The Central Idaho Amateur Radio Club (CIARC) can use your help. They’re raising funds to purchase a trailer that will be used as a mobile emergency communications center in Valley County.

The type of trailer sought.

Since CIARC is a critical resource for Valley County Search and Rescue (SAR) and in other emergency situations, investing in their trailer with a donation today could pay real dividends since it could be you or a loved one being rescued in the backcountry or is otherwise relying on their help.

CIARC’s fundraising goal is $7,500, which will purchase a trailer and outfit it specifically for their needs. They’re about halfway to their goal. Let’s put them over the top. We’ll all be safer.

What Does the Club Do?

CIARC is comprised of volunteer amateur radio operators (also known as ham radio operators). One must be licensed to use set public radio frequencies, for noncommercial messages (hobbyists communicating with each other, around the globe) and as support in local, regional or national emergencies. In addition to responding to emergencies, CIARC helps train those interested in becoming licensed amateur radio operations and passing the Federal Communications Commission’s test.

CIARC member Larry Stokes volunteering at the 2012 McCall Trail Running Classic.

Many of CIARC’s members are also part of Valley County SAR, providing critical communications assistance in several searches every year. They also volunteer their skill and equipment as a safety net for various local events, such as Winter Carnival, and others that are quite remote, such as The McCall Trail Running Classic on Jug Mountain, the Four Summits Challenge bicycle race from Cascade to Reed Ranch and back, and the Idaho Challenge Sled Dog Race.

Each amateur radio operator has radio equipment set up in a room in his or her home, referred to as their “shack.” When there’s a callout – whether to assist search and rescue or helping at an event – the volunteers pack up their radios, antennas, and other necessary equipment and set up at some temporary location, often remote and accessible only by ATV, UTV or horse. Having a trailer already set up with some of the necessary equipment and ready to go at a moment’s notice would make responding to callouts much easier and quicker, according to Robert Wagner, president of CIARC. “Valley County SAR has its own COM [communications] center trailer,” says Wagner. “Our club trailer would provide a second COM center, allowing for full coverage between the two centers. Sometimes you lose signal in canyons if there’s only one COM center.”

CIARC members doing maintenance on the No Name Mountain repeater station.

CIARC maintains two repeater stations in the area to improve amateur radio signals across the county. A repeater is an automatic radio-relay station, usually located on a mountain top, tall building, or radio tower, allowing communication between two or more bases, mobile or portable stations that would otherwise be unable to communicate directly because of distance or obstructions between them. One CIARC repeater is atop No Business Mountain northwest of Donnelly, which communicates back to Cascade; the other is on the ski patrol hut on the summit of Brundage Mountain, covering the northeastern portion of Valley County, as far back as Yellow Pine. “A trailer as a COM center would enhance our ability to respond to emergencies or FEMA disaster callouts,” Wagner adds. “Our radios can cover areas in the backcountry where there’s no cell coverage and even the Forest Service and Valley County Sheriff’s communications don’t go.”

CIARC participates in national Field Day events where members test how ready and prepared they are to respond to an emergency. Club members head out in their RVs, trailers and trucks to a designated area and set up their antennas on trees, poles or even their vehicles. They have to be within a thousand feet of each other. During a 24 to 36-hour period, roughly eight local club members working stations for 3-4 hours at a time see how many other amateur radio operators around the world they can make contact with. “In 2018, there were over 1,800 people contacted,” says Wagner. The next national Field Day event is June 22-23, 2019. Watch for advertisements as to their location. The public is invited.

CIARC member and captain of Valley County SAR Larry Magnum (top) and CIARC president Robert Wagner.

Wagner notes that like him, several CIARC members are also members of Valley County SAR. Search and rescue volunteers who don’t have an amateur radio license aren’t allowed to touch the radios, so it’s a plus when a SAR volunteer is licensed, has radio skills, and can carry a radio with them on a search. A central COM trailer owned by CIARC would make coordinating their volunteers and communications with Valley County SAR and other government agencies that much smoother.

CIARC’s current fundraising goal is $7,500. The cost of the trailer is estimated at $5,000 and another $2,500 is needed to get it set up for its intended use. They’re almost halfway to their goal, having raised $3,700 to date. If you want to help put them over the top, making everyone in Valley County a little bit safer – residents and visitors – you can make a donation by visiting the CIARC website, their Facebook fundraising page  or their newly-created GoFundMe page.

Here’s a video, narrated by Walter Cronkite, explaining the importance of amateur radio operators during natural and national disasters.

(Cover photo: CIARC volunteers at Gold Fork Lookout during the Four Summits Challenge bicycle event. All photos courtesy of CIARC.)

About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

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