Amateur Radio: The Eyes and Ears of Newton County | News

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MOROCCO – “The radio craze will die out over time. “

These words were wrong when Thomas Edison said them in 1922, and they are just as wrong today. For most Newton County residents, the night air is calm and quiet, with nothing but the distant howl of tractor-trailers disrupting the eerie stillness of rural life. But make no mistake: For residents like Mike Swiader, this tune is buzzing with conversation, a conversation that could start in Newton County, resonate through the mountains of Denver, Colorado, and reach the ears of Station astronauts. international space.

Swiader is the president of the Newton County, Indiana, Amateur Radio Association, and for 50 years he has been involved in conversations that pass silently through the night air. Under the right conditions and with the right equipment, a HAM radio operator can communicate with anyone in the world, and yes, even the bravest beyond this world. The Radio Association, created 2 years ago, is, for many in Newton County, the gateway to these miracles of science and communication. Whether it’s bouncing signals off the moon or communicating with the world using an antenna made entirely of hangers, the radio craze can sound like anything, science – science-fantasy fiction. For the magicians of the Radio Association, these wonders are routine.

So what exactly is the Radio Association doing for the community?

“We are everyone’s eyes and ears,” Swiader says. Take the Pun’kin Vine 5K in July, for example. The radio association was present and always vigilant, keeping an eye out for runners in distress, bringing water to those in need and pointing their eyes and ears in all directions in case even a runner fell or suffered a stroke. heat. How did they communicate? By radio, of course.

This is far from the only service provided by the Radio Association. Posted not only in Newton County, but in four of the counties surrounding it, Swiader calls on his storm watchers, not to be confused with storm chasers. No, these lookouts are more like California-style fire watchers: they watch and warn of disasters. They are trained to recognize wall clouds, funnels and green skies – all bad omen of a vicious storm on the prowl. In all likelihood, they’ll be aware of an upcoming storm before it even crosses the Illinois border. Then they will ring warning bells in all directions on the radio to go out and out now.

But was that invisible shield still there?

As it turns out, no. “There was a black hole here. If something is happening here, there is nothing, ”says Swiader, and it is this black hole that led him to create the Amateur Radio Association. There was a lot of HAM here, but no activity. “I sent 350 letters to all the guys on HAM radio in five counties,” and obviously they were well received. Today, the Radio Association is a thriving asset to the community.

Swiader was no stranger to providing community service behind the microphone of a HAM. In 2004, Hurricane Charlie devastated his Florida community, and with the power grid crippled by wind and rain, HAMs (powered by batteries, generators, and solar panels) were the only source of communication with important groups like the Red Cross. , as well as local fire and police. This community went without electricity for three weeks, and it’s fair to say that without the radios they would have been forced to go without medical and food supplies essential to their survival. Indeed, during those stormy days, there was a HAM operator in every public building, observing every public official.

Should a tragedy occur and a tornado strike a community in Newton County, the Radio Association would respond immediately, contacting the Head Communications Center for food and other essential supplies. Even without electricity, they could access email and other important online services, ensuring that the affected community was not cut off from the outside world and left to fend for itself. In a very real sense, the Radio Association is a resilient network that, whatever the circumstances, would be able to call for help should Newton County ever find itself in dire straits. When it comes to communications, the club is Newton County’s most valuable asset.

Swiader also has great designs for the future of his organization in the community.

“We’re trying to have our own building right now,” he says, which could also function as a back-up Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in times of crisis. In Florida, the city’s main EOC was wiped out by the hurricane, leaving relief efforts in disarray. With a safeguard in place, Newton County would be protected from this.

The Amateur Radio Association also hopes to play a greater role with the younger residents of the community. The club already offers storm watching and other HAM radio lessons, but hopes to expand those programs to North Newton Jr./Sr. High school in the future. Swiader also hinted that radio programs might be in the club’s sights, as well as slow-scan and fast-scan TV (also known as Amateur TV or HAM TV).

How could the average citizen explore HAM radio today? Those interested will be happy to know that the hobby can be relatively inexpensive. A “handy walkie-talkie,” or portable HAM radio, can cost as little as fifty dollars and can perform just about any function a high-end HAM can perform. After that, a simple proficiency exam is the only step required to become a licensed radio operator. From there, the club can help use specialized antennas that can, yes, even communicate with the International Space Station. Not only that, but amateur radio can easily lead to high paying jobs in the commercial sector, ranging from aerial communications to public service.

The radio craze is therefore far from dying out. In fact, it operates today as one of the most valuable community services in Newton County (and the United States). Rest assured that in the event of a disaster, the eyes and ears of Newton County are watching, listening, and ready to serve.

Those interested in the Amateur Radio Association of Newton County can contact Mike Swiader at 815-409-5070, or email [email protected] The club’s mailing address is PO Box 215, Lake Village, IN 46349. The club meets on the first Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Public Library of Morocco.

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