Ham radio operators prepare to help if Imelda disrupts traditional communication channels

“We prepare for the worst, but we hope we do absolutely nothing,"

Ham radio operators prepare to help if Imelda disrupts traditional communication channels

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - Ahead of Tropical Depression Imelda’s effects on East Texas, amateur radio operators are preparing to be the backup in case traditional communication channels are overloaded or maybe even fail.

WEBXTRA: Ham radio operators prepare to help if Imelda disrupts traditional communications

On Wednesday morning, the East Texas Emergency Communications Service in Smith County linked their repeater system into the state’s operations center in Austin.

“We’re not here as a primary means of communications,” said Mark Taylor, the RACES Regional Radio Operator for Region 2. “We’re here as a backup, in case something fails.”

Radio operators like Taylor are an extra layer of communication, with the ability to communicate in case other emergency channels go down or need assistance.

“If the power goes out, we all operate independent of each other and independent of the infrastructure," said Taylor. “And most of us can operate our radios independent of the power grid.”

Resiliency that other services can’t always provide during an emergency.

“We prepare for the worst, but we hope we do absolutely nothing,” Taylor said. “Because if we are asked to serve an active role, that means something fairly serious has probably happened. So we don’t really want something bad to happen to our county (Smith). But we’re here to serve our county, the area around our county, and even the whole state if we need to.”

According to Taylor, the state first notified radio operators of a possible need last week. Right now, operators are busy testing their equipment out and staying in communication with the state in case their assistance is needed.

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