Sheriff's Office

Posted on: March 4, 2021

Newly formed Auxiliary Communications Team to assist county during emergencies

During a local emergency or natural disaster, communication is a priority to keep our community safe. But how do you communicate safety information when power is out and cell towers are down? A group of local radio enthusiasts have teamed up to answer the call, volunteering their time and talents to help the community.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services’ Auxiliary Communications Team, or AuxCom Team for short, is a newly-formed volunteer team of local amateur radio operators who can be activated during an emergency incident where normal modes of communication are disrupted.

“Ham Radio is important because of the sheer number of resilient, relatively simple radio stations we operate out in the community that can be called upon when more complex systems fail,” Anthony Wiese, President of the Humboldt Amateur Radio Club said.

Amateur, or “Ham”, Radio refers to the designated non-commercial radio frequencies used in the radio community by radio enthusiasts. Licensed operators can use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. During and after disasters, amateur radio operators set up and operate organized communication networks to assist local governmental and emergency officials, as well as non-commercial communication for private citizens affected by the disaster.

Communication infrastructure can fail in a countywide emergency. The only reliable communication for both public information and to coordinate an emergency response is to utilize radio,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said. “I am thankful to the AuxCom Team for their willingness to assist with critical communication needs in the event of a disaster.”

Along with the basic requirement of an active FCC amateur radio license, members of the AuxCom Team undergo numerous FEMA courses, and hours of simulated and practical radio skills training. Recently, team members completed the Introduction to Emergency Communication (EC-001) course from American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The EC-001 course is free to non-amateur radio operators and is designed to provide basic knowledge and tools for any emergency communications volunteer.

“Standardized training is how we establish a common operating picture amongst our personnel. It sets common expectations, common competencies and a common understanding of their mission,” OES Manager Ryan Derby said. “By establishing a standardized training program, we are able to assign personnel based on proven experience and utilize them during times of crisis with much higher confidence.”

New volunteers to the AuxCom Team are always being accepted. Those interested must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be 18 years old or older.
  • Must submit a Live Scan
  • Must provide proof of an Active Amateur Radio license

If you’re new to amateur radio and haven’t gotten your license just yet, getting a license is easier than you may think:

  • Citizenship is not required.

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