PITTSBURGH – After eight decades of providing emergency relief communications on a volunteer basis during some of this region’s worst storms and disasters, members of the Steel City Amateur Radio Club took to the air earlier this month to sing their own praise.
The club of about 60 members hosted a special event resort each day at their clubhouse in Collier, PA. They have spent the week taking turns messaging other amateur radio operators around the world, sharing the news of their 80th birthday.
“Our club is able to provide emergency communication services to the community when needed,” said Bob Mente, 56, emergency coordinator for the Allegheny County Amateur Radio Emergency Service. “We have state-of-the-art radios and antennas in our clubhouse and have a back-up generator to provide electricity if the main power grid goes down.”
The Steel City Amateur Radio Club is an official relay station for the Allegheny County Amateur Radio Emergency Service. Its partner agencies are the Pittsburgh Red Cross and the National Weather Service office in Moon.
Amateur radio – also known as amateur radio – is a hobby that brings people, electronics, and communications together. People use Ham radios to talk across town, around the world, or even in space, without using the Internet or cell phones.
Although these amateur radio operators are amateurs, they provide extremely important communications, especially during and after emergencies. More recently, Steel City operators were instrumental in delivering messages that helped weather officials during a severe storm a few weeks ago, which included at least one tornado that hit Allegheny County.
John Jennings, 66, of Green Tree, Pa., Became involved in the weather emergency when he heard mobile ham operators report flooding near Banksville Road and near the Galleria Mall in Mount Lebanon.
“I contacted the Moon Township National Weather Service by phone and reported this information,” Jennings said. “They track storm damage to measure the intensity of storms.”
Club member Joe Fenn proudly remembers making his greatest contribution to public safety in 1977 when Johnstown suffered a severe flood.
“The local Red Cross woke me up from a deep sleep to help me get in touch with someone in Johnstown that they couldn’t reach,” he said. “Communications were down and we had no idea how bad things were.
“I got a message over the radio and hams came out of the woodwork, helping get food and supplies to the right places. I even relayed medical information between patients and doctors. It was very rewarding. “
For his role in this emergency effort, Fenn received a certificate from the Amateur Radio Operators of the Red Cross and Conemaugh Valley.
Karl Pastorak, 69, started this hobby at the age of 13. He lived near the W3KWH clubhouse of the Steel City Amateur Radio Club in Collier.
“I saw the antennas, but I didn’t know what was going on in the building,” Pastorak said. “I got curious and knocked on the door. They let me in and I never left.
Club members celebrated the group’s 80th anniversary by sending radio messages to other amateur radio operators about their milestone and inviting them to visit the club’s website to learn more about its history.
“It takes one person to start a chain of events to make a difference in our communities,” Mente said. “My motivation for getting my amateur radio license is to help make a difference in my community and to make friends around the world. “