Amateur radio operators provide vital service to residents of Orange County

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23 january 2020

Public health and safety

In a natural or man-made disaster, successful communication is essential for everyone’s safety. Fortunately, Orange County Government Emergency Management ensures that all residents are kept informed. A critical part of these efforts is amateur radio, also known as amateur radio, whose operators can still communicate in the event of a power failure.

Orange County Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (OCARES) is a volunteer group that provides emergency communications for Orange County and provides communications for public service events such as walking marathons, bike tours, and charity functions. Members can be found setting up an evacuation shelter one weekend and coordinating communications for a parade the next day.

John Knott, OCARES member, defines the group as a network of volunteers who just love to help the community.

“Amateur radio is considered a hobby, but in an emergency it’s a commitment to public safety,” Knott said. “We serve as the last line of defense when other forms of communication fail during infrastructure failures. “

Amateur radio volunteers, including Knott, operate in the Orange County Emergency Operations Center during hurricanes. They were there during Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne of 2004, as well as Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina and Wilma of 2005. More recently they have helped during Hurricane Dorian and have been essential during health and wellness checks. be families in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria.

OCARES member Michael Cauley remembers a power outage during Hurricane Charley and a pregnant woman who gave birth in one of the hurricane shelters.

“We provided him with medical care through the use of amateur radio communications,” he said. “When people come to thank us after a storm, we feel good about what we’re doing. “

There are approximately 800,000 amateur radio operators in the United States, all licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. Locally, they have dedicated more than 5,600 hours of their time either to training or to serving public service agencies at events, which serve as emergency training exercises.

“Staffing all open shelters during a hurricane requires a large number of skilled operators. So we’re always looking for community-minded volunteers who want to help, ”added Knott. “We run licensing courses for anyone with a strong desire to help their fellow citizens in times of need.”

Photo cut line: [L to R] Amateur radio operators John Knott and Michael Cauley at the Emergency Operations Center in Orange County.


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