Amateur Radio Operators Play Vital Communication Role During Emergencies | Emergency Preparedness

Volunteers can serve as link between Santa Barbara County Emergency Operation Center and hospitals, and assist first responders

The Amateur Radio Emergency Services radio room at the Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center in Santa Barbara allows operators to communicate with Lompoc, Santa Maria and the Santa Ynez Valley during crisis situations. During an emergency, ARES operators may be assigned to city Emergency Operation Centers, hospitals, clinics and other locations as needed. (Amateur Radio Emergency Services photo)

During fires, earthquakes and other emergencies, licensed amateur radio operators provide a vital service to help communities communicate.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Services, or ARES, keeps key officials in contact during emergencies when more traditional communication methods may not be available.

“It’s a way to take your hobby and do something useful for the community,” said Lou Dartanner, Santa Barbara County ARES district coordinator who has participated in the organization since the 1980s.

“And especially in a disaster or emergency it allows us do some more mundane things that releases the fire personnel or law enforcement personnel to go do more important things.”

Dartanner said the volunteer organization provides its members with an opportunity to do what they can and like to do.

“You spend all this money on this radio equipment, it’s nice to be able to go out there and use it to do some good,” he said.

The ham radio operators are included in the county disaster plan, and during a declared emergency ARES members work out of the Emergency Operations Center, where a complete radio system allows communication between the Public Health Department and hospitals.

ARES, part of the Amateur Radio Relay League, has almost 100 volunteer members in four units in the county — Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Santa Ynez.

If an…

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