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Amateur radio operators 'vital' to county emergency response | News

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Amateur radio operators 'vital' to county emergency response

Sun City Center, Florida — They're some of the most critical people for a hurricane response, but you may be surprised, even concerned, when you first hear who they are: amateurs.

10 News looked at the people our rescuers rely on when the power goes out and the phones go silent.

They don't use sirens or flashing lights; instead, they use HAM radios to keep you safe when disaster strikes.

"It gives you a great deal of satisfaction when you could provide life to somebody," said Sun City Center Amateur Radio Club president Rick Sochon.

Amateur HAM radio operators like Sochon and club vice president Bob Goldberg are Sun City Center's last resort for communication if cell phone networks and power are cut off this storm season.

"We have over a hundred radios and independent power supplies," Sochon said. "The chances of them all going bad at one time are highly remote."

The group isn't full of your typical amateurs. They're even equipped with "go-kits," so they can take everything they need straight out into the field and create an emergency response where they need it.

"I know there's a big need for us," Goldberg said. "I saw that during Hurricane Andrew in Miami."

But I asked the Hillsborough County emergency manager why amateur radio operators are in charge of such vital communications if the lights go dark.

"The word is misleading, 'amateur,'" said Preston Cook. "They have a seat at the table in our emergency operations center, our war room if you will ... and provide such a vital service in so many different areas in this county during a major response."

It's vindication for HAM operators like Rick, who say "it's certainly not an amateur. These people are trained professionals, they've taken FEMA training, they've taken electronic training, they hold licenses with the FCC."


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