Always alert, amateur radio operators take to the airwaves

Hams hone their skills at the 2014 Ham Radio Field Day.

Strong storms that moved through the Heartland early this week are a sign that severe weather season is in full swing, but even when severe weather strikes, and the power goes out, thereâ??s a group of local amateurs just waiting to help, amateur radio operators that is.

â??There was a storm this spring which was not terribly severe, but actually quite a bit of power was out...I just started listening, there were hams, some were out, some were just in their home, various people kind of called in you know where the power is out, that kind of thing,â?? said Don Bindner, a local amateur radio operator (also known as a â??Hamâ??).

In his spare time, Bindner enjoys operating a small Ham radio out of his garage. It may not seem like much, but Bindner considers it a rich hobby that allows him to experiment, build and connect with other ham radio enthusiasts around the world.

â??I always like trying something new that I havenâ??t tried before, I like building something new,â?? said Bindner.

Heâ??s made contacts all over Europe and even one in Africa, and he enjoys tinkering with his equipment to make even more connections worldwide. Having that practice communicating with others during his free time has prepared him and others to jump into action if a need ever does arise.

â??Hams practice passing communication, itâ??s one of the things they do in the hobby, but since youâ??ve practiced doing that, in an emergency, you know what to do,â?? said Bindner.

Now it may be scary to think that in the event of an emergency communication lies in the hands of a group of so called â??amateurs,â?? but according to Bindner that term is somewhat misleading.

â??We sometimes use the word amateur of course to say â??oh youâ??re an amateur,â?? that is to mean not skillful. In the case of Ham Radio, I think the term amateur most accurately means you donâ??t get paid. Weâ??re volunteers,â?? said Bindner. â??Really, if you happen to be in an emergency and you needed help, or even if you didnâ??t need help, just needed to get word out to people who care about you because your cell phoneâ??s not working, youâ??re not really going to care if itâ??s an amateur or not. You just care that you can get the word out."

So you can rest a little easier knowing that in the event of an emergency, these Hams light up the airwaves, disseminating important information for the people who need it most.

If you have an interest in becoming a Ham radio operator, youâ??re in luck. Anyone can become a Ham, all you have to do is pass a licensing exam, which Hams like Bindner are more than happy to help with. For more information on the steps to become a licensed Ham operator, click here.