Learn about ham radio and its role in emergency communications at Venice Beach and in La Honda, June 22 and 23


When All Else Fails, Ham Radio Works. Come and See How!

Coastside amateur radio operators, better known as hams, will join their counterparts across North America  in honing their skills for “The Big One” on June 22, 11am to June 23, 11am, non-stop for 24 hours. This year Half Moon Bay hams will set up radio stations at North Venice Beach parking lot off Hwy 1, about one mile north of Hwy 92. Our colleagues in La Honda, the SC4 Amateur Radio Club, will be operating from the La Honda Gardens in La Honda, behind the La Honda Country Market on Highway 84 during the same time period.

Over the past years, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications during unexpected emergencies in towns across America including earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, storms, tornadoes and other events world-wide. Many people wonder why in this modern technological age hams are still needed, since we have the internet, cell phones, portable phones, and more. The reality is that the first thing to go out is often our cell phones, with the internet a close second. This is because cell towers may get misaligned by shaking, overloaded in the immediate aftermath of a major event, and most commonly, the power goes off. No electricity means no portable phones, no computers, and no internet servers, and some other portable communication devices may also be affected. Ham radio operators are trained and equipped to provide emergency communications without connections to PG&E power or fixed antennas. They often provide the first and possibly the only means of communication when all else fails, serving local emergency providers, as well as state and federal services to keep people informed, rescuers on the move, and supplies coming in to affected areas.

Here in the Bay area, Coastside ham volunteers have responded to the Loma Prieta earthquake, helping to keep state emergency coordinators apprised of the situation as it unfolded, to large fires, such as the Oakland Hills fire, the recent tsunami alert, and even helped to get rescuers to a sailboat in distress in heavy seas off the coast of Chile. The crew was unable to contact the Chilean Coast Guard directly, but a ham radio station in Japan picked up their call, relayed it to two Coastside hams, who passed the word to another ham in Texas, who in turn was able to reach aomeone in Chile. The crew was saved, thanks to ham radio! Coastsiders may have seen the hams providing communications at many local events, including the Pumpkin Festival, Dream Machines, the HMB International Marathon, bicycle rides, races, parades, and wherever their services are needed.

It’s not all work and no play, however. This year’s Field Day will also be the Third Annual Competition between the Half Moon Bay Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) group and the La Honda group. The contest is to see who successfully logs the most contacts. La Honda hams are stiff competition, but Half Moon Bay hams have  won so far…the first year brought chocolate banana slugs to HMB, and last year HMB was presented with a hand built flying saucer filled with goodies. This year La Honda wants their flying saucer back, and but the northerners plan to keep it here in Half Moon Bay. Stay tuned for the results!

Anyone who wants to see ham radio operations first hand, or who might be interested in getting a license and  joining us in a growing hobby is welcome to visit Venice Beach or La Honda on June 22-23. The Coastside always needs more radio operators for big events and incidents, and getting your initial license is only a matter of a one day “ham cram” session and test given frequently in nearby areas. There are now over 700,000 Amateur Radio licensees in the US, and more than 2.5 million around the world.

Ham radio’s motto is, “Whenever All Else fails, Ham Radio Works!”
Come to Field Day and see how it works!

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