This article was written by BenitoLink reporter intern Jessica De La Torre
San Benito County is a hotspot for a group of amateur radio hobbyists who occupy the airwaves not only for entertainment but in case of an actual emergency.
The San Benito County Amature Radio Association, also known as Hams, has about 50 members and it’s not exclusive to the residents of San Benito County. In response to the pandemic, Hams expanded and now has members throughout the region as well as in Southern California and Reno.
Heatherly Takeuchi, an assistant district emergency coordinator, said when she moved into San Benito County she realized her cell service wasn’t the best and would need to take other precautions in case of an emergency.
“I realized that if I had any car trouble I might have to call for help without using a cellphone,” she said. “The alternative is amateur radio.”
With the knowledge and skills she’s gained, Takeuchi has helped the county become better prepared for emergencies.
“Since becoming a ham, I have helped with many events: Sea Otter Classic, Field Day, the San Benito County Fair, Golden Guardian, etc.,” she said. “On the emergency side, I have helped with the 2016 Lovers Lane Flooding, and several search and rescue call-outs.”
Hams provides testing and training to people interested in radio. A license is required in order to use their equipment on amateur radio frequencies. The license is provided by a federal grant issued by the Federal Communications Commission.
There is no age requirement to take the exam. One of the youngest Hams members to pass the license test was 11 years old; the oldest was 90 years old. Upon passing the test, the user is issued a callsign—an operator identification. Some callsigns are random and some are requested.
Takeuchi also started a volunteer examiner group in San Benito County 12 years ago and has helped nearly 600 people earn their first amateur radio license.
Hams has a “weekly net” meeting which is when members and visitors call in on their radios to make sure their equipment works properly and to socialize. Weekly nets allow Hams to learn people’s callsigns and share announcements and upcoming events.
Hams has one of its biggest events of the year on June 26: Field Day. The weekend-long gathering will be hosted by amateur radio operators from Hams and the Garlic Valley Amateur Radio Club.
The event is open to the public and will be held at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Radio equipment will be out and available to test with the help of the operators.
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