Officials conducting amateur radio class

Owensboro Messenger-InquirerAugust 2, 2009 

OWENSBORO — Local officials are turning to older technology to solve some of the communications problems they encountered during the January ice storm and the windstorm following Hurricane Ike in 2008.

During the ice storm, cell phones throughout the area were disrupted, sometimes for days at a time. Land lines were also affected, and communication was cited by multiple emergency response agencies as the biggest issue they faced.

"We lost communications for at least a day and a half," said Walter Atherton, deputy director of the Daviess County Emergency Management Agency.

Amateur radio operators, on the other hand, were able to communicate throughout the ice storm, needing only batteries or generators to run on, said Bob Spears, a member and past president of the Owensboro Amateur Radio Club.

Drawing on the experience of the amateur radio operators, emergency management officials decided to sponsor a class on amateur radio operation. The five-week class will teach the skills and rules needed to pass the Federal Communications Commission's mandatory basic or "technician" amateur radio test.

Atherton said his hope is that the people in the class keep active once they finish, lending their skills to help emergency managers and planners when communications are problematic.

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