by Richard Rodriguez, WB6NAH
Members of the Skagit Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Club (SARECC) have overcome the social separation issue imposed during the coronavirus, by meeting using their radios.
They gather using a radio repeater located in Anacortes allowing them to share time together on a wide variety of topics, covering the Skagit Valley region and beyond. Should the internet degrade, amateur radio will serve as a vital link.
The "Hotel Whiskey (Health & Welfare) Net" meetings vary in size but usually include some 20 to 30 participants who "check in" through a central network control operator and then take turns sharing information.
Topics can be anything from "what I'm doing today" to recipes, posing technical questions, commenting on a good book to read, TV show or movie to watch, trivia questions, sharing info on lines and the availability of items at local markets, phone numbers of service providers for seniors, or one might just say nothing while listening and monitoring the conversation.
All in all, nearly 50 different operators have participated since the program began nearly two weeks ago.
Using home stations, mobile radios or even hand-held walky-talkies, operators are free to join the group while walking the dog, hiking the Community Forest Lands running an errand or relaxing in their homes.
The daily gatherings are hosted by volunteer coordinators, some of which include Richard Rodriguez, WB6NAH; Peter Witheford, AF5TR; Leander Nichols, KB1UXX and others when necessary.
In addition to the lively banter, the operators are also honing their skills in case they're needed to assist others in a time of emergency. But in the near term, amateur radio provides a means to escape the barriers of sheltering in place, linking with others, sharing experiences and being social without the need to gather in person.
An FCC Amateur Radio license is required to transmit but those with scanner radios can listen in on 443.350 MHz at 2 p.m.. Information on obtaining a ham radio license can be found at www.facebook.com/SkagitAmateurRadio/ or www.arrl.org.