POINT PLEASANT — Have you ever wanted to talk to an astronaut at NASA’s International Space Station? How about assisting the National Weather Service, or more locally, 911 or the Mason County Health Department?
A Technician Level Amateur (or “Ham”) Radio Class is being offered in Mason County that will allow you to do those things and more, according to Matt Gregg of the Mason County Amateur Radio Group.
The free class will be held once a week for seven weeks at the Mason County 911 Emergency Operations Center. It begins Oct. 13, with other class dates set for Oct. 22 and 27, and Nov. 5, 9, 14, and 23. All classes will be from 6 to 9 p.m., with the exception of Nov. 14, which will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“This is the basic class, but there are a lot of things you can do as a technician level amateur,” Gregg said. “This will allow you to talk to locals directly or via a repeater, make contact with and talk to astronauts on the International Space Station, (earn a) Boy Scout merit badge, and our big thing — help with or provide emergency communications.”
Gregg said most ham radio operators have the ability to use their equipment when the power is out. He added when the county was hit by the summer storm in 2012, a lot of people ran their radio stations by solar or battery power.
“A huge thing that amateur radio operators do is assist the National Weather Service,” Gregg stated. “Amateur operators can take a short training with the NWS and become Skywarn certified so we can help during storms. Basically, what they can’t see, we can. We can actually report directly to the NWS office via an amateur radio they have in their office.”
Gregg said amateur radio operators have recently been working on the local level with 911, Pleasant Valley Hospital, and the Mason County Health Department in providing back-up emergency communications.
“During the mock Local Emergency Planning Commission drill a few weeks back, we were prepared to be on standby and ended up providing the main communication between ambulances in the field and the hospital’s emergency room,” he stated. “As with anything, plan for the worst and hope for the best. We did that day and were used as front line communications. Even though it was a drill, we train as if it was real life.”
Though the class is free, there are some associated costs, Gregg said. The class book is $21.95 and can be purchased in paper or electronic form. At the end of the class, an exam must be taken at a cost of $15. This fee goes to the FCC, which issues a 10-year license upon passing.
To register for the class online, go to the Mason County Amateur Radio Group website at http://www.mcarg.info/technician-class-fall-2015. The group also has a Facebook page at Mason County Amateur Radio Group.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer or Ohio Valley Publishing and lives in Mason County.