Mahoning Valley Amateur Radio Association marks 100th anniversary


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By SAMANTHA PHILLIPS

sphillips@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Mahoning Valley Amateur Radio Association is celebrating its centennial this year.

The association, founded in 1919, is one of the oldest amateur radio organizations in the world. There are about 75 members.

In 1925, the association was the first club in Ohio to be granted affiliated club status with the American Radio Relay League, preceding major communities such as Cleveland and Dayton.

There will be a dinner in October for association members and some other club enthusiasts to celebrate.

Amateur radio, also called ham radio, can take the form of a hand-held transmitter similar to a walkie-talkie, a mobile unit for a car or other vehicle or a base station with an outdoor antenna used for local or long distance communications.

While the technology has changed drastically since 1919, Frank Sole, association member, said the feeling of fraternity among fellow hams, or amateur radio enthusiasts, hasn’t changed.

“It’s something to celebrate. It’s a real achievement,” said Art Lewis, member of the association.

Lewis got involved with the association in the 1960s.

“One of the advantages is this gets amateur [radio enthusiasts] together,” he said. “If there’s a new person who needs help, that’s what it’s here for, they can get help on building or operating something.”

Their radios can contact people across the world by transmitting radio waves from one device to another, no internet or wires required.

The association members provide support for the National Weather Service Sky Warn program. They also provide communications for events by local groups such as Youngstown Road Runners, Youngstown CityScape and the Mahoning County Special Olympics.

Amateur radio enthusiasts are trained and licensed to provide communication among first responders in the event of a disaster. They often train with first responders for drills and simulations.

For example, when a deadly tornado hit Trumbull County on May 31, 1985, hams were involved with alerting the National Weather Service of what they were seeing. After the disaster, they used their radios to coordinate recovery and support efforts with the Red Cross.

“We stand ready to help our friends, our neighbors and our nation in the event of a national disaster,” said association member Mark Munroe. “If there is no power, some of the first things that fail are cell phone service, telephone service.”

Hams get involved with disaster simulations with local police and fire departments. In the case of an emergency, the radios will be used because the cell phone networks could crash from traffic.

“If we don’t practice, we won’t be prepared,” Sole said. “Every time they practice they call us because communications is the life blood of everything you do, and disaster communication is absolutely critical. That’s where we shine — we can built our system on the fly, we don’t rely on infrastructure.”

For more information about the club or to sign up, visit http://www.mvara.org/index.html.

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