VIRGINIA

Amateur radio operators help emergency crews in disasters

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Getting a cellphone signal in a storm or other disaster can be challenging so many emergency crews rely on amateur radio operators to help fill in the gap.

Tom Fournier is a member of Woodbridge Wireless, Inc., an amateur radio club. The group helps local emergency rescue teams use radio to communicate when cellphones and call centers fail.

"Everybody thinks that ham radio is your grandfather's radio and what we're trying to prove is that ham radio is still very relevant in today's world and technology," Fournier says. "Almost anytime there's a disaster, you're going to find amateur radio operators busy."

"When you start as a kid, it's something you carry on throughout your life, it's a lifetime hobby," says Loyd Davis, a Morse Code master who has had the hobby since the '50's.

Now amateur radio is moving into the 21st century. Today experts are also using digital technology. They can even send an email over radio waves.

"We can send messages to anywhere in the world and we can get messages back," says Terry McCarty.

For some, amateur radio is a way to pass the time, a way to feel and be connected. But when typical technology fails, and radio is the only option, it's a way to save a life.

"I can help someone else that needs help when possibly no one else can, and that gives me a good feeling about who I am, and why I am," McCarty says.

"That's how we end up being better is serving each other," Fournier says.

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