Amateur (ham) Radio capabilities serve as a vital source of communication during emergency situations. To help support communication efforts in the county during times of need, the Dakota County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) in partnership with the Dakota County Emergency Management provided a ham radio operator technician course earlier this month to interested community members.

The course was offered to prepare attendees for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s ham radio operator licensing testing to help expand communication resources in the county. Dakota County Emergency Management is currently working on Standard Operation Guidelines and Standard Operation Procedures with local ham radio operators to explore how the county can efficiently utilize their services in an event of emergency. 

“By increasing the number of ham radio operators in the area, it gives us the capability of having this resource spread across the county to assist us in a time that we have communication breakdowns or during storm season when we are watching for severe weather,” said Deanna Beckman, director of Dakota County Emergency Management. “There are always going to be situations where we have no capability of having cell phone reception, and even the possibility of lacking radio reception, where our ham radio operators could step in and be able to assist us.” 

Emergency Communications during disaster events are not 100 percent fool-proof. ARES was created in 1935 by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to provide any type of radio communications support to public agencies such as the Red Cross and the National Weather Service (NWS) in times of need. In most disasters traditional communication systems generally fail, cellular systems are quickly overloaded and traditional telephones and internet systems are plagued with interruptions and outages. When all else fails, amateur radio still works to provide communication support when it is needed most. Ham radio operators serve as a backup system of communicators and equipment that get messages through, wherever and whenever they are needed. During disasters, ham radio has proven invaluable in maintaining both local and long distance communications.  

“In many areas of the country ham radio operators are the eyes and ears for the Emergency Management as well as the NWS as storm spotters,” said Jim ‘JR’ Reider, Ham Radio Operator and Instructor. “Our resources gives us the ability to work with these different agencies to provide support when other communication resources fail.”

Nearly 30 individuals participated in the course and will be testing for certification on Monday, March 28. Reider said the Dakota County ARES and Emergency Management hopes to offer more Ham Radio courses in the future to add more resources to the Emergency Communications Team.

In addition, the Dakota County Emergency Management and Dixon County Emergency Management will be holding a Severe Weather Awareness Training from 7-9 p.m. on April 28 at the College Center in South Sioux City. This training is open to the public and there is no cost to attend. For more information please contact Beckman at dbeckman@southsiouxcity.org or 402-750-1905.  

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