Amateur radio operators, who use various types of radio communications equipment for nonprofit purposes, can provide a valuable resource to state and local governments during disasters. In Oregon, about 1,800 Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) volunteers are authorized to work in state and county emergency operations centers (EOCs) facilitating communication during disasters. For example, during the Great Coastal Gale of 2007 that knocked out communications to Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties, ham radio operators used a radio-frequency messaging system called Winlink to transmit requests for assistance to the state’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Following the storm, Oregon’s governor funded improvements to the state’s amateur radio infrastructure with a $250,000 grant for Winlink systems in each of the state’s 36 county-level EOCs. Amateur radio operators can play a variety of roles that allow public safety officials to maximize their resources, including facilitating communications; providing emergency managers with on-scene situational awareness; and helping manage large-scale events, such as state fairs and marathons. Earlier this year as blizzards blanketed Delaware, RACES members manned ham radio stations at the Sussex County EOC, and others drove around the county’s 958 square miles reporting what they were seeing and confirming reports from the National Weather Service.
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