‘Eyes in the sky’ - Newly purchased county equipment set to enhance local HAM radio efforts

Mike Swiater advoates for HAM radio efforts in Newton County to the Newton County Commissioners in December 2017. PHOTO BY STEVE WILSON

 

BY STEVE WILSON

For Demotte native Mike Swiader, HAM radio plays a valuable if not-to-well known role. 

“We are the center of communications for everyone,” Swiader said.

Swiader is one of the founding members of the Amateurs Radio Association of Newton County Indiana, established in the spring of 2017. As such, he was an advocate of the purchase of two digital repeaters, which was approved by the Newton County Commissioners at their December 18 meeting. 

Swiader said the order for the equipment was completed on January 4, at a cost of approximately $24,000. He is hopeful they will be installed at the county radio tower, located near the Newton County Landfill, within the next couple of months. Although Newton County will own the equipment, it will be leased to the ARANC. 

“It helps the HAM radio community help Newton and nearby counties in the event of a natural or man-made disaster,” Swiader said. 

HAM radio, which has been in existence since the late 19th Century, derives its name from a variation of the term “amateur radio.” It has and continues to include two-way voice communication, Morse Code, “moonbounce” (off the surface of the moon), satellite, and digital/computer communication.

Swiader began working with HAM radio at the age of 16, and later relocated to Florida where he worked with hurricane warning efforts, and later helped Hurricane Katrina evacuees who were moved to Arizona. He describes HAM radio networks as “Eyes in the sky.”

“I can’t get away from these hurricanes,” Swiader joked. 

A key advantage of HAM radio is that it can operate when other first responder communication systems or networks have been damaged or incapacitated. Swiader cited an example of this from Plainfield, Ill., where HAM was the only local radio system working following a tornado which damaged the local high school. Much of this adaptability stems from the fact that HAM uses it’s own generators, as well as solar or battery power. During weather or other emergencies, HAM radio is set up at fire stations, schools, hospitals and other places to help coordinate warning and recovery efforts. 

“We’re gonna promote this pretty heavily,” Swiader said of his group, which is a 501-c-3 non profit. “By springtime all members will be National Weather Service storm-spotter certified. We’re making it happen for 2018.”

To learn more contact Swiader at 815-409-5070.

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