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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 30, 2014

HAM Radio Operators Prepare For Emergencies

Ham operators set up six meter antenna at Louise Moore Park
In a day of cell phones and satellites, people no longer pay much attention to ham radios. But when Hurricane Sandy stuck in 2012, and most Lehigh Valley municipalities were without power or cell phone service, it is the lowly ham radio that kept people in touch. Northampton County Emergency Management relied on them to keep in touch with outlying townships. So did the American Red Cross, which had ham operators at each emergency shelter. In the last weekend of June, amateur radio operators conduct an annual field day to sharpen their abilities to communicate without power.

Contacts were monitored at three different stations
The Delaware Lehigh Amateur Radio Club, based in Bethlehem Township, conducted their annual field day at Louise Moore Park in Lower Nazareth. For 24 hours straight, club members manning three stations made as many contacts with other ham operators throughout the country. At the end of 24 hours, they had completed 1,300 contacts in all 50 states,according to Stephanie Koles (WX3K), the Field Day Chair and burger chef for 130 participants,

Bilger scraped his elbow helping to erect antenna
One of these participants was 90 year old Ray Bilger (W3TDF), who brought and helped erect a six-meter antenna. A WWII vet, Bilger worked for 43 years at the Reading Railroad. But he retained his love of radio, and became licensed in 1946, right after getting out of the service. He can still read and send Morse code at 30 words per minute.  

He explained why ham operators are still so crucial. "If you have a major eruption on the sun, it will take all the satellites out," he explained. "And without the satellites, you don't have cell phones, you don't have TVs, you don't have nothing."

Rick Saeger (K300)is a world class contacter who'd like to see more young people involved. "It's a great hobby," he said. "It's family friendly. we'd like to get more people involved because it's a great hobby." His daughter Sara (K3000),now 23, was licensed at age 8.

Saeger stated you could get started in this hobby for under $100.

Because this was a 24-hour operation, some operators like Ben Ramig (KB3CTX) camped on site.


Anonymous said...

Great story, Bernie.

Back in 1999, I erected an antenna tower behind my house to pick up FM from distant stations with a highly sensitive antenna. I got the tower used from a ham. It was fun, and I also picked up tv stations off the antennae on the WTC. 9/11 of course ended that. Anyway, I lost interest and just sold the tower on Ebay.

I asked the guy "you put these up before?" He said "oh, yeah. This is going to a sister island of Curacao, for a listening station."

The guy is part of a club that competitively "listens". A rare breed. My rusty tower, to be cleaned and have epoxy paint applied and used in the Caribbean.

Bernie O'Hare said...

So cool! Thanks for your comment. These are great people.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this story. Ham Radio is a great hobby and a real asset to our community!

Anonymous said...

Real Heroes !!!!!!!

Whethervain said...

Your last paragraph mentions two folks, a father and daugher team. Here is Sarah (K3OOO) just after she got her license sitting in front of the club station. This was a pretty unusual occurrence as not too many girls are attracted to this hobby which could definitely use MORE females.

Her dad hasn't aged a day since I first saw him; Sarah is 13 in this picture.

Too bad I didn't have more influence on you as a kid; although you don't own any amateur radios, there's little doubt in my mind that you ARE a ham!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I thought of you the whole time I did this story ... and in a sexual way, too.

Anonymous said...

I like the story Bernie, and you got a few really pertinent photos in there. Ham radio is relevent in a whole lot of ways. My ex-husband is also a ham radio operator. This past week-end, he coordinated the communications response team for a huge bicycle race held for charity on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, coordinating the rest stops and EMTs, and water/food stations, and such. Not an emergency situation, but good community support, and things like that keep the hams limber enough so that they can operate in a real emergency. Cate

Bernie O'Hare said...

Cate, Glad you like it. I enjoyed meeting you and your husband in person.