems were instantly overloaded.

In all of these emergency situations, the work of the amateur radio operators was important, sometimes essential, in coordinating disaster relief efforts. And it is comforting to know that we have an organization like OSCAR, whose members are prepared to respond to emergency situations here and do what they can — along with Steele County Emergency Management and Steele County SKYWARN — to bring relief here.

Owatonna People’s Press editorials are the opinion of the Press editorial board, which consists of publisher/editor Ron Ensley and managing editor Jeffrey Jackson. Other editorials, columns, letters and cartoons appearing on this page are the opinions of the authors and artists and not necessarily the People’s Press.

Courtesy of the Owatonna Peoples Press

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