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Local radio operators prep for emergencies

Bob Glasscock (right) and Beth Peel (left) work to make radio connections with amateur radio operators all over the county at the annual Field Day weekend on June 23. (Advocate Staff/Patty Vaughan)

Larry Richards has friends all over the world.

However, most of these friends he has never seen face to face and hasn’t even talked to them on the phone or computer.

By using radio signals, Richards spends his time making connections all over the county and world, all in effort to help in emergency situations.

Richards has been a licensed amateur radio operator since 1981 and has enjoyed participating in the annual ARRL Field Day.

“We have field day the last full weekend in June every year,” Richards said. “You set up equipment and you don’t use your home radio set or anything. You set up wire antennas, make shift antennas and see how many stations you can contact.”

The nonprofit Jim Bell Wireless Association operates in Greenville, but has radio enthusiasts all over the Butler County and Lowndes County areas.

“It’s a practice in case of a real emergency,” Richards said. “We work with the Emergency Management Agency, the sheriff and police departments and the (American) Red Cross. We provide communications for them if their normal lines of communication go down and this is just a practice for us to set up and practice emergency type procedures.”

Each operator owns individual equipment to use in emergency situations.

A prime example of the importance of amateur radio operators was when the tornadoes hit Tuscaloosa in April of 2011, according to Richards.

“They used amateur radio operators that worked up there,” Richards said. “Like when the tornado came through in Tuscaloosa, there was a time that there was no communications other than what amateur radio operators provided.

“It’s a hobby that goes a little further than just a hobby. It gets into helping people in time of need.”