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  • Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Radio operators prep for blizzard of the century

    Via MansfieldNewsJournal.



    ASHLAND -- Licensed amateur radio users in Ashland, Richland and Huron counties are preparing for nearly three feet of snow this Saturday.

    They're expecting power outages, cars stranded along highways and communications to be down. A lot of people may find the scenario familiar.

    "Basically, we are simulating the Blizzard of '78," said Mark Rafeld, director of the Ashland County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

    Rafeld initiated the tri-county effort.

    "We're testing our capabilities via radio," said Robert Palm, secretary for the Ashland Amateur Radio Club. "There are circumstances when cellphones might not be available, so we would need to rely on radio."

    The test will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and conclude at 2 p.m.

    In Richland County, Danny Bailey is the local Amateur Radio Service emergency coordinator, Sky Warn coordinator and president of the Inner City Amateur Radio Club. Bailey said users will be working with MedCentral Health System in Mansfield and Shelby, Crestview High School, the Richland County Fairgrounds and the 179th Airlift Wing -- all places people in need would be directed to.

    "We will have people calling in and saying that they need to get out of their homes because there's no heat," Bailey said. "We'll have people trapped along 71 and we'll need to communicate with the National Guard to borrow some big equipment to help someone. Each county is doing their own thing."

    Kris Maki, president of the Ashland Amateur Radio Club, said his county will also play out a variety of scenarios.

    "For one, we'll have a nurse who needs to be picked up and we'll have to get to her," he said.

    Rafeld said the National Weather Service is on board and will put out a "warning" at the beginning of this week. They will conduct a live press conference about the drill before the event.

    "These radios are portable and quick to react," Rafeld said. "By simply throwing a wire over a tree, you can communicate with someone."

    There are about 600 licensed users among the three counties.

    Palm said many active users communicate with other users via the radio on a regular basis -- even in non-emergency situations.

    "We have experience using them on a day-to-day basis, that's why people depend on us in an emergency," he said.

    Part of Saturday's goal is to remind the community this type of communication has remained active.

    "You'll introduce yourself as an amateur radio operator and people say, 'Oh, I didn't know you guys were still around,' " Palm said.

    "This is the first communications exercise we've done in a while," Rafeld said. "Why now? We have new capabilities and we have amateur radios working together. I was the one who really pushed for this. Cellphones are great until towers go down."

    Twitter: @JamiKinton