Becoming a member of the Ellijay Amateur Radio Society (EARS) and Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
My reasons for doing so go far beyond wanting to learn how to operate a ham radio.
Six years ago, I lived in North Carolina, but had always dreamed of living in the mountains. I happened to find a place in Ellijay that I not only liked, but could afford.
After moving here, I attended a few Tea Party meetings. At one of the meetings, I asked about how one goes about becoming a ham radio operator. Dave Meadows invited me to attend a meeting of the local amateur radio society. He also pulled up some questions on the tech exam for radio operators on his computer. Without even having studied any of the material, I found out that I was able to answer a few of the questions already. My thoughts were that even someone like me, a former elementary school teacher without any sort of tech background, could possibly pass the test.
Over the next five years, I gradually got to know most of the members of the local EARS and ARES group. I was amazed to learn how each individual brought the group different unique skills, talents and experiences.
All the group’s members have a history of service to their country, churches and communities. We have members who have served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Civil Air Patrol. There are members who have worked in search and rescue, emergency medical services and church missionary work. Some of the stories they are reluctant to tell reveal extraordinary heroism.
The whole purpose of ARES is to provide backup to our professional emergency responders in the event that regular communications have been disabled and to provide assistance when an event is so widespread that the local public safety agencies are overwhelmed.
I attended my first EARS meeting in 2014. When I walked into the conference room at United Community Bank, there were about 25 guys and only a few women sitting with their husbands. I was a bit intimidated and wondered what I had gotten myself into.
I studied for the exam and got my Tech license in November 2014. Later, I officially became the EARS secretary. I got my general license in 2016 and my ARES certification the next year. To become certified, I had to take several online classes required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Earlier this year, I went to Dayton, Ohio, for auxiliary emergency communications (or “AuxComm”) training. AuxComm is the official name given by the Department of Homeland Security to amateur radio operators who are able to augment paid/trained first responders during a declared emergency.
In July, I received my VE (volunteer examiner) certification, which means I can now act as an instructor.
My purpose in listing these licenses and certification is to let other people, be they male or female, know that you don’t have to have a technical, computer or engineering background to get involved with amateur radio operation or to get your license. If an elementary school teacher can do it, so can you!
A resource for seniors
I feel that, in Gilmer County, there are several very practical reasons for senior citizens who live alone to be able to have radio contact, especially if they live in a remote area.
There have been several times, like during Hurricane Irma, where I did not have cellphone or landline phone communication. There would have been no way to call 911 in the event of an emergency.
During any threatening situation, I have my radio licenses, radios and antennas. I have the ability to communicate if I have an emergency and I know that my team members will find a way to get me the help I need in that type of situation. Likewise, I know that, in widespread emergency situations, I also have the technical skills to be able to provide help for others.
On the last full weekend of June each year, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsors its Field Day event during which amateur radio clubs across the country set up their equipment and antennas in a public location. Operators compete to see who can make the most contacts.
This year, Gilmer EARS/ARES set up our equipment at the Mountain Town Community Center. As the 2019 Field Day coordinator, I wanted to recognize these individuals in some small way. Commissioners Charlie Paris and Dallas Miller were invited to attend the function also attended by local Boy Scouts.
I introduced each of our operators and asked them to tell about their service and careers. Some had been CEOs of tech companies.Others had worked as engineers, physicists or computer experts.
‘An enormous amount to offer’
My whole purpose in writing this article is to bring about awareness that, even though our members may be older in age, they have an enormous amount to offer as hidden assets to Gilmer County. We are truly blessed to have an organization like this functioning here.
We hope that there are others who are interested in joining EARS and ARES. We welcome more members to become part of this team that truly helps make Ellijay and Gilmer County a great place to live.
The local amateur radio society often conducts “ham crams,” which are all-day study/teaching sessions on the day of the test. However, if there is enough interest, I can develop a series of evening classes for those without technical experience to provide a more detailed, gradual approach.
EARS/ARES meets in the conference room of Ellijay United Community Bank the second Thursday of each month. Social time starts at 6:30 p.m. Meetings begin at 7 p.m.
Feel free to join us and find out what EARS is all about.
Interested in joining?
Anyone interested in joining the Ellijay Amateur Radio Society can contact club president David Ross: EARS.Ellijay@gmail.com or club secretary Anne Hayes: 706-636-4300, K4NNE.Secretary@gmail.com. The official EARS website is W4HHH.org.
(By Anne Hayes, Ellijay Amateur Radio Society)