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Amateur radio operators use old tech for worldwide communications during pandemic

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PEORIA (WEEK) -- While video chatting apps like Zoom are rising in popularity, a group of local people are using a slightly older technology to stay in touch.  

The hobby of amateur radio -- better known as ham radio -- allows people like Jon Dainty and Thomas Hunt to talk with each other and others without having to leave their “shacks” -- coming naturally during the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. 

Both members of the Peoria-Area Amateur Radio Club, they can talk over different frequencies based on class of license.  

Both Dainty and Hunt hold "extra" class licenses -- the highest class -- giving them the ability to talk around the world using HF depending on solar weather conditions. 

“...One in Hungary, and one in England, and one in Croatia, as well as hams locally in the U.S.,” said Thomas Hunt, trustee at the Peoria Area Amateur Radio Club. “Course, all of us are talking about the COVID-19 virus which we found we have more in common with those who are sheltering-in-place all over the world as we do here in the United States.” 

Many amateurs are also trained weather spotters -- watching for severe weather and reporting back to the national weather service.  

The day of the Washington tornado, amateur radio operators were the first line of communications until cell phones came back.  

Hunt says amateurs continue training for disaster communications. 

Jason Howell

Producer at 25 News and Heart of Illinois ABC

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