WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Nearly all emergency experts agree that effective communication is the key to properly managing any type of disaster situation.
Over the past several years, Wythe County’s emergency management team has feared that the nation was becoming too reliant upon modern communication technologies, including landlines and satellites. Such dependence, they feared, would leave the nation and local residents vulnerable should the region’s communications infrastructure suffer a hit.
As part of the county’s multimillion dollar commitment to emergency management, county leaders reached out to local HAM radio enthusiasts to serve the county in the event of a catastrophic emergency.
Thanks to grant funding made possible by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the county has purchased HAM radios, capable of broadcasting anywhere on the globe, to be used in the event of an emergency.
“Virginia’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) constantly monitors all radio frequencies. Should all phone lines and internet go down in Wythe County, we will still be able to stay connected to emergency leaders in Richmond and in Washington,” said Ikey Davidson, the outgoing Wythe County Emergency Manager.
Overseeing the program is longtime amateur radio specialist, Mike Farris.
Farris has received the highest level of license available to amateur radio operators by the FCC – authorizing him and his team of radio operators to broadcast on all frequencies.
County emergency leaders tested the radio system Tuesday morning, which is stored at an undisclosed location, and were pleased with the radio’s capabilities.
“The radios work as good as any radio I have ever seen,” remarked Farris, adding “We can reach – even without repeaters – way down into Carolina and far north into West Virginia.
With the aid of repeaters and other boosters, Farris has access to frequency allocations throughout the RF spectrum to enable communication across the region, state, country, world, or even into space.
Though emerging technologies are a vital part of their emergency management plans, officials also acknowledge that each new technology is subject to new and more complex threats.
“With all of the technology available to emergency officials, it is fascinating to see a return to the time tested communication methods which date back to the late-1800s,” noted Jeremy T.K. Farley, Wythe County’s Public Information Officer.
“Though we certainly don’t wish for any terrible disaster or attack, in this line, you have be imaginative and prepared,” said Davidson.
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