When disaster calls
Waupaca County ARES answers
By Robert Cloud
A small group of people in Waupaca County help maintain communications during emergencies.
“When all other forms of communications go down, you can communicate around the world if you have a 12-volt battery,” according to Jesse Landre, the public information officer for the Waupaca County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES).
“We’re there to back up the systems that have gone down,” Landre said.
Nearly 20 volunteers are active with ARES countywide.
They work with Waupaca County Emergency Management, provide local storm spotting and warnings during severe weather, and safety monitoring at the Iola Bump and Jump in May, the Iola Car Show in July and the Waupaca Triathlon in August each year.
Every June, Waupaca County ARES also participates in Field Day, an emergency preparedness exercise involving more than 30,000 ham radio operators nationwide.
“We have a three-hour window to set up our equipment and remote operating center,” Landre said. “We transmit for 24 hours and contact as many other amateur radio stations as possible nationwide.”
ARES’ remote operating center is a converted 24-foot camper/trailer. Field Day usually takes place in a park, and ARES members take turns operating the radios.
Ham radio operators also activate their network during severe weather.
“If there is a weather event, we’re in direct contact with the National Weather Service out of Green Bay,” Landre said.
Some ARES members have mobile radios and serve as storm spotters, although they do not go out at night due to safety concerns.
“We’re their eyes,” said Chuck Fritz, ARES’ emergency coordinator.
Fritz said up to a dozen area members can be working during a storm.
Fritz obtained his amateur radio license in 1973.
“When I got licensed, I had to learn morse code. It was five words a minute for the novice and 13 for the general license,” Fritz said.
There are three classifications for ham radio licenses.
Fritz said the entry level license focuses on the rules and regulations of amateur radio.
“You can’t talk all over the world, but you can talk radio-to-radio locally,” Fritz said.
The General Class license gives a ham radio operator more privileges, permits the operator to talk on high frequency bands and communicate around the country and the world.
Landre has had his license for about three years.
“It all started from a fishing trip my buddies and I took up north,” Landre said. “We wanted to be able to communicate boat-to-boat.”
Landre said they tried cellphones, CB radios and two-way radios. But none of these technologies worked due to the distance between their boats and the remote location.
“The five of us took a two-day class and the exam and that’s how we got our licenses,” Landre said. “It works great. If you have a mobile radio and an antenna on the boat, you’re good to go for about five miles.”
“The guys dared their wives that they couldn’t pass the test,” Becky Landre said, who is also a member of ARES. “We took their dare and passed the test.”
Becky said she likes ARES because of the opportunities to volunteer and help provide safety at area events.
Waupaca County ARES meets at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month in the lower level of the courthouse in Waupaca.
The organization is open to any ham radio operator.
For more information, contact Fritz at 715-412-1070 or email him at ac9f@tds,net, or contact Jesse Landre via cellphone at 608-346-4088 or email him at email@example.com.
Waupaca County ARES also has a Facebook page.