In a crisis in Columbia County, Tom Brown and his fellow amateur ham operators could get the call.
It is their communications expertise that officials say makes them invaluable should a disaster or other critical situation occur.
"What we do is we call (Columbia County amateur radio coordinator) Tom Brown and say we have an emergency, we're staffing the EOC. We have our communications warning center set up and we need someone here," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director, adding that the county's Emergency Operations Center has work space set aside for ham operators, and a protocol is in place to enlist the help of area operators.
"...They bring their own radio and we set them up here. They are definitely a part of our team and provide support communications."
According to national media reports at the time, it was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that amateur radio operators throughout the nation helped with rescue and relief operations as the disaster area had an overburdened and crippled communications infrastructure.
Brown, a member of the Augusta Amateur Radio Club, said the Columbia County Amateur Radio Club and other area ham operators work together with his club in a crisis situation.
"If there's an emergency we all work together regardless of who we are," Brown said.
Sometimes it's also a fun way to reach out to people great distances away to share news or personal information.
The Columbia County Amateur Radio Club, for instance, transmitted during Harlem's Oliver Hardy Festival and received confirmed contacts from throughout the country and from the Caribbean.
"Whether it's weather or public goings-on...(we're available) to do something for the community,"said Paul Bennett of Grovetown.
Bennett, who is a member of the Columbia County Amateur Radio Club, also is a member of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service and a longtime ham operator.
The Columbia County Amateur Radio Club has a repeater that is attached to a county water tower on Belair Road that can boost the strength of their short-range UHF and VHF signals to span most of the county, said club secretary Dean Maples, of Evans.
The repeaters permit the operator to use small, hand-held radios for mobile broadcasts in times of a crisis.
Recently, members of the area radio clubs and other ham operators also participated in a National Weather Service Skywarn workshop at Doctors Hospital. There, ham operators learned how to spot dangerous weather and how to assist the National Weather Service.
"They (ham operators) play a vital role for us," said Steve Naglic, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in West Columbia, S.C.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.