Thursday, May 7, 2020

A return to the radio scanning hobby during a pandemic

Its been a little over a month now since Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. With all non-essential businesses closed, public gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited and schools closed for the rest of the year, it leaves everyone looking for things to do at home.

Being a new resident to Greene County, Va., I came across my old handheld radio scanner while unpacking at my new location. Its been several years since I turned on the scanner and listened to any fire & rescue, police or aircraft communications. With plenty of time on my hands I figured I would bring my Radio Shack PRO-26 scanner out of retirement and see what I could hear from my new surroundings.

On Monday night the scanner stopped on 443.900 megahertz with a group of amateur radio operators conducting a net (an on-the-air gathering). An amateur radio operator, also known as a Ham, is someone who uses radio equipment to engage in two-way personal communications. In addition to just talking with other Hams, they can provide communications during emergency situations (serve thunderstorms, winter storms or major disasters).

After listening to the group this week, it became clear this was the Greene County Virginia Amateur Radio Club conducting their “Wellness Network.” Club member Bill Steo, 73, of Stanardsville has been reaching out through this network nightly at 7 p.m. since March 15, according to an article published in the Greene County Record.

The club operates a repeater station located on Flattop Mountain in Greene County. The repeater picks up radio transmissions from amateur radio operators and repeats their signal from its location giving Hams the ability to be heard for several miles.

“If somebody needed food or supplies, we’d make sure they got that help,” Steo told the Greene County Record.

The club will operate the net until the Virginia governor gives the all clear order for normal travels to resume.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Greene County Virginia Amateur Radio Club can mail a letter to the club at P.O. Box 463, Ruckersville VA 22968.

For me, the Stay at Home order has caused me to get back into a hobby I once loved.

No comments: