Hams help train emergency responders

Tom Kimball, left, of Ridgefield demonstrates ham radio equipment installed at the Ridgefield Emergency Operations Center to Oscar Fuller, middle, who coordinated the video project and Jim Schultz of Schultz Communications, which is producing the video.

Members of Ridgefield’s volunteer disaster communications team — all specially trained, FCC-licensed, amateur radio operators — have been assisting in the development of a communications training video for use by fire, police and emergency medical first responders.

Oscar Fuller of Danbury is coordinating the project. He is a member of Ridgefield’s communication team, called R-COMM,  and Connecticut Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).

Video production is funded through a federal/state grant managed by the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security’s Region 5 communications group. Region 5 includes all of Litchfield county and the northern Fairfield county communities — 43 towns in total.

The video will demonstrate the capabilities of amateur radio equipment and disaster-trained operators. Ridgefield’s Emergency Operations Center  or EOC  and many centers and hospitals throughout Region 5 are equipped with amateur radio equipment that provides backup communications when normal communication channels are out of service.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service motto is: “When all else fails — Amateur Radio.”

Often referred to as “Hams,” these radio operators have a long history of providing communications support during and after disasters. The regional ARES teams are active throughout the year and were used extensively during and after recent major power outages including Hurricane Sandy.

The training video focuses on the importance of including ham radio in emergency planning and operations. Many of Region 5 EOCs, including Ridgefield’s, are receiving expanded-capability amateur radio equipment through the DEMHS regional communication group. These new radios and antennas will be installed and tested over the next few months.

Amateur radio volunteer operators provide communications support during planned civic events as well as disasters. Local ARES teams have provided safety communications networks during Ridgefield events including: Fireworks Display, the Annual Triathlon, Dog Walk and Halloween Walk.

Dick Aarons, Ridgefield’s deputy emergency manager, coordinates the activities of the local amateur radio support team as they assist the town.

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