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HAM radio operators will host a demonstration Saturday as Lake Oswego Reads gets underway

REVIEW FILE PHOTO: EMERSON MALONE - LO ARES members (from left) Bill DeBuhr, Phil Rossi, Ron Kinder, Ed Reynolds and Philip Pirrota will keep Lake Oswego's lines of communication open when a natural disaster strikes.Have you ever wondered what would happen if the electrical grid failed during a natural disaster? How would emergency services communicate with one another? How would you let loved ones in other parts of the country know you're safe? What failsafes are in place to prevent mass confusion and panic?

The answers to those questions and more will be revealed at 10 a.m. Saturday, when the Lake Oswego Amateur Radio Emergency Service hosts a demonstration in the Palisades gymnasium, one of the first official events to kick off this year's Lake Oswego Reads program.

LO ARES is assigned to augment the Lake Oswego Fire Department's communication system when needed. If the power grid failed and cellular services went down following an earthquake, windstorm or other disaster, normal communications might be unable to handle all of the vital messages that need to be passed. But LO ARES will be there to help.

"The function of our group is to add another communication system to Lake Oswego during any emergency," said Bill DeBuhr, an LO ARES member. "The City understood the need for such a system around the lake, so they put amateur radio equipment at all four fire stations and at the Public Works building."

In the event of an emergency or disaster that affects the public safety and welfare. DeBuhr said, LO ARES would work with the City's emergency manager, who would be responsible for the coordination and deployment of the fire department, police department and other City agencies.

At the Feb. 3 event, amateur radio operators will attempt to contact local and other high-frequency radios in different parts of the country using what are known as HAM radios. This process is much like what is described in Lily Brooks-Dalton's "Good Morning, Midnight," the post-apocalyptic novel selected as the centerpiece of this year's Lake Oswego Reads.

In the book, which is set in a world transformed by an unknown disaster, a character named Augustine — a researcher at a remote outpost in the Arctic circle — happens upon equipment similar to what DeBuhr uses. With this equipment, Augustine is able to make radio contact with Mission Specialist Sullivan, an astronaut on a return journey from Jupiter. The two protagonists find their fates eerily similar, yet very different in the face of the vast emptiness left behind.

What makes this facet of the book even more interesting is that Brooks-Dalton herself is an amateur radio operator, with the call sign KB1ZFI. Upon reading the book, DeBuhr — call sign K7GPN — was pleased to find that fact tucked into the novel's plot.

LO ARES will have three stations set up at Palisades on Feb. 3: one for local contact, a second to contact other radio operators in other parts of the country, and a third to send digital transmissions like emails and other messages.

DeBuhr and his colleagues will explain how one goes about becoming a licensed amateur radio operator. They will also provide information on how to join LO ARES for anyone interested.

"Come talk to us. We can guide people through the time and financial investment it takes to get a license and get on the air," DeBuhr said.

Every licensed amateur is eligible for membership in LO ARES. The only qualification, other than possession of an amateur radio license, is a desire to serve.

The group meets monthly at the Main Fire Station, 300 B Ave. in Lake Oswego, on the third Wednesday of each month from 7-9 p.m. Meetings are open to everyone.

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Sam Stites at 503-636-1281 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

IF YOU GO

WHAT: 12th annual Lake Oswego Reads, featuring Lily Brooks-Dalton's post-apocalyptic novel "Good Morning, Midnight"

WHEN: More than 30 events are scheduled throughout the month of February, including a Feb. 13 presentation by Brooks-Dalton in the Lake Oswego High School auditorium

ON FEB. 3: Members of the Lake Oswego Amateur Radio Emergency Service will present a free HAM Radio Demo & Display at Palisades (1500 Greentree Road). The event starts at 10 a.m.

LEARN MORE: Find a complete schedule of events and other program details online at wwwlakeoswegoreads.org.

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