The Houma-Thibodaux amateur radio group plays a key role after the storms

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The Bayou Amateur Radio Society is a local group of amateur radio operators who played a vital communications role in the aftermath of the hurricanes that hit southern Louisiana.

The group is also known as Thibodaux Amateur Radio Club.

We asked George Tippett, president of the group, to tell us about his work. Here are his edited answers to our questions.

What services do you offer?

We are providing emergency communication for relief efforts after hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters hit our local communities in the bayou area in Southeast Louisiana.

First and foremost, we are a group of amateur and amateur radio operators licensed by the FCC. The amateur radio hobby has been around for over 100 years. It is sometimes mistakenly viewed as a dinosaur method of communication with the advent of cellphones and the Internet. However, amateur radio has consistently proven to be the most reliable form of communication over the years, as it does not require delicate infrastructure to operate.

Tell us a short story that illustrates how your group has helped others.

After Hurricane Katrina, amateur radio was there. Radio amateurs were the first to come into contact with the outside world after the storm, and they facilitated relief and medical efforts in the New Orleans area. After Hurricane Gustav in 2008, when everyone in our area was without cell and internet services, ham radio operators, using our repeaters and other radio equipment, took care of and informed many loved ones about the safety of their families. families. We have also contributed to relief and recovery efforts by providing the communication systems used for the distribution of food and supplies to the hardest hit areas through organizations such as the Salvation Army and others. volunteer groups approved by the FCC.

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Remember: when all other forms of communication fail, amateur radio is there. To this extent, our usefulness to the community is not always visible, but it becomes clearly apparent when disaster strikes.

Our two-way repeater systems are housed on towers across the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche. Our amateur radio operators and systems work in conjunction with national and local government agencies such as Homeland Security, as well as medical facilities such as the Ochsner Hospital Network. We were also used to provide live field data to the National Hurricane Center during Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

Where does the money come from? How can people contribute?

We are a group of amateur volunteers in this field since 1921 under the name Thibodaux Amateur Radio Club, with the code FCC W5YL. In 2015, we received approval of 501c3 status as a Bayou Region Amateur Radio Society to be the fundraising arm of the Thibodaux Amateur Radio Club. Our members and leaders belong to both organizations.

We currently have 60 paid members, with an annual membership fee of $ 25. We do not own any property where we can meet, so we do meet at the North Branch of the Terrebonne Parish Public Library in Gray. Although we do not employ paid staff, we have ongoing expenses for the acquisition of equipment, maintenance and insurance necessary to keep our repeater systems in top condition. These back-up communication systems are expensive to buy and maintain on a budget funded only by members, so we turn to donations.

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We do not sponsor any fundraising efforts, but look to the annual Give NOLA Day online fundraising event to help us meet our needs. Anyone can also make a donation directly to our organization via Paypal by going to the home page of our website, w5yl.org.

How can people help or join?

We are always looking for more amateur radio operators. If someone wants to get their license to be a ham and give their time to a noble cause, they can have fun taking advantage of the latest communication technology as a hobbyist while learning various operator skills that can be useful in extreme situations. We can make it easier to obtain your FCC ham license by emailing us at [email protected] We also invite all those who wish to become a ham operator to join our group, but this is by no means an obligation.

Anyone interested in knowing more about our organization or amateur radio in general can visit our website, w5yl.org. You can also visit our Facebook page on facebook.com/W5YL.Thibodaux.Amateur.Radio.


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