During the blizzards of the 1970s, when the village of Leesburg lost communication with the rest of the world, it was a ham, or amateur radio operator, that came to the rescue.
John Levo, information officer for the Highland Amateur Radio Association (HARA), said that for a while after the blizzard struck, Leesburg was able to communicate with emergency responders through a radio in a police cruiser. But eventually, the cruiser ran out of gas, and there was no place with the capability to refuel it due to the extreme weather conditions. So emergency personnel elsewhere loaded a Ham radio and local operator Denver Conley into a snowplow vehicle and drove him to Leesburg.
“That was the only communication for the fire department, life squad and police department because they had lost all electricity in the town,” Levo said.
On Sunday, Jan. 14, the HARA, which had 106 members last year, will hold an “Introduction to Ham Radio” at 2 p.m. at the Hillsboro First United Methodist Church, 133 E. Walnut St. It will be followed with Sunday classes starting Feb. 11 that will serve as a gateway to obtaining an entry level FCC Technician Amateur Radio license.
Levo said the HARA held similar classes two years ago that resulted in 28 new hams and/or previous amateur radio operators that earned an upgrade.
Since those classes two years ago, Levo said the HARA has received several inquiries from people interested in obtaining a Ham license. He said those inquiries have picked up recently after fires in California and hurricanes in the Caribbean knocked out communication for people in those areas.
“In all those areas people lost all communication, and not just individuals, but hospitals, life squads and police,” said Levo, who has been a Ham operator since 1963.
In addition to helping provide communication in emergency situations, Levo said having a Ham license opens a world of basic knowledge about electricity and electronics, offers ways operators can provide services for their community and is an opportunity to get involved with public service.
“And being able to talk randomly to people around the world is really neat,” he said.
The HARA introduction class on Jan. 14 will feature videos, demonstrations, exhibits and have a question-and-answer period. There will be time to talk with longtime and newly licensed hams about their thoughts on the hobby.
There is no fee for the class and preregistration is not required.
The classes starting Feb. 11 will be weekly and will cover the material required to pass the FCC license exam. They will start at 1:30 p.m. each Sunday at the Hillsboro Methodist Church. The classes are free, but students will be responsible for their study guides. The class will use the American Radio Relay Technician License Manual. It is $25, can be ordered at the Jan. 14 introduction, and will be delivered to students prior to the first class. Classes will be held until Easter, when the FCC license exam will be offered.
Class instructor Lee Bishop said there is no longer a requirement to send and receive Morse Code to qualify for a license.
According to a HARA news release, some people think Ham radio is a thing of the past, but nothing could be further from the truth. The FCC reports that during the past several years the number of licensed amateurs has increased annually. Presently, there are almost 800,000 licensed amateurs in the U.S. and close to one million worldwide. There are approximately 30,000 amateurs in Ohio and about 500 in Highland and the surrounding counties, the news release said.
“Amateur radio is best used when all else fails because it doesn’t rely on a commercial infrastructure or the grid to make it work,” the news release said. “Instead, licensed amateur radio volunteers provide their own radio equipment, power sources, and other talents to serve their communities in a time of need. Because of this, the service is able to provide direct service to the public through support to services such as emergency management, law, fire and EMS services, hospitals, the Red Cross and other relief agencies. Many local, state and federal government agencies respect what amateur radio operators have done and what they can do and include amateur radio as an important part of their emergency planning and backup communications.”
For more information, contact HARA President Jeff Collins at 937-393-3115 or Bishop at 937-393-1627. Email inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or email@example.com.