(by Karl Shoemaker, AK2O)
Amateur radio operators in the community are available to handle public service communications. Also known a "ham" radio, what once started as a hobby has been expanded into a nationwide network that provides communications for the Civil Air Patrol, Department of Emergency Services, Department of Civil Defense, the Red Cross, and other groups participating in emergency situations. Amateur radio operators have traditionally been on the scene of major disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. This dedicated group of volunteers provides disaster relief information in the form of health and welfare messages during time of disaster. Locally, this can be anything from reporting an injury accident to provide communications during the May '80 eruption, when normal channels are overloaded.
These community minded activities are absolutely without charge. The individual ham maintains his/her station at his/her own cost. The amateur radio service is regulated mostly by itself, in accord with rules and regulations set down by the F.C.C. which requires passing a radio principles to obtain an amateur radio license to operate his/her station. The service has no commercial purpose as per part 97 of the FCC rules. There is no discrimination of any kind practiced concerning who may become an amateur operator, or who requires their help.
Some of the traffic handled by Amateurs are on VHF bands, which are "line-of-sight" frequency bands. Amateur "repeaters" or relay stations extend this local coverage to other towns and counties, and in some cases state-wide.