SIDNEY — … .. -.. -. . -.—
If you can read this, then the Shelby County Ohio Amateur Radio Emergency Services is looking for you to join to help inform the community of emergency situations in the county. But there’s also time to have fun.
The group, which is made up of volunteers, has a radio room at the EMA Building. Grant Reed and Rhonda Wade, who are officers with the group, said ideally every county in Ohio should have their own ARES group.
The local group is part of the American Radio Relay League, which oversees all the radio groups. In Ohio, the local group is part of the Great Lake Sections, which has a district emergency coordinator. Each county then has its own emergency coordinator, which is Reed for Shelby County.
“We have about 35 members on the books,” said Wade. “We have close to 50 percent — 15 to 20 people — who support the group all the time.”
Members of ARES communicate through ham radios and use UHF and VHF frequencies.
“The radio can go through a repeater to reach another radio,” said Reed. “With high frequency, we can talk all over the world.”
The group has two main repeaters. There’s a 2 meter repeater in Dayton that Skywarn operates on a VH frequency.
“We are trained by the National Weather Service for severe weather alerts,” said Wade.
Members of the group, they said, will pay attention to weather patterns and record weather events such as hail and wind. That information is reported to the National Weather Service in Columbus.
“A lot of time they can’t see things on the radar but we can see them on the ground,” said Wade. “Wilmington can see the clouds, but not what’s happening in Sidney because of the curve of the Earth.
“Nothing beats the eyes on the ground,” she said.
People can listen to the Skywarn frequency, which is 146.835, if they have a scanner at home.
The organization, said Reed, has direct connection with the state emergency operations center in Columbus. There’s a amateur radio station there also.
“We can send messages via email and chatting,” said Reed. “With a ‘packet’ we can type in information. The radio can talk through a computer to another computer/radio.”
With the advent of digital communications, said Wade, the organization can use more than just radio waves to communicate.
“We still do Morse code,” said Reed.
“Several members are proficient at it,” said Wade. “If everything falls apart we can still communicate. If there’s no power, no cell phones, we can still communicate.”
Wade said the group’s members train for emergency situations.
“We practice because at any given time we can communicate when nothing else works,” said Wade. “When the 911 system in eastern Ohio went down, it was amateur radio operators who helped immediately.”
The cause of the problem, she said, was water got into the AT&T line, which dispruted the 911 service.
“We provide back up for the sheriff when the 911 system is getting repaired,” said Reed.
Wade said the local agency has two mobile units which are both equipped with the same type of equipment.
“They are self contained and run on battery or generators,” said Wade. “We can operate from far outside the base of the EMA office.”
Wade said the group holds events several times a year so people can watch or participate in various activities.
“We’ll do contesting to try to talk to as many people as we can during a 24-hour period,” said Wade.
The group will be hosting a 24-hour “Field Days: at the Shelby County EMA office and Shelby County Fairgrounds beginning at 2 p.m. Friday, June 26, and ending at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 27.
Stations will be available to view while “contesting” or making as many radio contacts as possible in all areas. Visitors are welcome to attend the event.
“During the field day, people can find out what we’re all about without having a license,” said Wade. “They can see and hear things they normally won’t.”
Wade said in times of an emergency, the ARES can deploy at a moment’s notice.
“There are amateur station at Wilson Hospital,” said Reed. “We have an antenna at the Red Cross office on Water Street. We have seven ‘go boxes’ which include two HF radios and five UHF/VHF radios that we can use to talk to people all over the world.”
“No matter what it is or where it is, we can go in a field or vehicle and we can set up and operate,” said Wade.
The mobile unit, they said, includes a marine frequency which includes commercial and citizens band radios. The radios are connected to a speaker so everytone in the unit can hear what is going on.
There are two to three generators in the mobile unit to be used when needed. One is on the main tow vehicle and the two little ones run the mobile unit.
“We can operate on any frquency/mode in here,” said Wade. “Small units will use a small antenna. Our mast goes into the air 40 to 50 feet so we can reach into a larger area.”
Most members of the group, they said, have had FEMA training courses. Many also have agro terrorist courses dealing with attacks on farmland.
“We stay on top of new training and skills,” said Wade. “We meet the fourth Sunday of each month at 7 p.m. at the EMA building.
Reed is the emergency coordinator for the county. Joe Clark is in charge of Skywarn for the county and is the assistant emergency coordinator. Mike Bennett is in charge of training the volunteers. John Probst and Mark Young are both assistant emergency coordinators for operations. Cherri Drinkwine is the public information officer.
Wade is the net manager for the county. Nick Sabo is the group’s secretary and repeater programmer. Eric patterson and Sherman Owings maintain the trailer and tow vehicle. Bryon Rowan also helps with the Skywarn program.
Anyone, they said, can become involved with the group. You must be a technician to be a first level of radio operator.
“This opens up the world of radio to you,” said Wade. “Then a general license comes next.”
“A technician must no the rules and regulations from the FCC,” said Reed. “This includes basic electronics. We hold a general class on electronics and radio waves. It includes formulas for signal strength and frequencies.
“An amateur radio operator tries to get as many priveleges as they can get. We can do propogation to the space station. We can get a signal to bounce off the moon and back. We can send a signal around the world,” he said. “Then there more advanced electronics you can learn.”
Different radio bands, said Wade, determines who the radio operator can talk too.
“A technician can participate in a little bit of everywhere,” said Wade. “Our group has tremendous talent. If we get enough interest, we’ll do a class.”
The ARES has had its trailer since 1999. The group was on standby for Y2K when the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000.
“We were on at the police department because we didn’t know what was going to work and what wasn’t,” said Reed.
In addition to being available in emergency situations, the group also sets up communications for parades, helps with marathons and assisted when the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure traveled through Shelby County. They also help at Relay for Life and at the Sidney fireworks.
“We can talk without cellphones,” said Wade. “We are always anxious to help.”
The group, said Reed, is a nonprofit agency with a 501 C3 organization. They are self-funded and don’t charge dues to its members.
They hold fundraisers through the year and accept donations to keep the group up and running.
“We have five or so members who are Honda employees,” said Reed. “We’ve received donations from the Honda Hero program.”
Their biggest fundraiser is a raffle. They sell tickets the first 20 days of December and then select the winners. Last year they had $10,000 worth of prizes they raffled off.
“We’re here and it’s fun,” said Wade. “We all have a good time. It’s important training and it benefits the community and me personally. We’re well training as a group.”
For more information about the group, visit ShelbyCountyOhARes.com. Contact information is available on the website.
And the word at the beginning of the story — … .. -.. -. . -.— — spells Sidney.