Pacific amateur radio operators are gearing up to provide emergency communication during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.
Alderman Steve Myers asked local hams to be on hand during the eclipse in case someone needs an ambulance or police during a cell tower overload.
Speaking at the July 18 board of aldermen meeting, Myers said the request for hams is just a precaution.
The number of visitors predicted to converge on Pacific to watch the eclipse ranges from 5,000 to 20,000.
The city will try to direct eclipse watchers to Liberty Field or the city park as the best place to view the eclipse. A ham station will be set up in each park along with a station at Pacific City Hall.
“We don’t know what will happen,” Myers said. “But if the huge number of visitors that is predicted shows up in the city parks and the eclipse watchers are all trying to use their cellphones to take pictures or make calls there could be a cell tower overload.”
In case someone in the crowd needed an ambulance or the police, and could not make a cellphone call, hams will be on hand to notify the police dispatcher.
Pacific Police Capt. Don Locke, assistant police chief, said one ham could set up at city hall to accept requests from hams in the field. If a ham called from one of the parks for emergency assistance, the ham at city hall could notify the dispatcher.
Jack Vines, Pacific Meramec Valley Amateur Radio Club (PMVARC) president, contacted club members to participate in the emergency communications exercise.
“There is reason to believe the sheer number of people could cause a meltdown of the cellular phone system,” Vines said. “If this occurs, police and ambulance service could be impossible to obtain.”
The Pacific club operates a digital amateur radio repeater on Signal Hill, and meets monthly at the Tri-County Senior Center. The club has assisted with monitoring of the senior center’s 5K run.
“Our mission is to use our repeater, which was provided by the city of Pacific, to assist in emergency communications in any way we can,” Vines said.
Myers said he decided to enlist the hams to set up several stations during the eclipse because of the unknown.
“The local ham club is a city resource,” he said. “It makes sense to use the resources that we have in case there is a need.”