Ham radio enthusiasts prepare for all manner of natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornado, storms, anything that causes normal communication channels to temporarily fail. What we don’t train for is a viral global pandemic along with a complete shutdown of business and society. At least I don’t think we do. I’m not involved with many emergency service aspects of the hobby, but I’ve attended enough Field Day events to understand it’s risks, like the potato salad left too long in the sun.
This isn’t a failing on our part, I’ve found nothing in any ARRL Handbook to address this current situation. The ways we might provide service to our communities in this new reality are just going to have to be worked out as we go along.
The power of wireless communication has always been its ability to call for help. Like when a hurricane hits some large coastal area, radio amateurs can stand in any gaps in the existing infrastructure and call for help, relay messages, etc. The necessary element being that there is some other place, farther away, that’s unaffected by the crisis and capable of sending assistance. But if the storm hits everywhere with equal ferocity, who do you call for help then?
In our current situation, there’s really no one to call to bring help and that tends to neutralize our unique power to shrink distance.
Of course the hobby provides us something to do while stuck at home, and the ability to communicate with other hams can soften the pangs of social isolation.
I’ve heard reports from around the US that local repeater traffic is way up. General welfare nets are popping up all over to check on elder hams and to make certain they have what they need. These kind of activities begin at the intersection of kindness and radio, and I hope these persist long after this viral episode has subsided.
Too often our intense focus on DX and Contesting makes contact with those in faraway places seem more highly valued than those in our own community. Perhaps this will change. The concept of hanging out on two meters seems odd to some, especially when our time could be spent filling the log with endless, vapid contacts. But we can get back to local comms, and we might even make a few new friends in the process who we never knew lived so close. Friends who one day we will meet for coffee. We might even do that using FM simplex and that might become a thing again!
I’m not trying to tell anyone how to have fun, but we find ourselves in a unique time where all the major DXpeditions are postponed and all the radio conferences, hamfests, and conventions are canceled. Radio contests continue, but without multi-operators piled high in some million-dollar superstation. In all likelihood you won’t be doing Field Day with your club this time around. We need a reason to be radio active and we we must be creative or risk wasting an awful lot of what looks exactly like “free” time.
73, stay well, wash you hands.
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