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HAM radios reach Haiti despite disaster



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BOUNTIFUL -- Getting help to those in Haiti affected by the earthquake is going to be a challenge.

For one, several communication towers have been toppled. That means no cell or landline phones for many residents.

However, HAM radio operators are doing their best to make a connection.

As soon as he heard about the Haiti earthquake, Gary Johnson knew the best way to get detailed information was to go to his garage.

Johnson's a HAM radio operator hoping to hear -- maybe even help -- from his Bountiful home all the way to Haiti.

**Did you know?**
There are over 660,000 ham radio operators in the U.S. and over 2 million operators worldwide. -ARRL
"We have cleared specific frequencies that we wait for help and welfare traffic to come to us, and then we'll pass it on," Johnson said.

At a time when we rely on cell phones to communicate, this old fashioned technology still works when cell phone towers and landline towers are down. In the first few critical hours after a disaster, there's no doubt HAM radio operators are crucial for communication.

Johnson said, "Amateurs can take a battery, their equipment, string a piece of wire up in a tree, and they can get out around the world."

All morning, though, Johnson couldn't get anything from Haiti.

He did hear from a HAM radio operator in the Dominican Republic, the country right next to Haiti. The operator didn't have good news about trying to hear from Haiti.

Johnson said that until early afternoon, "They say that they have gotten no traffic out of there whatsoever."

To him, that means only one thing: "It tells me that they need a lot of help."

As the afternoon went on, Johnson started hearing radio traffic on some of the emergency channels set up for this disaster. He then heard from a man in Texas who finally got word from Haiti.

Now, with some communication open, Johnson thinks it won't be long before lots of help is there.

"It's just so tragic," he said, "and there are lots of casualties, of course."

Johnson says he'll be able to get better reception to Haiti in the night hours when radio frequencies are stronger.

Of course, he isn't the only HAM radio operator listening to what's going on. All across the country they're listening, ready to help.

Salvation Army using radio to locate loved ones

The Salvation Army will help U.S. residents locate and verify the health and safety status of family and friends in Haiti by using its Team Emergency Radio Network.

People can check on the status of their loved ones by accessing the Salvation Army's SATERN locator system at www.satern.org.

During Hurricane Katrina SATERN processed over 65,000 health and welfare requests.

The SATERN organization includes more than 2,800 volunteer licensed radio operators.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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