They hide in plain sight, waiting in obscurity for the call from emergency managers to help relay vital emergency communications. Across town or around the world or even into space, it matters not because “When all else fails, amateur radio works,” and the men and women who selflessly operate their radios will ensure that the message will get through. These hobbyists turned heroes come from all lifestyles and every background imaginable. They are every-day Joes and famous celebrities, scientists, astronauts, artists ... and even royalty — and with a little effort, you too could join their ranks.

Amateur radio, also known affectionately known as ham radio, is a hobby that brings people, electronics and communication together by a multitude of various methods. You can take this hobby as far as you want to go with it, experimenting, developing new techniques or just chatting with friends near or far, all without (or with, in some cases) the internet or cellphones. It’s fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of need.

You can get started with a little investment of time and almost no money required. Although they largely police their own with pride, ham-radio operators in America are regulated by and operate under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which issues licenses in accordance with Part 97 of the Federal Code of Regulations. There are three levels of amateur radio licenses; Technician, General, and Amateur Extra, each with progressively more access to frequencies and modes of operation. The test for the technician level is a mere 35 questions, all available for review online via a simple web search, and there is no longer a requirement to know Morse code, which was once a deterrent for some. You do not have to be a communication engineer to enjoy the hobby, either ... and it can be enjoyed by young and old alike. In fact, the youngest person to be licensed in the U.S. was only nine years old!

Hams hone their skills year round by passing messages and participating in regularly scheduled radio nets. But hams really shine when disasters strike, jumping into action and volunteering their services to emergency management agencies such as ours here in DeSoto County. The DeSoto Amateur Radio Club (DARC) serves our area by running auxiliary communications for the county during declared emergencies and at other times, as needed. They meet on third Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the DeSoto County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), 2200 NE Roan St., Arcadia. For more information about becoming a ham radio operator, or the club or other upcoming club event or meeting, contact retired DeSoto County Emergency Manager Doug Christ at kn4yt@yahoo.com, or Brian Newhouse at the EOC. You can also check out DARC’s website at http://www.desotoarc.org for a plethora of other valuable information.

Information is knowledge and knowledge is power. In an emergency, your power or ability to send or receive the right information at the right time could be the key to thriving or merely surviving … or worse. Amateur radio is another tool you can put in your All-Hazards Disaster Kit to help keep you and your loved ones safe. Remember, your survival is your responsibility and as always, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

For questions or more information about the emergency management programs available in DeSoto County, please call 863-993-4831 or email eoc@desotobocc.com.

Get emergency alerts by email, text or directly to your phones by signing up for “DeSoto Alerts,” a free service provided by DeSoto County Emergency Management, on our Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/DesotoEM/. Click on the blue SIGN UP button to register and “Like” our page while you are there. Remember, the 2019 hurricane season is only 16 weeks away. Do not wait until there is another storm coming to start your preparations because disasters can occur at any time.

Here is this week’s shopping list for your kit. Shopping lists are just a guide. Please adjust to your family’s needs. Always check expiration dates. Make the item last as long as possible (at least through Nov. 30) and be sure to check in next week for our next shopping list.

Items to purchase

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 can of meat
  • 1 canned fruit
  • 1 can of vegetables
  • 1 can of ready-to-eat soup

•1 package of disposable plates

  • 1 package of disposable utensils

Per person

This list was adapted from a series by Candi Kelly, Manatee County Emergency Management.

Brian Newhouse is emergency management coordinator for DeSoto County Emergency Management

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