Ham radio operators take part in drill

Published 3:20 pm Monday, October 3, 2011

A severe ice storm blanketed three the southeast United States Saturday forcing Emergency Management teams to spring into action. Among the states hit by the storm, which knocked out radio towers, cell phones and electricity, were Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Of course, the storm was merely make believe.

On Saturday, the Butler County Jim Bell Wireless Association took part in the nationwide American Radio Relay League Simulated Exercise Test.

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The Jim Bell Wireless Association is an organization comprised of licensed amateur radio operators from Butler, Lowndes and Crenshaw Counties. Amateur radio operators, also known as ham operators, use a variety of radio equipment to communicate with other ham operators for public service, self-training and recreation purposes.

The Butler County club, along with members from Lowndes County, the Lowndes County EMA and the Butler County EMA, honed its skills with Saturday’s exercise, which consisted on testing emergency communications at the EMA offices, hospitals, shelters and numerous other locations.

“During the exercise the members had good clear communication and were able to communicate with Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and other parts of Alabama,” said Shirley Sandy, Butler County EMA director.

The exercise actively involved members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service. The group consists of licensed amateur radio operators who voluntarily register their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the event a disaster strikes the area.

“It is only through the regular implementation and practice of our operational guidelines and procedures that will allow us to provide a dependable communications network in times of disaster,” said Greg Gross, section emergency coordinator for Alabama.