According to a media release from Skagit Amateur Radio, “Members of the Skagit Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Club (SARECC) have overcome the social separation issue imposed during the coronavirus, by meeting using their radios. They gather using a radio repeater located in Anacortes allowing them to share time together on a wide variety of topics, covering the Skagit Valley region and beyond. Should the internet degrade, amateur radio will serve as a vital link.
The “Hotel Whiskey (Health & Welfare) Net” meetings vary in size but usually include some 20 to 30 participants who “check in” through a central network control operator and then take turns sharing information. Topics can be anything from “what I’m doing today” to recipes, posing technical questions, commenting on a good book to read, TV show or movie to watch, trivia questions, sharing info on lines and the availability of items at local markets, phone numbers of service providers for seniors, or one might just say nothing while listening and monitoring the conversation. All in all, nearly 50 different operators have participated since the program began nearly two weeks ago.
Using home stations, mobile radios or even hand-held walky-talkies, operators are free to join the group while walking the dog, hiking the Community Forest Lands running an errand or relaxing in their homes.
The daily gatherings are hosted by volunteer coordinators, some of which include Richard Rodriguez, WB6NAH; Peter Witheford, AF5TR; Leander Nichols, KB1UXX and others when necessary.
In addition to the lively banter, the operators are also honing their skills in case they’re needed to assist others in a time of emergency. But in the near term, amateur radio provides a means to escape the barriers of sheltering in place, linking with others, sharing experiences and being social without the need to gather in person.”
An FCC Amateur Radio license is required to transmit, but those with scanner radios can listen in on 443.350 MHz at 2 p.m. Information on obtaining a ham radio license can be found at www.facebook.com/SkagitAmateurRadio/ or www.arrl.org.
According to the American Radio Relay League’s website, www.www.ARRL.com, “Amateur Radio (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. It’s fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of need.
You can communicate from the top of a mountain, your home or behind the wheel of your car, all without relying on the Internet or a cell phone network You can take radio wherever you go! In times of disaster, when regular communications channels fail, hams can swing into action assisting emergency communications efforts and working with public service agencies. For instance, the Amateur Radio Service kept New York City agencies in touch with each other after their command center was destroyed during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio also came to the rescue during Hurricane Katrina, where all other communications failed, and the devastating flooding in Colorado in 2013.
You can communicate with other hams using your voice and a microphone, interface a radio with your computer or tablet to send data, text or images, or Morse code, which remains incredibly popular. You can even talk to astronauts aboard the International Space Station, talk to other hams through one of several satellites in space, or bounce signals off the moon and back to Earth!