My mom drove over the bridge approximately the same time as the collapse, so naturally I called her cell phone to make sure she was alright. Guess what? Mobile service was completely disrupted, with calls not getting through or going straight to voice mail. And this was a relatively small and localized disaster. What would happen if something big happened?
Well, something big did happen and communications were paralyzed — not just for a couple of hours or so, but for days and days. Who came to the rescue? An estimated one thousand hams, creating a radio-based communication net to support government departments and private individuals.
The bridge collapse crystallized for me the fact that our communications net is weaker than it’s ever been. Most of us now rely on the easily-overloaded cell network. Fewer and fewer people have land lines, which are themselves vulnerable. So it’s up to us, Geek Dads, Moms and Kids! Get licensed! Join an emergency communications group!
If you’re interested in learning more about Amateur Radio and its emergency services, check out the following links:
(Unfortunately, every nation has its own rules regarding Amateur Radio so if you’re not from the U.S., you’ll have to do your own research. If you’d like, start here.)
ARRL, the biggest ham radio organization in the U.S., with about 152,000 members.
ARES, Amateur Radio Emergency Services.
RACES, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services.
To get licensed, this is the absolute learning resource: ARRL Ham Radio License Manual: All You Need to Become an Amateur Radio Operator.