Brentwood: Class offers introduction to
ham radio emergency communications

By Marta Yamamoto for the Times

BRENTWOOD -- When a major disaster occurs, be it fire, earthquake or something else, neighborhoods could be cut off from rescue services and need to take care of themselves. Those trained in emergency and disaster communications have better odds of coming through the crisis.

And while today's cell technology seems ever powerful, during disaster situations telephones and cell phones may be down or overloaded. Ham radios, using a technology that has been around for more than 100 years, could well be the best source for clear, prompt communication.

On Thursday, Sept. 10, Salvation Army SATERN Training Chairman Chuck Graham will conduct a presentation at Brentwood Neighborhood Church encouraging residents to train to become ham radio operators and organize into groups that could be effective in times of emergency or disaster. SATERN stands for Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network.

"I'm trying to interest people in getting involved in CERT (Citizens Emergency Response Team) and emergency communication," said Graham, who is with SATERN's Concord Corps and known by his call sign KI6DCD. "The theory is that in a major earthquake or other disaster, police and fire may be days away, and you need some sort of organization to find out if everyone's OK. At some point you would use ham radio to relay the information to a more central spot."

Graham will describe ham radio and what it is, how to get a license and how a ham radio operator interfaces with other groups. He'll compare the short-range use of a ham radio to communicate with others in the neighborhood, with long-range, which requires a license.

"At some point you'd need a licensed ham radio operator to relay your message more long distance to a central location in the city or county to let them know you're all right or what you need," he said. "You could also use a licensed ham radio to communicate with relatives out of the area to let them know you're all right."

At present Morse code is no longer a requirement for using a ham radio though Graham explained that it is still recommended because it can get a message through where voice cannot, since it uses a very narrow frequency and can be detected through bursts of static.

Accepting that people learn in different ways, Graham will discuss two methods to become licensed: a one-day intensive program in Benicia and a longer seven-week training course sponsored by SATERN Diablo Valley in partnership with Mount Diablo Amateur Radio Club and Benicia Amateur Radio Club.

Becoming a radio ham operator appeals to a broad range of people, covering all ages and all walks of life. Some start early as one 9-year-old girl, while others, including Graham, wait until retirement, when they have the time to learn and practice using a ham radio.

The training aspect of ham radio is another subject Graham will emphasize, citing that a license is not enough to be effective during a disaster. He will encourage interested participants to join a club or amateur radio organization or to use the ham radio as part of a hobby, such as sending signals off the moon, doing data or chatting with others.

"It's important to know how the radio works and its range, so join some radio group and practice," he said.

One such group is SATERN Diablo Valley, of which Graham is the Chairman. This group, in partnership with Mount Diablo Amateur Radio Club and the Benicia Amateur Radio Club to offer straining classes, administers license exams and provides hands-on experience for licensed operators with their "Getting on the Air" seminar.

The SATERN group also manages several mobile EDS (Emergency Disaster Services) Canteens, or mobile kitchens, that can be deployed at disaster sites, feeding volunteers and using ham radio communication to direct and coordinate volunteers.

Graham believes that anyone concerned with disaster should attend the presentation.

His mission is to encourage those attending to get CERT training and then get licensed as a ham radio operator.

"My scenario is that we need to plan for a disaster in the next year or five years and I'm concerned that in many areas there's no disaster plan," he said. "I'm an old Marine and I want options on what I'm trained for so that when there's something happening I know what to do and what kinds of decisions to make with some background. That's why I share this."

IF YOU GO What: Ham Radio Communication for Emergency and Disaster Communications Presentation by Salvation Army SATERN DV Training Chairman Chuck Graham, KI6DCD, from Concord Corps

When: 7 p.m., Sept. 10

Where: Brentwood Neighborhood Church, 50 Birch St.

Information: or 925-634-1415

Cost: $10

Contra Costa Times; My Town section
Posted:   09/01/2015 04:53:22 PM PDT