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Amateur radio emergency service has had a long relationship with the Polk County Office of Emergency Management and is continuing to grow further through a vital partnership. (l-r) Robert Herron, KD5UAD, AEC; James “Red” Walker, KA5TBL, AEC; and James “Skip” Straus, W5TXT, EC. Courtesy photo
From Enterprise Staff
While the Upper Lake Livingston Wireless Association’s ARES® Team (ARRL’s Amateur Radio Emergency Service) has had a long relationship with the Polk County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), that relationship has really grown this past year.
The ULLWA ARES® group had dwindled in size and interest but has seen renewed energy and growth since the early part of the year, thanks in part to the appointment of a new emergency coordinator who has promoted training and professional development among the team members.
Earlier in the year, meetings with Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Courtney Comstock resulted in the decision to upgrade the old equipment and antennas at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Multiple members of the ARES® Team worked with the OEM to suggest the new equipment items. The budget for purchasing those new items was approved by the county for the start of the new fiscal year which began Oct. 1.
Several members of the team participated in the statewide hurricane drill in May at the EOC and on their radios. Following that exercise, the new emergency coordinator, James “Skip” Straus, W5TXT, met with Comstock and asked if it would be possible to order and install the equipment before Oct. 1, which would allow the team to be fully operational should the county experience an emergency during the current hurricane season. Comstock was able to get that approved through the Polk County Commissioners Court.
Installed was a Yaesu FTM-300dr and an Icom IC-7300, along with a new vertical dual-band antenna and an OCF dipole antenna on the roof of the OEM.
The ULLWA ARES® Team has grown from seven members at the first of the year to 19 members presently, 11 of which are qualified to participate at the EOC, if needed. Eight of the members are also credentialed as RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) operators through the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
Amateur radio, or ham radio, is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the internet or cell phones. Many find it fun, social and educational, in addition to being a lifeline during times of need.
Amateur radio operators come from all walks of life – doctors, students, kids, politicians, truck drivers, movie stars, missionaries and even your average neighbor next door. They are of all ages, sexes, income levels and nationalities. Whether through Morse Code on an old brass telegraph key, voice communication on a hand-held radio or computerized messages transmitted via satellite, all hams use radio to reach out to the world.