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John Hollenhorst ReportingA Utah man has helped save more than a dozen lives in the Hurricane Katrina disaster and all without leaving his basement in Grantsville. He may even have helped save a New Orleans police officer.
The good side of every disaster is that it brings out the best. Innumerable people and organizations swing into action. And among the usually unsung heroes are some people who link up electronically and save lives by remote control.
Rick Cain calls his basement room his radio shack. For days his antenna has been picking up ham radio traffic on the disaster. On the Gulf Coast, amateur radio is a lifeline because most phones don't work.
Rick Cain, Grantsville: "Yesterday I took traffic on a police officer who was stuck in the attic of his house. And he had a cell phone with him and he couldn't call his own office from New Orleans!"
Cain relayed the information to other hams on the Salvation Army Radio Network. He still has no idea how the police officer's message got to him, or whether he was saved. But Cain played a key role in another incident that was later detailed on N.P.R., National Public Radio.
Ric Cain: "I understand that there were 15-plus souls stranded on the top of a building. That was the first thing that came. Second message that came, that turned it urgent, is that there was an 81-year-old woman on that roof who was in need of emergency care."
Somehow the people in jeopardy made a cell-phone call. Someone transferred it to the Red Cross in Oklahoma. A ham radio volunteer relayed the message to Oregon. And a ham there talked to Rick Cain, coordinating in Utah. Cain passed it on to a ham in Texas.
The reason all those electronic hops are necessary is because of the nature of short-wave radio. Often, an antenna like this picks up distant transmission much better than those that are close to home. The desperate message was relayed to the Louisiana Highway Patrol.
Rick Cain: "I don't know the outcome."
Reporter: "According to NPR, the people were saved."
Rick Cain: "Thank you God. That's what it's all about. We seldom get to read the last page of the book.
Cain is uncomfortable taking any credit for saving lives because so many people are involved. But he does want people to know how vital a role amateur radio plays in many disasters.