Courtesy of John Levo
Highland Amateur Radio Association

The year of 2017 was quite a year weather-wise for various parts of the United States. Not only were Florida, Texas and other Gulf Coast states hit hard by hurricanes and floods, but ideal conditions led to massive and tragic wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and California.

In Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean, the electric, communications and transportation infrastructure still has not recovered.

How will you communicate when the power goes out, cell towers fail and the internet stops working? According to many public officials, there is just one service that is always there and can quickly respond to disasters or emergencies when needed. It’s amateur radio.

Amateur radio is best used “when all else fails” because it doesn’t rely on a commercial infrastructure or the grid to make it work. Instead, licensed amateur radio volunteers provide their own radio equipment, power sources and other talents to serve their communities in a time of need. Because of this, the service is able to provide direct service to the public through support to services as Emergency Management, law, fire and EMS services, hospitals, the Red Cross and other relief resources.

Many local, state and federal governmental agencies respect what amateur radio operators have done and what they can do and include amateur radio as an important part of their emergency planning and backup communications plans. Amateur radio has been around since the dawn of radio communications.

In fact, most of the early electronic, electrical and radio discoveries were made by ham radio operators. Many of the pioneer broadcast stations were outgrowths of ham radio operations and experiments. Hams have always been at the forefront of electronic developments such as when during World War ll, a Cleveland ham created a hand-held radio that not only helped on the battlefield, but led to the invention of the transistor, computer technology and the cell and smart phone of today.

Some people think ham radio is a thing of the past. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Federal Communications Commission reports that during the past several years the number of licensed amateurs has increased yearly. Presently, there are almost 800,000 licensed amateurs in the United States and close to 1 million throughout the world. There are approximately 30,000 amateurs in Ohio with about 500 of them right here in the Highland and surrounding counties area.

Ham radio is no longer the radio of our grandfathers when the use of Morse Code for communications was practically the only way possible. Today, amateurs not only use AM, FM and single sideband voice modes, many are into using various types of digital communications and can converse with other hams living on the other side of the globe at will. Although Morse Code is no longer required to hold a license, the number of people using code continues to grow as many people equate it to knowing a foreign language and realizing that Morse Code can get through the airwaves when voice cannot.

Besides providing communications during an emergency or experimenting with the next electronic breakthrough, hams just have fun talking to people around the world or around the block using mostly modest equipment that some build themselves and antennas strung through the back yard into a tree. Local hams talk about the thrill of announcing their call sign on the air and having another ham in Europe, Australia, Peru, or on an icebreaker heading to Antarctica respond.

• The Highland Amateur Radio Association will hold an introduction to ham radio on Sunday, Jan. 14, at the Hillsboro First United Methodist Church, 133 East Walnut Street, Hillsboro. The presentation will feature videos, demonstrations, exhibits and have a question and answer period. Time will be given for individuals to meet on a one-to-one basis with long-time and newly licensed hams to learn their personal thoughts about the hobby. The introduction will start at 2 p.m. There is no charge to attend nor is pre-registration required.

• On Sunday, Feb. 11, the association will offer communities a series of classroom sessions serving as a gateway to the entry level FCC Technician Amateur Radio license. This course will consist of weekly classes covering the material required to pass the FCC license examination. Class instructor Lee Bishop states there is no longer a requirement to send and receive Morse Code to qualify for a license. According to Bishop, HARA last held a class in 2016 and had 28 people either earn their first license or upgrade to that of a higher license class.

The class will start at 1:30 each Sunday afternoon starting Feb. 11 at the Hillsboro Methodist Church. The classes are free; however, students are responsible for their study guides. The class will use the American Radio Relay Technician License Manual for the class. It is $25 and may be ordered at the Jan. 14 introduction and will be delivered to students prior to the first class. Classes will run each Sunday until Easter at which time the FCC license examination will be given.

Information about the introduction presentation and the license class may be obtained by contacting Highland Amateur Radio Association President Jeff Collins at 393-3115 or lead instructor Lee Bishop at 393-1627. E-mail inquiries may also be sent to