KING 5 TV - Seattle

 

KING 5

In 2005, after hurricane Katrina, I was able to relay several messages from the devastated area in New Orleans. One particular relay involved an elderly women trying to get word to her son in Ohio via a ham operating from his car in New Orleans. I was able to contact Ohio and we worked back and forth to set up travel arrangements for this lady. The ham sitting in his car described the scene around him. His home was demolished, but his car was intact, however, all the roads were impassable. He was very concerned over the amount of fuel remaining to run his engine before the engine and battery would fail. It was an ordeal that I will remember always in my hamming experience.

 

Local ham radio operators are helping Katrina victims
05:22 PM PDT on Wednesday, August 31, 2005
By DEBORAH FELDMAN / KING 5 News

 

OLYMPIA - Local ham radio operators are listening in to the drama unfolding in Louisiana and Mississippi, and some are doing something about it, lending a hand to those most in need.
One ham operator in Olympia helped reunite a worried family. Richard Olson got his license in ham radio operation at age 14 and has been hooked ever since. "The fascinating part is it doesn't require telephone lines. It’s strictly over the airwaves," said Olson.

He tunes in daily, so when hurricane Katrina hit land he began listening in to what ham operators there were saying. "There's a network that has been set up by the Salvation Army and so they're handling emergency traffic on that frequency," said Olson.

Over the years, Richard has used his ham radio to communicate with people in more than 200 countries. In fact, a map on his wall has pins indicating just some of the countries where he's had communications.

The conversations he's had with people in Louisiana in the past few days have been some of his most memorable transmissions yet. Wednesday morning, Richard keyed in one man living 50 miles outside of New Orleans. With all other systems down, the man was operating his ham radio off his car battery. Richard recorded the man's transmission as he explained an elderly neighbor was trying to reach family members in another state."He was trying to get information to a family in Ohio, so I jumped in and was able to relay and I made a phone call to Ohio and we were able to pass information back and forth to a family there in Folsum," said Richard. Richard was able to reassure the woman's family that she was all right, and then passed information back that her relatives are arranging to bring her to Ohio. "It feels very gratifying," Richard said.

He says when a major disaster strikes; sometimes old-fashioned modes of communication out perform modern technology. “In this day and age with the internet, cell phones and all that, if all of these other highly technical forms of communications fail, amateur radio is a very basic, fundamental form of communications and can be very useful," said Olson.
Richard says the signal from New Orleans varies during the day, but that he'll keep on listening to see if he can help anyone else.


InterviewDeborah Feldman on camera in the shack. In the video, the camera zoomed in on New Orleans on the "DX" map on the wall, which made for a great visual effect.

She was very gracious and the story was aired on every news broadcast for two days. It did a wonderful job letting the public know that "Ham Radio" is there in disasters.

The camerman went outdoors and filmed the antenna system, but it was not used in the "on air video."

Olympia Earthquake

On February 28, 2001, an earthquake struck near Olympia, Washington. The building where I worked shook for what seemed to be five minutes. Running outside, the ground felt like jelly under my feet and power lines were swaying. I immediately called Charlotte (the XYL) to see if she was OK. As it turned out, she had finally gotten out of the house, but then returned to answer the phone (me). The door had not opened easily to let her out (it was jamming as the house moved), and now she had to go back in to answer the phone. . . .what a time that was! There were some fallen knick-knacks and books in the house and other minor damage, but for the most part everything seemed intact. However, there was much damage to the State Capitol building, as well as a major bridge across Puget Sound in downtown Olympia. I could not return to work for two days because of all the debris (fallen bookshelves, broken glass, etc.) inside my office building. I went home immediately after the quake and got on the air on 14.292 Khz. I was surprised to hear a lot of stations wanting information and requesting phone calls to relatives here in the area. Charlotte (my XYL,KD7VJQ) and I swung into action! We spent the rest of the day making local phone calls to areas that had telephone service, then relayed messages back to relatives from all over the country via 20 meters. Charlotte handled the phones and I worked the radio. We were quite a team. After a busy day, I felt like Ham radio had done what it was designed to do: Provide communications in an emergency. A few months after the earthquake, I received a nice certificate in the mail from the Thurston County Sheriff's office for our efforts. I have no idea how he knew about the activities we had performed. It is very satisfying to know that you can help in an emergency. More information at: