A true emergency is something like what happened recently in Oroville and Sacramento Valley area – where an emergency spillway that has never been used in the previous 48 years begins to fail. This failure threatened the lives and livelihood of over 150,000 people and resulted in forced evacuation. Everyone thinks, if they have a cell phone they’ll be fine, but what we’ve seen time and again is that cell phones are an unreliable service under these circumstances. The lines are often jammed with “all circuits busy” messages. In some cases, towers are down due to flooding or power failures or a combination there-of. HAM radio coordinators really come to the rescue in these situations.
Oroville Spillway Damage Feb 2017 – Photo Courtesy N.Brooks, Placerville CA (c) 2017
This particular emergency hit closer to home than usual – one of our employee’s brother and his family had to evacuate. It took them over 4 hours to travel what normally would be a 45-minute drive. Many of our close friends and loved ones have experienced loss due to flooding. One of our other employee’s daughter, who lives close to Oroville, California has HAM Radio to thank for keeping her family and friends safe and informed. “So happy the mandatory evacuations are over, and glad we live high enough that we never had to evacuate. I’ve never been one to watch news much, but I think I’ve watched more news in the last 48 hours than I have in the last five years! I’ve also never quite understood my husband’s love of amateur radio, but after listening to the Yuba-Sutter Amateur Emergency Coordinator, Steve Sweetman, I have a whole new respect for amateur radio, and I felt like I got my best news from the radio! Thanks!”
Steve Swteetman is the Amateur radio emergency coordinator for Yuba and Sutter counties. They volunteer their time and use their own equipment. Below is a summary report from Steve on the communications that were handled during the evacuations.
“On February 12, Yuba/Sutter ARES EC Steve Sweetman, K6TAZ, opened and managed a net to provide information and gather reports of road closures or problems during the Oroville Dam Incident evacuation. The net received reports from radio amateurs who were evacuating. Traffic was reported to be very heavy, with a trip that would normally take 20 minutes extending into “3-hour stop-and-go ordeal.” The net also gathered information on where evacuees could get fuel for their vehicles, where evacuation centers were being set up and road closures. “This became a critical need, as the thousands of people evacuated their houses with 1-hour notice. K6taz was operating from his house on a high hill outside Yuba City, He is was safe from flooding and housed 17 evacuees staying on his property.” The net ran on and off from Sunday 4pm until Wednesday 8pm. Total operating time was 48 hours and 322 contacts were made. He had reports that the information he was relaying was more informative than the radio or television. Steve was also monitoring the press conferences and would give updated reports. He was in constant communication with the Governor’s office of emergency services in Sacramento.”
EC ( Emergency Coordinator)
SKYWARN Weather spotter YU-19
AF/MARS Member AFA9SS
ARRL Official Emergency Station
Bob Crane, founder of C. Crane has always been a huge proponent of HAM radio because it is so valuable in these situations. Several C. Crane employees have their license as well.
In a day and age where what people have said is impossible is now happening, it seems prudent to invest in something reliable. Whether you choose to go as far as getting a license and investing in amateur radio equipment so you can communicate both directions, or you purchase a reliable radio like our CCRadio-2E that allows you to listen to the 2-Meter HAM band, you will never regret being prepared and having access to the best and most up to date information when you need it.
Below are some additional resources on the Oroville spillway:
If you would like to get your license, please visit ARRL (American Radio Relay League). Not sure exactly what Amateur (HAM) Radio is or what you might here? – visit one of our previous blog posts to learn about it.