When all else fails, Washington County Amateur Radio is there

Members in action at a WCARES leadership meeting. Shown are: Back row L to R: Boyd Borden, Tom Smith, Kendall Childester. Front row L to R: Ken Head, Jim Ashby, Mac Harme. St. George, Utah, April 19, 2012 | Courtesy of Norman Smith; St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Whether answering a call for help or a fun afternoon of chatter, the Washington County Amateur Radio Emergency Service is sending good vibrations across Utah’s Dixie. 

WCARES is the local chapter of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, a volunteer group of amateur ham radio operators who are activated following an emergency such as a natural disaster or blackout (their popular motto is “When all else fails, radio is there!”) During these times, ARES members collaborate with public safety departments and organizations including the American Red Cross, National Weather Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide communication when other means are unavailable. Its personnel have responded to countless crisis situations since the foundation of ARES in the 1930s. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, over one thousand operators assisted in the relief effort by serving as 911 dispatchers and the sole means of communication for citizens in southern Mississippi.

WCARES Emergency Coordinator Jim Ashby performs maintenance on the tower at his home, St. George, Utah, August 4, 2012 | Courtesy of Jim Ashby; St. George News

“The group is poised to react when called to (aid) the (emergency service) agencies of Washington County (with) communications needs,” WCARES public information officer Norman Smith said. “It is (our) goal to be ready to respond to all activations in a timely manner.”

Currently, 40 operators serve in WCARES, though leadership is concentrated on a smaller team of five to seven. Jim Ashby is the Emergency Coordinator, who serves as the liaison with local emergency services personnel and is also responsible for arranging meetings, training members and activating the group when crisis hits. A veteran of the United States Navy and electronics engineer by trade, Ashby has been active in amateur radio since childhood and previously served in ARES organizations in Texas and California before joining WCARES. He is also involved with Skywarn, a program developed by the National Weather Service to document severe weather occurrences to aid with future prediction and preparation.

To ensure the group’s continued readiness, Ashby coordinates weekly equipment testing and training. In the past, WCARES has trained alongside representatives from Intermountain Healthcare Southwest Region at Dixie Regional Medical Center and the Washington County Health Department, as well as various fire departments and cities across the county. The organization has also helped employees from these agencies obtain amateur ham radio licenses for faster and easier communication with WCARES.

In addition to emergency preparedness, the members of WCARES frequently serve as communications support in events such as Ironman St. George and the Zion 100/50 marathon.

This Saturday, Sept. 8, WCARES will appear at the 2012 Washington County Community Preparedness Expo in the Dixie Convention Center, where they also have an informational booth.

And WCARES will volunteer at the Huntsman World Senior Games and the St. George Marathon this October.

WCARES welcomes new members with open arms and joining takes little more than filling out an application. The only requirements, Ashby said, are an amateur radio license and a desire to serve for the benefit of both the group and the community.

“Amateur radio isn’t all about communications in times of disaster,” he said. “We also have a lot of fun. It’s a great group of guys.”

Core members of WCARES. Shown are: Back row, Bob Vosper; Front row L to R: Tim Tyler, Ken Head, Norman Smith. St. George, Utah, May 31, 2012 | Courtesy of Norman Smith; St. George News


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.


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  • Biff September 6, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Breaker breaker 19, we got us a nerd convoy.

    • Whiskey mike September 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      … – ..-. ..-

      • Whiskey mike September 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm

        …. .. …. .. –… …–

    • Brett September 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      … – ..- .–. .. -.. / – .-. — .-.. .-..

  • Sierra November September 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Hey “Biff,”
    When those “nerds” are the only way for you to get a paramedic, a police officer or a fireman to your house in an emergency, remind them of your opinion of their skill and dedication. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Also, by applying CB jargon to Amateur Radio shows how truly limited your knowledge is.

  • Jim Ashby, WCARES EC September 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Alexa, thank you for a well written article.
    That is me on the tower picture, 50′ tower.

    I think the Expo should be used for the “Hug-a-ham” day.

    BTW, CB radio is a non-licensed radio and does not require any technical knowledge or commitments to operate.


  • Jim Ashby, WCARES EC September 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Yes! we do have some nerds in our group.

    We all want to serve our community.

    And we do.

    It is amazing the different type of people and the work they do or have done in their lives, that we have in Amateur Radio.
    From the young to the very, very old,

    When I made my first contact in England, UK it was with a 98 year old operator on Echolink (our internet radio service). This operator was in a wheelchair, and could barely get arround his flat.
    This was his connection to the world, his way of reaching out to the world and its people.

    He was certanly NOT a NERD, he was a WWII officer, and a very good contact to communicate with.

    Wonderful contact from half way arround the world.

    Now, I have Echolink on my Android Smart Phone, so I can communicate anywhere I have Cellular Internet service.
    We do have WCARES members whoc check in to our local radio test/training nets from all over the world.

  • Mark September 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    – …. .- -. -.- -.– — ..- -… — -… -.- . -. -. — .-. — – .. — .— .. — .- -. -.. – …. . .-. . … – — ..-. .– -.-. .- .-. . … ..-. — .-. -.– — ..- .-. – .. — . .- -. -.. -.-. — — — .. – — . -. – – — …. . .-.. .–. .. -. –. .– .- … …. .. -. –. – — -. -.-. — ..- -. – -.– .-. . … .. -.. . -. – …

    • Mark September 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm


  • Mark September 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    .- -. -.. — .- -.-. -… — -.– -.. – — — -.- . -. -.. .- .-.. .-..

    • Mark September 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm


  • Knine September 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks Alexa, It is cool to communicate into areas of Utah that may not have cell coverage due to terrain challenges. My cell phone is actually a low power radio. Wow…….I guess that means we are all radio operators of some sort owning a cell phone. Unfortunately our cell sites are designed to handle only a small portion of the potential traffic. They can be overwhelmed rather easily. It is nice to have a radio back-up just in case.

  • Biff September 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Biff here. I was ready to ham up. Got me 5 sticks of Rohn 25G, some ladder-line and 3 yards of concrete. Next thing I know my HOA filed suit. Sold it all on Craigs list and got me a 23 channel Midland and a foot warmer. Best decision I ever made. 10-4 good buddies.

  • Biff September 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    -… .. ..-. ..-. / .-. ..- .-.. . …

  • Biff September 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Whiskey Mike has a potty mouth. I will not be censored. Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

  • AngryNeighbor September 8, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Count your lucky stars that you don’t live next door to a hammer. Their towers cause my phone and home theater to make noises like donald duck. The hammer provided some “farick beads” to wrap all the wires around. They looked ugly and I took them off. The hammer said I have defective appliances and to look at a the sticker on the back. There is a sticker called Part 15 that says I have to accept interference. I called the police and they didn’t do anything abut it. Now the hammer won’t talk to me. HIS TOWER IS THE PROBLEM, NOT ME!!! I know my rights. This can’t be legal having all of this radiation. My property values are lower now because of the tower.

    Ever hear of the internet or cell phones? Towers and radiation can’t be legal.

    • Nickname September 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      When he came over to put on those ferrite beads, and you took them off that was you saying you did not need his help, what he was required to do ended then and there. Those ferrite beads actually work quite well at resolving RFI issues by cheaply made or poorly wired electronics. And part 15 says:

      § 15.5
      General conditions of operation.
      (a) Persons operating intentional or unintentional radiators shall not be deemed to have any vested or recognizable right to continued use of any given frequency by virtue of prior registration or certification of equipment, or, for power line carrier systems, on the basis of prior notification of use pursuant to § 90.35(g) of this chapter.
      (b) Operation of an intentional, unintentional, or incidental radiator is subject to the conditions that no harmful interference is caused and that interference must be accepted that may be caused by the operation of an authorized radio station, by another intentional or unintentional radiator, by industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) equipment, or by an incidental radiator.
      (c) The operator of a radio frequency device shall be required to cease operating the device upon notification by a Commission representative that the device is causing harmful interference. Operation shall not resume until the condition causing the harmful interference has been corrected.
      (d) Intentional radiators that produce Class B emissions (damped wave) are prohibited.

      The police can not do anything, he is breaking no laws, and is holding up the laws quite nicely.

      The ham does not have to talk to you or help you now, by the rules that govern us he is done.(Like I said before.)

      RF radiation is not ionizing radiation, that starts somewhere in the UV range (exactly where is of heated debate by scientists.) It does not have enough energy to knock electrons free. And he does have to follow the MPE Levels, your perfectly safe.

      Towers do not lower property values.

      All that talk is pure balony. (As stated before) And what does the internet have anything to do with this, it is not a wireless signal, WiFI routers produce RF signals, but the INTERNET is just millions of computers connected together, mostly by Fiber Optic lines.

      T sum it all up:
      With part 15 you have no rights.
      Part 97 on the other hand has rights.

      Biff it is illegal to increase the power of any CB radio and can (and will) result in (some pretty heavy) fines.

  • Biff September 8, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Biff here AngyNeighbor. You go girl! Glad you told that hammer to keep his inductance well away from your cables. Toroids are mentioned no where in the constitution. Be aware however that your hammer neighbor is conducting important business on SSB consisting of long winded dialogs about his heart stint and endless squawking about Obama and his dirty Chicago-style tactics.

  • Mark September 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    What does Biff rule?

  • Biff September 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Biff rules the EM spectrum, from DC to light – but especially 11 meters. At 27MHz I have my 2kW linear amp coupled into my bedsprings where I issue fake Smokey alerts up and down I-15.

  • Jim Ashby, WCARES EC September 10, 2012 at 8:11 am

    BIFF, AngyNeighbor, you both need to post your complaints on the FCC site.
    The WCARES and many other Amateur Radio Operators will be here when you need us.
    It is the responsibility of all Legally licensed Amateur Radio Operators to work with neighbors to eliminate interference to their systems.
    If the Legally licensed operators equipment is properly grounded and installed, an MOST IMPORTANTLY OPERATED within the LEGAL limits of the rules set forth by the FCC, no interference should be felt by adjacent electronic systems.
    Check out the articles on ARRL, they are full of issues of improperly grounded or installed radio equipment causing interference to others. Once they remedied the issues the interference was resolved to all involved, without degrading the performance of the radio operator.
    The FCC rules state that you should not use excessive power to communicate between any two stations, and to make a good contact at 1.5KW when 100 watts will work just as well, is a violation of this ruling.
    It is also an ego trip to think you need more than 100 watts on any band to communicate even for a moon bounce. Try QRP 5 watts, with a hidden attic antenna, you may just be surprised on how well you can communicate with 5 watts of power.
    BTW, I have never seen FM interfere with any neighbor, only AM and AM-SSB (CB).
    Biff, sorry about your HOA, you should have checked out the FCC rules before allowing them to bully you out of Ham Radio. The ARRL has attorneys who work for free to resolve HOA and CC&R issues for licensed Amateur Radio operators. You might try contacting them.
    I hope you are not running illegal power on the CB bands, that would be a shame to hear about. We have enough problems with the Truckers who think they have to run KW’s of power to allow them to speed excessively down the interstate highways. It does not help to have truck stops selling the bricks, either.
    I have had towers in Texas, California, and now Utah and our property values in each location actually went up in the area. I do clean installs and make things look nice.

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