Amateur radio enthusiasts are on hand in an emergency


Winters resident Joe DeAngelo became curious about radio communications as a child, after hearing people speak in various foreign languages ​​on his grandparents’ console radio system.

“I was listening to shortwave radio and I was listening to stations that spoke in different languages ​​and I would be curious to know where these speakers were coming from and why I could hear them so far away,” he said. he declares.

He made his first forays into amateur radio – also known as amateur radio – at the age of 14 after reading about it in various electronics magazines. Today, DeAngelo is part of a large network of passionate amateurs in Yolo County who use Hams for emergency services.

Amateur radio originated in the early 1900s, when people first marketed radio as a means of communicating over long distances, DeAngelo said. Although some of the earliest enthusiasts of amateur radio were professional scientists, many were just curious to learn more about how radio works.

Equipment like this is used for emergency communications and by amateur radio enthusiasts for conversation with others around the world. Wayne Tilcock / Company Photo

“Amateur radio was actually just people from all walks of life who were interested in science,” he said.

Jay Ballinger, the club coordinator for UC Davis Amateur Radio Communications, said that when amateur radio was first defined by the government, part of the charter was to make different radio waves available to amateurs so that ‘They can communicate using techniques such as Morse code, especially in emergency situations when phone lines are down.

Emergency services during natural disasters remain one of the main uses of amateur radio. During Hurricane Katrina, DeAngelo said many amateur radio operators – or “amateurs” – were stationed in shelters where they served as the primary means of communication because commercial services, such as telephones, were not working.

DeAngelo himself is involved with Yolo Amateur Radio Emergency Service, a local branch of ARES, an organization of trained volunteers across the United States and Canada who devote much of their time to helping with emergency communications.

Doug Hollowell, the emergency coordinator at Yolo ARES, said he and the organization are working with local emergency agencies such as fire departments and hospitals as back-up communicators in an emergency.

Hollowell added that ARES volunteers are also encouraged to help with emergencies in other ways, such as basic cleaning around the locations they are assigned to.

“When you look at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities… you’re talking about pretty fragile human beings,” he said. “We really need to be aware of that and give them that little extra. “

DeAngelo also said that amateur radio is also a particularly attractive hobby for people who are interested in the science behind how radio technologies can improve.

“A lot of people say, ‘Well the radio is so old, there’s nothing to do,’ but it’s so far from the truth,” he said. “The reality is that radio continues to evolve. We have things like Bluetooth and cell phones that we hardly heard about 40 years ago, but now they’re commonplace.

Ballinger also said that while emergency preparedness services are an important part of amateur radio culture, not all amateurs volunteer in disaster and crisis situations. Many amateur radio operators use their radio setups in the same way as CB radio systems, using it to have informal conversations with other people.

Others are getting involved because of the attractive challenge that comes with studying and testing to become a licensed amateur radio operator, he said.

Hollowell said that for him amateur radio was more of a side hobby until he moved to Dixon, where he met other amateurs through his church and became more involved in the amateur radio communications community in Yolo County.

While similar modes of communication such as the telegraph have become obsolete and are considered archaic, amateur radio continues to live on, largely due to its usefulness in emergencies, DeAngelo said.

“(Amateur radio has) persisted mainly because… there is a large group of people who are interested in basic technology,” DeAngelo said. “But even more so, nowadays people are doing it because they realize that in a disaster … people need help … when normal lines of communication are not available to them. disposition. “

– Contact Andrew Warner at

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