There are so many groups doing great work in the aftermath of Alabama’s April 27th tornado outbreak that it’s hard to single them all out.
Many working to help victims recover will get a lot of media exposure; their names and purposes will be known to all. Others helping are working much more silently, almost in the background, getting very little recognition for their efforts. The work of still others contributing their time and resources to try and ease the effects of this tragedy may never be known.
Many of the organizations helping went into action as soon as the devastation became obvious. But one group was active long before the first tornado touched down, and whose volunteers continue to provide assistance. This group has done its work to help others so many times in the past—mostly in the shadows, so to speak—that I can’t count them all.
Frankly, what they do is often not very visible or visual. Because it’s not exciting to watch, media attention is typically infrequent. But what these people do helps protect us all before the danger. And they are extremely valuable when it comes to help with recovering afterward.
So, who are these folks?
They are amateur radio operators, men and women of all ages and backgrounds. They share a commitment to help others in need.
I still remember being intrigued at the interesting looking radio my co-worker had placed on his desk in the small office we shared at Channel 13 in Birmingham one afternoon in the early 1980s.
At a time long before the era of cell phones, MP3 players and so many of the other small electronics devices surrounding us today, all the unusual switches and controls made my curiosity get the best of me. I had to ask: “What’s this?”
“It’s my handy talkie,” he answered. And so began my introduction and entry into amateur radio, courtesy of James Spann, Chief Meteorologist at ABC 33/40 in Birmingham.
Ham radio is considered by many to be a hobby. I’ve never fully agreed with that description. It’s a public service. April 27th in Alabama is one reason why.
It’s true that many people get into ham radio for the communications contests and other fun activities. But amateur radio is one of the most valuable pathways there is to help your community in times of crisis.
Being a ham radio operator and providing communications support during emergencies is not always pleasant. But it’s rewarding. I can think of no more vivid proof of that than to listen to the stories of some of Alabama’s amateur radio operators active before and after last week’s storms.
The stories are chilling. They are enough to bring tears to your eyes.
I was able to speak with various hams involved in helping with the current disaster in Alabama, and thought you might like a behind-the-scenes look at what they were seeing and doing as the killer storms hit.
Nothing tells the story better than the people who were in it.
David Drummond, of Tuscaloosa, is among the hams who saw heartbreaking scenes they will never be able to forget.
Below is a report about what David and fellow amateur radio operators did across the state when devastation hit.
This story is taken from The Amateur Radio Newsline, a weekly newscast about amateur radio and communications that is distributed worldwide. By the way: If you visit the website and listen to the full newscast, the work of James, ABC 33/40 and the team of Skywatchers gets some very prominent recognition–be sure to check out the story at the end of the newscast.
The work of radio amateurs may not be “all over the news,” but what these people have done makes me very proud to hold an amateur radio license.
I hope you are as thankful for what they do as I am.
One of many ways people can help victims of the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa…
Any amount is appreciated, and all donations are tax deductible.