Yes Virginia, there is a need for HAM Radio….

Dear Editor, My friends say HAM radio is long outdated there is no need for HAM radio anymore.
Signed Virginia

Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the age of the cell phone and internet. They are under the impression that the cell system cannot fail and the internet is immortal.

Yes, Virginia, there is a need for HAM Radio.

Many times I have heard from non-HAM people the following statements: “Ham Radio is still around?”, “We have cell phones and the internet, what do we need HAM Radio for?”, and the ever startling “What is HAM radio?”

These comments come from your average everyday folk who live in the moment, and on their phones. They just don’t know we exist because we have never touched their lives directly. Let me assure you, Virginia, HAM radio exists, and it is still relevant to today’s society.

Much like the spare tire on your car, which is seldom used but essential when it is needed, HAM radio is the spare tire of communications. When Hurricane Maria essentially cleaned house on Puerto Rico in September of 2017, there was no communication infrastructure left on the US Island Territory. The Red Cross called for 50 HAM operators from the ARRL (Americal Radio Relay League) to supply communications for emergency services and relief efforts until the normal infrastructure was rebuilt. 1

It was not the military or the industrial complex, FEMA or any other government agency that responded to the call for communications help, it was the HAM community. HAM radio operators with their own equipment went to the Island and set up lines of communication to help the other agencies work through the disaster.

Closer to home on June 20 to 22 of 2013 HAM radio operators responded to the flood disaster, again to set up communications to the Provincial EOC (Emergency Operations Center) because communications around High RIver Alberta had failed and for 19 hours, HAM radio was it. 2

When 9/11 happened in New York City, over 500 ham radio operators helped provide assistance during the emergency. 3

These are just some more current examples of the incidents where HAM radio was needed and where volunteers from the community reacted and met that need.

You see, Virginia, modern day communications has a flaw and that flaw is it requires the use of a common element. That element is the internet and the internet is dependant on the infrastructure of one or two companies. More the most part it is robust and dependable. When it fails, though, it fails completely and there is nothing setup to back it up. That is where HAM radio shines.

The Ham radio infrastructure consists of independently owned pieces that can be put together in any fashion needed to make communications happen. Short distance or long distance, HAM radio can supply it all through its volunteers and service clubs. In Alberta we have an independent province wide backbone that does not rely on one company or the internet. This is supplemented by each volunteers or clubs equipment that can be deployed quickly and to where it is needed.

There is one big concern in that the average age of the HAM radio operator is somewhere in the 60s. HAM radio needs younger volunteers. It is not for everyone. However you do not have to be a full blown geek to be a HAM radio operator. You do not need to know Morse code or how to solder. You do need a desire to communicate and a willingness to volunteer your time to a great cause and let’s face it you need some resources to invest in equipment.

So in conclusion, as long as there is a need to communicate and the possibility of the current system failing, there will be a need for HAM radio. That need may be getting less immediate but as the spare in your car is still a necessity even though tires are getting less prone to flats, they can still go flat. Communications can still be disrupted and HAM radio is still the “Spare” when that happens.