Amateur Radio Operators To Simulate Worst Case Scenario

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Emergencies never happen at opportune times. Natural disasters, as well as other types of emergency situations, can cause a loss of electricity and our ability to communicate through phones and computers. In such cases, Benton County’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) gets to work helping community leaders and first responders get reliable communications. Life-critical calls can be handled as well as orders for food, water and medical supplies needed by emergency organizations.
ARES members take their responsibilities seriously and have regularly scheduled meetings and training throughout the year.  Benton County ARES will take part in the annual American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Simulated Emergency Test, in October, to exercise the abilities of amateur radio operators involved with ARES. The national exercise is October 3-4. Benton County will be running its Test on October 10, at 10 AM. Benton County ARES will be working in tandem with the Benton County Emergency Management Agency and the Benton County Community Emergency Response Team. A physical deployment to various parts of the county was planned for the Benton County Emergency Response Team and ARES members. But, this part of the training has been cancelled. The parts that will take place include the on-air portions using VHF (the Warsaw repeater) and the HF contacts. There will also be an online After-Action Report. Some members will be taking part at their homes.
During part of the year, about 30 to 40 members of the Benton County ARES are available to respond to a variety of communication needs. About 20 members are involved year round when the “snow birds” head north. They helped establish reliable communications for Johnson County’s 911 Center when it had a cable cut (in 2011), enabling the Center to handle emergency calls. When Benton County was dealing with a lot of rain and even flooding in 2019, amateur radio operators all over our county kept in touch (when it wasn’t storming) with their radio equipment. They have also helped communities that have been hit by tornados and hurricanes.
The group participates in many local events such as Jubilee Days and Heritage Days in Warsaw, and July 4th activities in Lincoln, helping out wherever they can. ARES has participated in parades, the Benton County Health Department’s Drive-Through Flu Clinics, various walk-a-thons and its members do storm watches. 
“We also help with traffic control at crowded events stationing ourselves at control points so we can have traffic stopped when buses need to turn around, and we can count people who pass by,” said Renee Cason, new Public Information Officer for Benton County ARES and for Dam Amateur Radio Klub. “Amateur radios can be plugged in electric outlets, and they can use emergency power provided by batteries.  The group is independent of phone services.”
Every amateur radio operator is licensed. The first level is called “Technician.” There are several tests that can be taken, some more difficult than others. There are also classes offered for groups, such as hospitals, that want to be able to communicate by radio in emergencies. 
Cason said that there are quite a few women members of ARES, and she, herself, has been training with the group for four years. She is 18 years old, and is also a Warsaw firefighter.
“I learned a lot about public affairs from my mother, who has been doing that job,” said Cason. “It is interesting that men seem to become members of ARES so they can do things like building antennas.  Women seem to join the group because they want to be able to help out in emergency situations.”