New and veteran "hams," or amateur radio operators, filled the training room at the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center in Georgetown to learn about how they can help the EOC during both natural and man-made disasters, and even during regular events, such as festivals and road races.
EOC Director Joe Thomas explained the changing demographics of Sussex County and the 9-1-1 calls the EOC receives, as more and more calls come in to the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center from cell phones. Thomas explained what the EOC does, what goes on inside on a daily basis and during disasters, and the helpful roles that amateur radio operators can play during and after a disaster. He says the EOC is looking for more radio operators not just in the center, but also at evacuation shelters and fire companies to provide information from the field, and also backup communication in case phone, power or internet service goes down. The EOC's Mobile Command Center also has amateur radio operators on board when it's deployed.
Many of the radio operators (including WGMD Operations Manager Walt Palmer) who've worked in the EOC during recent disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and the back-to-back blizzards in 2010, are members of SARA, the Sussex Amateur Radio Assocation. One of their regular activities is to man radios at the EOC during natural disasters to receive reports about conditions throughout the county, which Thomas says can vary widely and change quickly.
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