Ham Radio

Today I’m very grateful for having picked up amateur (ham) radio as a hobby, and developing my skills with it.

And I’m exceptionally grateful for one specific friend, also a ham, for his willingness to help on short notice.

It all started with a call-out for WASART.

A hiker and her dog were stranded 5 miles in on a popular hiking trail in northern Snohomish County. WASART was called in to facilitate a portion (the canine portion) of the rescue, while Snohomish County Search and Rescue was there as well for the person.

I’d been on a call-out to this location before. It’s a complete dead-zone. Not only is there no cell coverage within perhaps 30 miles, at the time I know of no amateur radio repeaters – devices, often on hill or mountain tops – that relay radio signals from portable radios to other radios listening over a much wider area. We went literally radio silent for the duration of that mission, and it made the folks back home very nervous.

After that event, I inquired and found out that there was, in fact, a repeater very near to the call out location that we could have used.

Once I realized we were returning, I reached out to my ham friend and asked if he could communicate with that repeater from his home. On finding that he could, I asked him to keep an ear open that afternoon, as our team was deploying and the ability to perhaps relay messages back to civilization would be very much appreciated.

Over the course of the (successful) deployment I was able to periodically reach out to him over amateur radio, and he would relay short(ish) messages back to WASART administration via phone and text, as well as relay messages back to me.

Radio-silent no more.

Ham radio is a hobby, to be sure, but one of the aspects that appeals to me, and people like my friend, is its use in emergency situations. While this specific communications path might not be considered an “emergency” — and we certainly would have done ok without it — it’s also an example of how amateur radio can serve as a vital communications link when other technologies fail. For me, I’m glad that the setup worked, and that I was able to keep people “back home” informed of our progress. But for both my friend and myself it was also a chance to practice skills we would use in a true disaster.

My role yesterday was to pull the WASART equipment trailer, pictured above parked at the trailhead.