By John O’Brien
During the September flood, the ability to communicate from and to emergency responders was severely limited. Similar conditions have existed during wildfires and floods in this and other parts of the state. Electricity is often out. Telephones and the Internet are down.
An association of communities in the Front Range mountain area west of Boulder was set up during the Fourmile Canyon fire of 2010. It is called the Intermountain Alliance (IMA). By the time of the September flood emergency, it was up and running. The IMA has representatives from a number of mountain communities; both incorporated and unincorporated, including Allenspark, Lyons, Nederland, Ward, Gold Hill, Jamestown, Bar-K, and Left Hand Canyon.
A very important resource of the IMA is MERN, the Mountain Emergency Radio Network. MERN is the answer to a need recognized by the InterMountain Alliance (IMA) after the Four Mile fire: reliable communications within mountain communities and to the outside world during emergencies.
Boulder/Broomfield County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (BCARES), a highly experienced volunteer group of licensed amateur radio operators supporting the Sheriff and the County Office of Emergency Management, responded to a request from IMA with ideas for linking people within communities and those communities to Emergency Management, training classes for new operators, repeater installations to provide extended coverage, and some donated equipment.
The IMA and MERN are looking for more amateur (ham) radio operators to help increase the coverage of emergency communication services in our area. There are free classes offered. Once you do, and pass the exam, you can get some equipment and get on the air using a licensed amateur radio. You will be capable of keeping your neighborhood connected to critical sources of information and be the channel for reporting status and needs for help during emergencies. Become one of the licensed amateur radio operators in Mountain Emergency Radio network (MERN).
A station in your home, a mobile unit in your car or truck, or a hand held unit you carry when you are on foot, whichever one or combination works for you is possible with your license
It works! During the September flood, recently licensed operators in the Allenspark area were critical players in guiding neighbors to safe locations and in the much-publicized evacuation of forty-nine children and their escorts from a church retreat to an evacuation center, and then onto busses to take them home in Denver
It’s not just for emergencies. Once you are licensed and equipped you can use it anytime. The more you use it the more familiar you are with it and the more ready you are to deal with emergencies when they do happen.
Licensed Amateur “ham” Radio, it works when all else has failed.