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Volunteer Amateur Radio Operators restore vital communication link in Waushara County, Wisconsin USA


Ben Janke, owner of Ben’s Radio, a communications company in Ogdensburg, provided a 20-foot commercial-grade antenna that was installed on top of the Wautoma water tower with his partner Brad Wilson.


In a remarkable display of community spirit and technical expertise, volunteer amateur radio operators from across the region converged on Waushara County to revive a critical lifeline of communication. The mission: to restore a radio repeater that plays a pivotal role in emergency communication for amateur radio operators.


Known as the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), these amateur radio operators volunteer their time and equipment to provide essential communication assistance during emergencies and support public service events. The heart of their communication network, the VHF radio repeater, had lain dormant for years following a lightning strike that caused severe damage.


The lightning strike damaged the repeater, wreaking havoc on its circuit board and the antenna, rendering it inoperable. Unfortunately, the ARES volunteers lacked the funds to replace or repair the equipment, leaving a void in emergency communication for the region’s ham radio operators. As a result of this loss, many operators gradually left the hobby, leading to the disbandment of the ARES group approximately 12 years ago, with the radio repeater system fading into obscurity.


This year, George Lampere, AB9CQ, a seasoned amateur radio operator, took the reins to resurrect the Amateur Radio Emergency Services. During this effort, he stumbled upon the long-forgotten repeater and initiated a mission to revive it. George rallied support from ham radio operators in Waupaca, Iola, and Ogdensburg, all of whom possessed the technical know-how and equipment necessary for the task.


Glenn Harldson, N5IIA from Iola, dedicated several hours to repairing the radio, skillfully restoring it to operational status. Meanwhile, Ben Janke, N9NOJ, owner of Ben’s Radio, a communications company in Ogdensburg, stepped up by providing a commercial-grade antenna. Ben and his partner Brad Wilson installed the towering 20-foot antenna atop the local water tower.


The antenna installed on the Wautoma water tower will improve communication across the county for amateur radio operators in the area to improve emergency response capabilities. The repairs, coupled with the installation of the new antenna has also saved thousands of dollars in potential replacement costs.


After nearly a day of hard work to install and fine-tune the equipment, the dedicated crew successfully brought the repeater back to life. Operators from across the region were on hand to test the performance of the radio repeater and provide signal reports. This significant achievement means that amateur radio operators in the area can now communicate seamlessly anywhere across the county and into neighboring counties, bolstering emergency response capabilities.


The repairs, coupled with the installation of the new antenna, have not only revived vital communication but also saved thousands of dollars in potential replacement costs. This cost-effective restoration demonstrates the resourcefulness and dedication of these amateur radio operators.


With the revival of the repeater, the Waushara County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) now has the capacity to provide SKYWARN services, playing a vital role in enhancing local safety by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.


The dedication and expertise of the volunteer amateur radio operators within the ARES group cannot be understated. They maintain agreements with surrounding counties’ ARES groups and various government and non-governmental agencies to provide crucial emergency communication services when needed.


Amateur radio operators, often referred to as ham radio operators, exemplify the spirit of volunteerism by using their training, skills, and equipment to provide vital communications during emergencies. When storms or other disasters disrupt critical communication infrastructure, including cell towers and wired and wireless networks, hams step in to bridge the gap. Importantly, amateur radio can function independently of the internet and phone systems, offering a robust backup communication option that can be deployed rapidly in any location.


With the help of amateur radio operators’ dedication and commitment to both the hobby and their community, Waushara County now possesses an added layer of resilience in the face of emergencies, ensuring that communication remains a lifeline when it’s needed most. For those interested in becoming part of the Waushara County ARES group or supporting their cause, please contact George B. Lampere, Waushara County ARES Emergency Coordinator, at 920-212-1466 or via email at AB9CQ1@gmail.com. Your involvement can make a difference in strengthening our community’s emergency communication capabilities.


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