800 Watt MRF6VP41KH 144Mhz Amateur radio amplifier

Ham Ops First to Report Haiti Quake

Over the past few days, Charlie Wooten has had his ear on his ham radio. Steadily listening to updates from the devastation in Haiti.

He’s one of hundreds of amateur radio operators or “hams” in our area. He runs his ham from what he calls his shack at his home.

When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, hams were the first ones to break the news.

haiti earthquake

Communications are still limited, but Wooten has been able to hear a Haitian priest and a U.N. worker on the Salvation Army’s amateur radio network.

“They want to set up some repeaters, vhf repeaters. They need the radios, equipment, walkie talkies to make that system viable for them to be able to hear in Port Au-Prince,” Wooten said.

In Wooten’s back yard, you’ll find this 70-foot tall beam tower. The tower rotates to find the best signals, giving ham operators like Charlie a way to communicate and provide a helping hand to those who can’t be heard.

“The equipment is so compact and very efficient and doesn’t require a lot of sophistication more than a car battery and a piece of wire to be able to be on the air to talk hundreds even thousands of miles,” Wooten said.

Charlie, who worked at Newschannel 7, said back in 1969, he and some of his fellow hams went down to cover Hurricane Camille.

He said for ten days, his crew was the only line of communication out of Pass Christian, Mississippi.

He calls his work an expensive hobby, but a very important hobby.

Hospitals, Emergencies and Ham Radio

Most people on the street are clueless about the meaning of the Amateur Radio service. If they have heard of it, they respond by saying, oh yeah, you mean CB radio right?

Although many of us kick-started our interest in the radio hobby on 11 meters,  nothing is more upsetting to a licensed amateur than that comment. To be classified along with a free-bander illegally running 1500 watts on HF is more than an embarrassment, it’s a personal insult.

Others, who know perhaps a little more about the service will say something like yeah, my grandfather was a ham radio guy back in the 50’s. Then they continue by spinning a short story about watching the tubes glow in Grandpa’s radios when they were small children.

As us “modern” Hams know the reflection of Grandpa’s tubes aren’t much more that a fading memory today. The need breed of Ham Radio operator has a wide variety of choices to investigate within the hobby and recognition of the Amateur Radio service has recently been placed into the limelight again with  H.R. 2160, “The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009”.

As a matter of fact, two hospitals in Mississippi now have Ham Radio Stations. The answer to the question why is simple.

As Larry Wagner stated in the article posted on 1/10/2010 in USA Today, “When all other communication systems go down in an emergency such as a hurricane, ham radio operators are the last ones who are still talking to one another.”

Read the full article here: