Amateur Radio When Cell Service Fails

Just like many of you I woke up last Thursday, February 22nd to no cell service. Even though I grew up without it, I have become accustomed (and at times addicted) to having data service on a mobile device. I use it to stream music on my morning drive. What did I ever do without map navigation and turn-by-turn directions? Instead, my phone just displayed the dreaded SOS. I guess at least I could get a hold of 911 if necessary but I quickly had to adapt for my morning drive. I did quickly download some music so I would have something to listen to without having to listen to commercials.

We as amateur radio operators are in a position to adapt and continue to communicate in such situations. Our radios don’t require inter-connected towers or Internet connections. Both can be used but they are not required. Many VHF and UHF repeater sites have backup power so they can still operate during power outages. We have many different HF bands that can be used to talk nearby or around the world. Humans are communicators by nature and most of us amateurs are experts at it.

I ended up with the opportunity to discuss exactly this topic in an interview with KOCO Channel 5. Through a strange set of circumstances I was asked about giving an interview and it was all done less than 30 minutes later. It is amazing how a cell phone outages creates interest in alternative (and some would say “older”) forms of communication. Below is the story KOCO aired. The entire story is available on their website:

Logan County Emergency Management posted the following on Facebook:

This simple post exploded. Our emergency manager is very ham friendly and we have recently started an ARES group that has been pretty active. He received numerous comments, Facebook Messages and emails. In fact we quickly created an email address for people looking for info. One of the messages was from KOCO and they wanted an interview. When I was asked agreed because I figured it was a good opportunity to mention amateur radio. They were really interested in hearing about us!

We are in a unique position to still have communication options when these events happen. Fortunately entire cell networks don’t go down often but it has happened before and it will happen again. The best thing each of you can do is to practice and be prepared. Make sure you know how to use your radio. Ensure it is programmed and working and that you know how to program it without having to use a computer. Use it regularly! EARS operates 2 repeaters that are open to anyone. Please use them. Field day is a great emergency exercise event.

Since I mentioned ARES I will include just a little bit about it here. Below is a summary of ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) from the ARRL website:

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.

The goal of ARES is to help out in emergency situations. Our Logan County team has helped most recently with a search for a missing person last October. With the wildfire threat the next few days, the team is prepared to assist. Training is part of program and details can be found on the ARRL website.

There are numbers ARES groups in different counties around the state. Oklahoma ARES info can be found on the website.

In summary, we should all be prepared and know how to use our radios when the time comes. Take a few minutes to make sure your HT batteries are charged, several local repeaters are programmed along with some simplex frequencies. Talk on the repeater. Most of us don’t bite. Please ask questions. That is what we are here for. Just remember that everything was new to someone at one point!

The Logan County ARES group can be contacted at if you have any ARES questions. If you have any questions about anything radio (or EARS) related, feel free to contact us at and we will do our best to help.

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