Radio operators take to the air

John Anderson (left) and Tony White, both of Broken Arrow, set up a 30-foot directional beam antenna Friday as they and other amateur radio club members prepare to hook up with thousands of other radio operators for a public demonstration this weekend in south Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE/ Tulsa World

Radio operators take to the air
Amateurs will test their emergency communications.

SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Published: 6/26/2010 2:20 AM
Last Modified: 6/26/2010 6:03 AM

BROKEN ARROW — Acts of God are beyond human control, but thankfully there’s always ham.

Ham radio, that is.

Starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, thousands of amateur radio operators from around the world will test their emergency communications abilities. The event continues through 1 p.m. Sunday. About 35,000 ham operators took part in last year’s event.

The Broken Arrow Amateur Radio Club is leading the demonstrations in a vacant lot north of the Asbury United Methodist Church, 6767 S. Mingo Road.

The public is invited to observe, ask questions and talk to other stations on the air.

Ham radio operators point to the importance of their network when other forms of communication fail, such as during hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and other disasters.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of volunteer ham radio operators were able to help emergency crews.

Locally, an ice storm in 2007 knocked out power for weeks, and cell towers ran out of backup power. But none of the hams went down, said Ron Lancaster of the Broken Arrow Amateur Radio Club.

“We all have battery backup and emergency generators,” he said. “In times of need, we’ll put ham operators at various hospitals. We put people at the emergency operations center downtown, at the City-County Health Department and the Medical Examiner’s Office.”

The modern digital and satellite capabilities of ham radios might be surprising. Messages can be sent through a variety of ways, including text, voice and, as always, Morse code.

Hams were sending text messages across the air before cell phones, Lancaster said.

“We do have our own satellites, and we can talk back and forth to the international space station,” he said.

By SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer