Ham Ops Stein and Buscaglia

Morse Code Still An Option in a Dire Situation

Morse code still an option in a dire situation. This was the subtitle is a great report posted by WIVB-TV in Buffalo, New York recently. Here is a summary of the report:

Amateur radio provides critical communications when all else fails

Morse code still an option in a dire situation

Luke Moretti, News 4 Reporter Published: October 27, 2016, 6:07 pm Updated: October 28, 2016, 5:03 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A catastrophic blackout could take out modern modes of telecommunications. And that could spell big trouble for people and agencies that rely on power to communicate via the Internet or cell phones.

“It’s a very big concern throughout the country and the world, said Adam Cohen, special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office. There’s been increased public attention surrounding the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which could overload the power grid and produce widespread blackouts.

Steven Piotrowski, an amateur radio operator, says an electromagnetic pulse could come from a massive solar storm or a high-altitude nuclear detonation. It could cause local transformers to fail.  “Generators run on fuel and fuel eventually runs out.

If tried and true types of communications fail because of a natural disaster or deliberate attack — what happens then? Cohen is talking about amateur radio and the use of Morse code, a system of sending messages using long and short signals of sound that match letters, which can make words.

Morse code was developed in the 1800s and initially used to transmit messages across telegraph wires.  “Just dots and dashes,” explained Tony Buscaglia, an accomplished international Morse code operator. Buscaglia regularly communicates with other ham radio operators around the world from his home on Grand Island. Buscaglia, along with Dick Stein and Mark Adams, belong to Niagara Frontier Radiosport, a local amateur radio club.

They say Morse code is a useful alternative to voice transmissions during an emergency.

Erie County has a pre-established organization of amateur radio operators at its disposal. If the power goes out and backup communications become necessary, local ham radio operators are ready to step up, according to Steven Piotrowski. Piotrowski says amateur radio operators bring a unique skill set to the table. Sometimes building their own radios.

Being part of emergency communications is a mandate to have a license.” According to the American Radio Relay League, there are over 741,000 active amateur radio licenses in the U.S., and around 3 million operators in the world.

While many hams use Morse code for fun, this old-school technology — as a last resort — could be the answer when normal communications fail.

Adam Cohen remembers how panicked people were following the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Amateur radio provides a vital communications link during emergencies. Operators have done it numerous times with hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

If something did happen in the Western New York region, Steve Piotrowski says there’s a plan in place to use ham radio if necessary.

There’s ham radio equipment that’s pre-positioned at all the hospitals. All we need is the operators.”

Whether it’s voice communication or Morse code in the direst circumstances, the technology is there to make a difference.

Be sure to see the full report and the 5-minute video of their report. These are the public information reports that enhance our hobby!

Amateur radio provides critical communications when all else fails

 

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