3 Times When HAM Radios Saved the Day

HAM radios are amateur radios used primarily to transport messages that are not intended for commercial purposes. A HAM radio does not rely on cell phones or the internet, which makes them very important for emergency purposes. It takes time to learn how to use this type of radio, but the effort is often worth it, as these radios can be a lifeline in dangerous times. Here are three times when HAM radios saved the day.

1. Tinder Fire

In 2018, amateur radio operators possibly saved lives in the Tinder Fire that tore through Flagstaff, Arizona. As the fire threatened properties and lives, fire line team members started experiencing troubles with their cell services. They needed to get evacuation information out to residents immediately, but were unable to do so.

Help came in the nick of time, thanks to two amateur radio operators named Bill and Mary Lou Hagan. The pair, who have been married for 54 years, discovered that their HAM radio hobby was suddenly a matter of life and death. They used their radios to relay life-saving information, including sending out a code red to community members who were directly in the path of the flames. Thanks to their knowledge and their ability to come to the rescue, they were potentially able to save the lives of many people during the Tinder Fire incident.

2. Catalina Island Accident 

In 2009, Karl Tso and his wife Deborah Ava saved the life of a man who fell more than 40 feet onto rocks. Tso and Ava were recently trained as volunteer radio operators, and were both members of the Topanga Disaster Radio Team. The Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness organized the team to help meet the needs of people int eh community.

Tso and Ava climbed a Catalina Island hill when they noticed an injured man bleeding on the rocks. It was apparent that he had fallen a great distance and sustained serious injuries. Fortunately, Tso and Ava had their hand-held HAM radios on them and were able to make contact with nearby HAM radio operators who were located back on the mainland and were able to call 911.

As a result of Tso and Ava’s critical timing and knowledge of HAM radios, the Los Angeles County firefighter-medics soon arrived on the scene and flew the injured man to a nearby hospital for treatment. Deputies reported that the couple’s HAM radio knowledge and quick thinking helped save the life of the injured man that day.

3. Vermont Hiking Accident

A hiker named Alden Sumner Jones IV, expressed his gratitude after an amateur radio helped save his life in June of 2020. Jones went hiking along an isolated portion of Long Trail in Vermont. He was hiking with others, but they were in an area without cell phone access.

During the hike, Jones suffered a medical accident that caused him to lose consciousness. Jones regained consciousness and was able to contact a HAM operator named Ron Wonderlick. Wonderlick was able to contact emergency crews and initiate a rescue mission. It took 8 hours to locate Jones, get to where he was, and transfer him to a medical facility.

An EMT who came across Jones after he passed out stayed by his side until rescuers arrived. After Jones was flown to a hospital in Albany, New York, he expressed his gratitude for everyone who helped him. He also publicly stated that HAM radio saved his life. He is now an avid proponent of amateur radio and encourages others to learn about HAM frequencies.

How To Learn Amateur Radio Techniques

You, too, can potentially save lives by becoming a HAM radio operator. There are a variety of online classes and websites that can help you get started. Learning amateur radio is a smart survival skill that may serve you well in the future.

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Alexander Weaver - August 24, 2020 Reply

The stories mentioned in this article plus numerous other life saving calls has prompted me to achieve acquisition of an amateur ham radio license. I have wanted to add a hand-held ham radio to add to my backpacking and overland camping gear just in case of emergencies as cell phone communication is often non-existent. The Motorola two way radios I presently use are not the most reliable means of communication either. I will seek any courses offered in the Richmond, VA area. The aforementioned articles or stories of lives saved…great reason to get it done!

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