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News / Northwest

Helping through ham: Emergency services enlist amateur radio specialists

By Sam Temple, The News-Review
Published: February 7, 2023, 6:04am

ROSEBURG, Ore. — George Roth built his first shortwave radio when he was in sixth grade.

“In grade school, being able to hear radio stations from far away places was very interesting to me,” Roth said.

Roth has a degree in physics and computer science and around the time he retired in 2005, began using significant equipment and earned his radio operators license from the Federal Communications Commission.

Now in charge of the county’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services organization, his radio skills have been a helpful tool for organizations like the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and American Red Cross.

To support disaster relief operations, Roth has set up emergency communications across the country for the Red Cross for the past 15 years. He’s also worked with the Douglas County emergency manager to support emergency communications equipment in Roseburg and Reedsport.

“We primarily work with the commissioners and the county,” Roth said. “We have the ability to orchestrate a massive response with or without internet, cell or landline phones or electricity. All through our radios we can talk, send an email or digital messages and we can send reports between stations without any traditional infrastructure.”

Amateur radio, commonly called ham radio, uses the radio frequency spectrum to send messages.

Roth said he was able to exchange message with his daughter in Vermont from an isolated location in Death Valley, Calif., using solar collectors for power.

Members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services are trained through FEMA incident command system and receive formal training certificates. They train weekly with radio services equipment.

Roth said many of its members have their own personal equipment capable of communicating locally and with Oregon Emergency Management in Salem.

For those interested in learning more about ham radio, the Umpqua Valley Amateur Radio Club will have a table at the Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show Friday through Sunday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

For more info on the Umpqua Valley Amateur Radio Club, visit uvarc.net.