This is a phrase used all together too much in western Kentucky these days.  There was of course a tremendous ice storm this last week of January 2009 over there and virtually all common forms of communications ceased to function over a wide area.  I heard a news report saying that it was now the plan for more Emergency Operations Centers (EOC’S) to integrate Amateur Radio stations into their infrastructure.  Wow.  What is Old is New Again.

With all the modern technologies out there, Cell Phone, Internet, Dial Up Voice and Satellite Internet, you’d think that Emergency Managers (and american families) would never have to do without communication.  Well as it works out, the first thing to go in a disaster is communication.  This recent ice storm shut down the power to over 700,000 households and many entire cities.  When electrical service is down more than 12 hours, most telephone (thusly internet) service and cable company battery backup time is exceeded and you are off line and out of touch with the outside world.  Such is the way of disasters that interrupt electrical power.

 The scale of this outage isn’t lost on this amateur radio operator.  Nor were it’s effects of effectively isolating anyone without a charged satellite phone or a Ham Radio Station ignored by the sheer inconvenience to those effected.  I hope you and they learned something from this.  

If you personally don’t have an amateur radio license, get to know the ham nearby you and help him put up his antenna.  At least don’t complain when he puts up a tower across the street for his antenna. Alternatively, become an amateur radio operator.  The FCC has removed the morse code requirement from the test and has sample tests from the actual pool of questions.  Either way, you will get to be able to reach out to let relatives where you are and what your condition is.  When everything else fails, amateur radio will always work.  

Our power grid is easily interrupted by natural and man made influences.  Imagine an EMP terrorist attack on the eastern United States.   Power would be interrupted for many months if not years over a wide area making the power outage in Kentucky this week look like a picnic in the woods.  How would you or your community communicate with the rest of the world when even satellite phones wouldn’t work.  There will always be a ham radio operator with his trusty backup emergency rig that works on 12 volt.  

A licensed, experienced operator will be the backbone of any EOC, neighbor hood cooperative survival network, or small town center.  They never go hungry, go without water but would certainly occasionally pull long shifts without sleep.  If you have a working two way radio, you will survive any widespread shutdown of electrical service.  You will be taken care of because you will be an important part of dealing with the disaster locally.  

This is the fastest way of preparing for a natural or manmade disaster. It is important to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Cross training in other emergency management disciplines is also useful because as you operate the radio, you are already familiar with nomenclature and acronyms which permeate the emergency management culture these days.  Become a medic, get certified in a Community Emergency Response Team, become a pre-trained Red Cross Volunteer and certainly get your amateur radio license.

This is not to say that you should avoid having your own survival supplies.  Who do you suppose is more comfortable in Kentucky these days.  Those with a 1000 gallon propane tank running a pre-installed generator big enough to run their water well and refrigerator, or those living without such things.  Those with stored water, food and alternative methods of heating their homes, or those without.  You decide how you should be living or should I say preparing.