Alderman Mike Pigg says amateur radio equipment should be installed in the new city hall emergency operations center (EOC).
“We should do it now while we’re installing equipment in the building,” Pigg said.
City Administrator Harold Selby, who is a licensed amateur radio operator with the ham call sign KA∅WXX, agreed, saying the equipment could be installed now without a great deal of cost.
“The city is currently pulling cables for the dispatch center,” Selby said. “We could pull both cables at the same time.”
When land lines and cell towers are knocked down by disasters, such as Katrina, or cell towers are jammed as they were in recent floods, amateur radio continues to operate.
“That’s what we have an EOC for,” Police Chief Matt Mansell said. “During a disaster, ham radio is a whole other world.
The comments were made in informal discussion as the Oct. 1 board of aldermen meeting was breaking up.
Dian Becker with Pacific Emergency Management is a licensed ham. Her call sign is KD EPF.
“Hams stay on the air during every catastrophe,” said Bob Masson, KB∅JDY, who volunteered in the Pacific EOC for 15 days during the 2008 flood.
“When communications systems fail due to a wide-area or localized natural disaster, amateur radio works right away all the time,” according to Jim Hayne, Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL).
In 1993, flood members of the Zero Beaters amateur radio club in Washington set up a command center at the Red Cross headquarters, where there was no phone system, and a licensed ham rode with each Red Cross and AmeriCorps worker to keep communications open as they traveled the county to assess damage and report on victims.
Hams also answered radios at the Franklin County EOC in Union, which has amateur radio equipment.
Keith Wilson, KZH, Franklin County deputy county emergency manager, is FEMA disaster volunteer and an instructor in ham classes in Franklin and neighboring counties.
“It’s time for Pacific to install amateur radio equipment in a state-of-the-art government center like this,” Pigg said. “(My wife) Jill is active with the Police Explorers who are working to get ham licenses and they could then operate that equipment.”
Jill Pigg, a former mayor, established the emergency operations position in Pacific.
The city, which has experienced four 500-year floods in the past 50 years, and had two disabling ice storms in recent years, also is dissected by two railroads and occasionally experiences a train wreck.
Jill Pigg set up the system that would identify every provider of equipment, material or service, in or near Pacific that would be needed during a disaster.
“This is the right thing for us to do,” Mike Pigg said.