County Seeks New HAMs to Assist Last Line of Defense

By Tamas Mondovics

Area residents seeking a way to earn their Amateur Radio (HAM Radio) license and have the ability and the skills to help support their neighbors and their communities in times of need had a chance to do just that this month.

Hillsborough County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) in partnership with WMNF 88.5FM Community Radio, announced the sponsoring of two amateur radio courses.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) are membership organizations charged with the responsibility of providing back-up and auxiliary communications during times of emergency.

ARES is sponsored and organized through the field organization of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The RACES program is sponsored and organized through the local emergency management agency.

According to Keating Floyd with Hillsborough County Emergency Management, the importance of  possessing such a license is that once finished, the new recruits join more than 400 people who have taken these courses and earned an Amateur Radio license as well as the opportunity to lend a hand during an emergency.

“During an emergency, communication is everything,” Floyd said. “These guys are the last line of defense, especially when you think about weather-related disasters such as those in 2004 and 2005, when Florida was impacted by eight hurricanes.”

Hillsborough County encompasses almost 1,000 square miles and has a population of about one million people and is home to the Port of Tampa, one of the largest ports.

While emphasizing that hurricanes have the greatest potential of major disruption to the county’s local communications systems, Floyd mentioned a number of other disaster possibilities that may require the assistance of HAMs.

In Hillsborough County, both the ARES and RACES organizations are consolidated under one leadership structure headed by an Emergency Coordinator/RACES Officer and several assistants.

For information, visit the Hillsborough County ARES/RACES www.hcaresraces.org.