EARS on the Air

 

Written by Maria Veres in the October 2019 Issue

Ears on the air

It’s a scenario nobody likes to think about. On an ordinary afternoon, your electricity flickers out. You grab your phone to report the problem, but you can’t get online. With no warning, a cyber attack has knocked out the town’s internet and power grid. Emergency personnel across Edmond are trained to act quickly in emergencies like these. And they have help from a dedicated group of volunteers who have assisted with disaster response since before the internet existed.

Ready for the Worst

You may not be familiar with the Edmond Amateur Radio Society (EARS), but you’ve heard them at work. They’re the ones who monitor siren tests every month, making sure those wails are good and loud. They participate in monthly emergency response trainings with the City of Edmond, and they practice emergency communications at their own events. “We would approach a cyber attack like any other disaster,” says Clay Mayrose, EARS public information officer. “You solve the problems as they come at you.” Amateur radio operators (also called hams) use equipment that runs on batteries. Their radios work even when the internet, cell phones, and electrical power go down. Whether it’s a cyber attack, a weather event, or another emergency, hams stand ready to help.

EARS trains for emergency communications every year at an event called Field Day, where they test radio performance in a variety of conditions. “Field Day gets us out, gets our hands dirty, and we find out what works and what doesn’t,” says Clay. Clubs across the nation participate.

During bad weather, EARS members serve as storm spotters. Some observe conditions from their homes and broadcast them over their personal amateur radio stations. Others, like Clay, do actual storm chasing. The hams’ reports are relayed to the National Weather Service in Norman. “Storm spotting can be somewhat boring,” says Clay, “followed by two to three minutes of absolute terror, then more boredom.”

Behind the Scenes

The club helps our community during calmer times, too. “EARS has its fingers in a lot of different projects,” says Clay. They run communications at the Liberty Fest parade, and they’re involved in other Liberty Fest events as well. They work with other hams in the metro area to coordinate OKC events like the St. Patrick’s Day and Stockyards City parades.

EARS handles many of the communications for the OKC Memorial Marathon. Besides coordinating the traffic flow for thousands of runners, hams help with communications for the medical teams and other support personnel. Most EARS members are quiet types, so you won’t hear much about their involvement around town. But many of our favorite events wouldn’t run smoothly without their support.

New Hams Are Welcome

Anyone can apply for an amateur radio license. “It’s very easy to get into amateur radio these days,” says Clay. Each ham is assigned an individual radio station and call letters. (Clay’s are WA6LBU). They broadcast out of their homes or vehicles and converse with other hams across the globe. There are no age limits, making amateur radio an ideal hobby for people of all generations. Hams must pass a written licensing test. EARS offers monthly testing sessions in Edmond. For anyone who needs extra help, the club also runs test prep classes. EARS offers a great way to serve the community, build new skills, and have fun. Whether or not you get involved yourself, now you’ll know who to thank the next time you hear a siren test.

The EARS board of directors meets the second Tuesday of the month at the Edmond Downtown Community Center. Guests are welcome. Learn more at www.k5eok.org.

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