Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Amateur radio operators fi ll communication gaps and provide situational awareness to emergency managers

In Oregon, about 1,800 RACES volunteers are authorized to work in state and county EOCs facilitating communication during disasters. For example, during the Great Coastal Gale of 2007 that knocked out communications to the state’s Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties, hammessaging system called Winlink to transmit the counties’ requests for assistance to the state’s Office of Emergency Management.

“Monday morning the governor came in and we were briefing and later on
called amateur radio operators ‘angels’ because that was the only source of communication we had to the coast,” said Marshall McKillip, the Emergency Management Office’s communications officer.

Following the storm, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski funded improvements to the state’s amateur radio infrastructure with a $250,000 grant for Winlink systems in each of the state’s 36 county-level EOCs. “We bought the appropriate equipment and then
organized the delivery, the set up, the training and everything with amateur radio resources,” McKillip said. “It was quite a task for the amateurs to take on,
but they did a great job.”

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