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Promptly at 12:30 P.M. on April 10, 1912, the thunderous blasts of the Titanic’s foghorns signified that the liner was preparing to sail as tugs nudged it away from its pier. Tragedy nearly struck immediately as the enormous suction of the huge liner's hull pulled on the U.S. liner New York, snapping the lines holding it to the pier. As a result, the New York’s stern swung out toward the Titanic. Quick action by a tugboat caught the New York before it could smash into the Titanic. (Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-extraordinary-story-of-the-titanic/)
I'm sure most of you reading this have heard the story and know some of the history about the Titanic. A ship designed and engineered to be "unsinkable"! Yet on that fateful day, the Titanic struck an iceberg which resulted in its swift demise.
Have we not learned from our past mistakes? Do we still think we are smart enough to control fate? Many times, have I thought about those two simple questions and asked myself "How naive, really, is the human race?" How many more times are we going to have to survive a disaster before we accept the simple fact that WE ARE NOT INDESTRUCTIBLE?"
Disaster can strike anywhere, anytime, and with any level of intensity. Watch the news. You have a very good chance of hearing about disaster happening somewhere on this planet each day. From icebergs to raging forest fires all the way to earthquakes and tornadoes. Mother Nature has a way of flexing her strength when we least expect it. To make things worse is the fact that we have created and integrated such a large, diverse, and "fragile" layer of technology into our everyday lives. We are continuously adding to this "disaster waiting to happen" each and every day with more satellites, more Internet, more communications equipment, etc...
Here is the very real important question... Are we prepared for when Mother Nature strikes and our technology fails?... Are you?
Let’s think about this, when was the last time you wrote a letter with pen and paper as opposed to an email? It has probably been a long time and I admit, I am one of the worst for writing e-mails vs handwritten letters. And that's just the "tip of the iceberg" (no pun intended). Cell phones, computers and tablets are also a big part of my life as well as many others daily lives including yours.
Are you a HAM?
To become a HAM (Amateur Radio Operator) differs from country to country.
To become an Amateur Radio operator in Canada, proficiency in electronics is a must. Most Amateur Radio clubs offer classes to teach you what you need to know and give you that proficiency. You start off with obtaining your "Basic" certification.
If you are intrigued with the prospect of offering assistance during unfortunate circumstances and disasters, you should really aim at obtaining your "Basic with Honours" or your "Basic" and a "Morse Code" endorsement. Doing so allows you to operate in what are referred to as the "HF" bands. This is where MOST long-distance communications take place. Besides that, you will have access to the complete set of Amateur frequency bands.
This is just one of the first steps in becoming one of the valued people that provide assistance during hard times. Understand this though, and I can't stress this enough...If you are only thinking of doing this for the glory, then STOP RIGHT HERE. Amateur Radio operators don't do this stuff for the glory or otherwise. It's done from our hearts because we care.
"Often unsung, Amateur Radio operators regularly assist in emergency situations. Hurricane Katrina was no exception. For the past week, operators of Amateur, or ham, radio have been instrumental in helping residents in the hardest hit areas, including saving stranded flood victims in Louisiana and Mississippi."
(Read the rest here as written by Gary Krakow of NBC.com)
So let's ask this question... "Are you prepared?"
What kind of "prepared" am I talking about? In particular, I'm referring to being prepared to help out in the aftermath, ready to help family, friends, and your community pull together and recover. Many of us are somewhat prepared but how much more could be done? Would you be willing to be one of the individuals that gives that little extra? If you answered yes to that question, Amateur Radio just may be for you.
So, let’s just say you have that "bug" in you to help out and work with the emergency services personnel. There are many ways in which you can help. What I'm focusing on is communications. You know cell phones, and social media. Those have got to be, oh likely somewhere near the very bottom of the list of priorities to get working again. I'm talking about REAL communications. Plain and simple. Just the ability to get word out that your community is either safe or in need of help.
If we can look back a bit at Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Communications was one of the major items first re-established. The victims needed to reach someone that could help them and emergency services personnel needed to be able to talk to each other. Messages had to be passed from one organization to another and to the outside world. Amateur Radio operators were the ones to do this.
There are many important items that you should have on your mind when any kind of disaster strikes. Your family...Are they ok? Your friends...Are they ok? Call them. Oh! that's right phones are out. Use the Internet... it's out too. Not many other choices. Becoming an Amateur Radio operator brings another option to the table. Radio. Yes, good old fashioned radio. It’s possible that many of you who are reading this do not know what Amateur Radio, or HAM Radio, is. To fully explain what it is would need much more than a short article like this. Suffice it to say that Amateur Radio is one of the oldest forms of modern communications.
This article is NOT about emergency preparedness for your home, it’s about being prepared once you have become a licensed HAM. For more information on emergency preparedness for your household, please see the following Website maintained by the Government of Canada at https://www.getprepared.gc.ca
Once you have your license, radio, and an antenna, GET ON THE AIR. I say that in caps because that is why you obtained your license isn't it? Fire up the radio and start making contacts, local, and around the world. One of the best things to do is get involved with and participate in what us Amateurs call "Nets". This is a way to meet people and to also pass messages if needed.
Now to bring these two sections together: Amateur Radio and Disaster Readiness.
As an Amateur who has that want/desire to volunteer their time and skills to help those in need, be aware there are many ways you can provide help. One of the first things you should do is locate your local ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) section leader and avail yourself to them. Find out when their meetings are and attend them.
Secondly, get yourself ready. Think about obtaining a small generator, temporary antenna, long length of coax, a tent and/or portable gazebo type tent, and basically a set of camping gear. Remember, there may be times when you will be asked or you decide to volunteer yourself to help out in an emergency situation. This may require operating in a remote location instead of from your home. You will need the basic comforts to survive.
To get the idea as to how to prepare yourself, contact your local club and inquire as to if they participate in the ARRL Field Day event. This event is run to help hams prepare themselves for an emergency situation. I have participated in many of these events and learned many things regarding emergency preparedness. So can you!
So you have read this far. Thank you. What I am want to accomplish here is to peak your interest in Amateur Radio and once licensed, an interest in taking part in and volunteering your time, energy, and intelligence, to your local radio club, ARES group or even to your local emergency services such as the local police, fire department, Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc. There are many ways that you can assist in during the times of an emergency. Sometimes it's as simple as staying at home with the radio on and taking messages and either passing them on on-the-air or making a phone call if possible and delivering the message. At times this can also involve hand delivering the message to someone in your area. It may be a message from a family requesting any information as to the well-being of a family member in your area. Think of the joy and peace of mind that you can give when you return a message of "All's Good" to the originator.
So with that, I am going to leave you. Just remember to have fun and enjoy the hobby and all the aspects of it.