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Network down? Ham operators still will be talking

6/24/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

In case the worst happens, ham radio operators are there.

Members of the Ellis County Ham Operators club were testing their equipment Saturday at Historic Fort Hays, 1472 U.S. Highway 183 Alternate.

"It's an annual affair put together by the Amateur Radio Relay League that lets everybody go out in the field to make sure that in time of emergency their equipment would work, and we could communicate across the nation and around the world," said club member Dennis Ernst. "Like out here, we have no city power; we're on generators or batteries.

"We put up our own antennas, we have our own radios, own equipment, so we're completely off the grid."

In case of a natural disaster, for instance, ham radio operators can communicate across the street or across the globe.

"If the radio, television, the cellphones, all that network would go down, we can still talk," Ernst said. "That's not a problem."

Ham radio enthusiasts also just like to get on the radio and talk to somebody anywhere in the world.

"Mostly, it's the fun, be able to sit back and listen, talk to somebody in Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts," Ernst said of why he has been involved for the last 17 years, when he first got his license.

For anyone interested in joining, the local ham radio operators club meets at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month in the Ellis County meeting room at 601 Main.

Ernst said it doesn't take much to get started; an entry level, 2-meter amateur radio could cost approximately $100.

One club member has a ham radio in his car and was talking to somebody in Australia just the other day.

"Just the ability to talk to others," Ernst said. "And there's some real characters out there -- they're a hoot."