Amateur radio operators in the United States have a long and distinguished history of community service, most notably in the field of emergency communications.
Whenever regular communications channels are down and/or commercial electric power systems have failed or are overloaded, "hams" have provided a temporary and reliable back-up system. Fires, floods, earthquakes, major storms, power outages... virtually any disruption of normal services brings out the amateur radio emergency teams. While their primary emphasis is on relaying "health and welfare" information, hams also provide direct support to public safety agencies when regular channels of communications are inaccessible.
Licensed amateur radio operators include college professors, engineers, students, business executives, public employees, retirees, and homemakers... folks from all walks of life who have developed technical skills in the electronics and communications fields and who want to make a valuable contribution to their communities. In Wood County, WV, these volunteers have formed an organization to train and support their efforts. Wood County Emergency Communications, inc. (WCEC) is a nonprofit (501c3) organization that was formed in 1983 to provide emergency communications to the area.
Let's clear up a possible confusing term here. The Federal Communications Commission licenses certain non-commercial radio operators as "amateurs" because they are not permitted to accept any pay for their services. The word “Amateur” is not an accurate description of these trained, licensed and experienced communicators who know the territory, and understand their role when the need arises. These are technicians who have developed repeater systems and digital communication systems that we take for granted every day when we use our cell phones and the internet.
The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) was established under the Federal Communications Commission Rules and Regulations, as part of the amateur radio service. The mission of RACES is to establish and maintain the leadership and organizational infrastructure necessary to provide amateur radio communications in support of emergency management entities throughout the United States and its territories. Many of the members of WCEC are also members of RACES.
The Amateur Radio Amateur Emergency Service (ARES) was established by the American Radio Relay League to provide coordination for Amateur Radio operators Nation Wide and provide leadership and training. All members of WCEC are registered as ARES members.
Amateur radio emergency communications have either written (Memorandum Of Understanding) or verbal service agreements in place with several public agencies and community organizations in Wood County and the surrounding area, including:
Amateur radio, via RACES, ARES and WCEC, is an integral part of the emergency plans of each of these key community service agencies. (Many have licensed amateurs on their staffs.)
WCEC can provide a fully equipped mobile communications center anywhere it is needed. The organization maintains a state wide digital communications system (DAREN) which covers all 55 counties of West Virginia.
They also provide voice communications via handheld and mobile radios and can provide your command post with a wired in-house telephone system if needed. In addition WCEC members can setup both fixed and mobile voice repeater systems.
WCEC members are experienced in many of the activities in the community and can provide support communications for your events.
WCEC also has communication capabilities on some Public Safety and Business channels that allow communications interoperability. Amateur Radio operators can also set up other communications systems if the need arises.
Communities -- If you are an elected or appointed public official who represents a municipality in and/or around the Wood County, WV or Washington County, OH area our representatives will be delighted to explain how amateur radio can offer reliable back-up for your public safety communications. Amateur radio can help.
Schools -- Is your district prepared to provide communication with families during a possible evacuation? Might you need emergency backup for contact with buses or other district sites? Amateur radio can help.
Hospitals –- All the hospitals in the Wood County Emergency Communications service area are equipped with voice and digital packet equipment for use in any emergency. Amateur radio can help
Agencies -- Nationally and in Wood County, the American Red Cross is linked with amateur radio. Hams provide communications assistance for "health and welfare" messages, keeping agencies in touch with each other, and letting anxious relatives far away know about the status of loved ones. Could your agency use similar help in an emergency? Amateur radio can help.
Potential Volunteers -- If you are a licensed amateur radio operator who would like to be of direct help to your neighbors and community in times of emergency, RACES, ARES and WCEC can use your help! No experience is necessary we will train you. If you are not licensed, we can help you get your amateur radio license. We'd love to hear from you.Contace informaton is listed on the 'Home Page'. Let us show you how you can make a difference.