In October of 1989 a massive earthquake jolted central California with the epicenter close to Aptos in the Santa Cruz mountains. Although much damage and a few deaths occurred near the underground rupture, most damage and deaths occurred 90 miles to the north in Oakland and San Francisco. Seismic waves, similar to radio waves propagating in space, find a path through resistive materials and manifest themselves as they exit the earth, sometimes far from the source. Such was the case when those forces knocked down sections of a double-deck freeway through Oakland and erupted under the bay fill of the Marina District of San Francisco. And, even though Loma Prieta mountain escaped relatively unharmed (although seismologists say it is now four feet higher that it was before the quake), it became the namesake of that fateful 7.2 shaker that will be forever be known as the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989.
Loma Prieta is the most prominent physical feature in the Santa Cruz Mountains that ring Monterey Bay -- running in a general north-south direction -- so it is understandable that the name is tagged to many locations, organizations, clubs, schools and streets in the area. The Loma Prieta Amateur Radio Club (LPARC) is one such entity and it was formed after that terrible shake, partly, because the need for reliable communication became clear when public utilities ceased to function. Several local "hams" used their expertise to sow the seeds that would lead to the formation of LPARC, as it is now known. They enticed the Volunteer Fire Team to not only recruit its members to become hams, but also to sponsor a repeater that would make radio coverage more reliable in the mountainous area surrounding Loma Prieta.
Gene Leman (WA6JZN) built the transmitter and receiver, while other members assembled a tower and shack to house the equipment. Charlie Norman (KB6GBX) became the repeater trustee (someone's call has to be recorded on official FCC documents as being responsible for the repeater's use) while Kevin Epperly (KD6FAV), Mike Kelly (N6ZOC), Alex Leman (KC6TYG), and Austin Lesea (AB6VU) were control operators. The repeater's call sign was later changed to AB6VS when Charlie upgraded his license. About half of the fire team did, in fact, train for and receive their FCC Amateur Licenses and other hams in the area made up an initial club roster of about 30 members.
Eleven years after the earthquake that spawned the radio club, most of the original members are still active and meet regularly to hone their communicative skills and keep abreast of new equipment and techniques. The drive that keeps interest alive is the fact that we live in an area that is prone to disaster -- that we have survived several of nature's onslaughts and that we vow that we will be better prepared to communicate than we have been in the past.
Because of this dedication there is a local Loma Prieta chapter of ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) which is a part of a greater entity called OES (Office of Emergency Services) at a county and state level. Santa Cruz County officials know that they can count on amateurs to be available when needed -- in fact, a room in the Santa Cruz County OES facility is set aside for ham equipment and ham operators for when "the next big one" happens (and it's just a question of "when" it happens, not "if" it happens).<br><br>
Ham operators, in the tradition of amateur radio, are not paid for their service -- nor, do they expect to be. They dedicate a part of their private life so they will be available to help ease the trauma of the certain calamity that will strike (hopefully later rather than sooner) our habitat. And, while doing all that, they derive a great deal of enjoyment pursing their hobby, experimenting with equipment, and, even participating in competitions with other hams around the world.
With the advent of cellular phones, the Internet, television and commercial radio, one would think there would be no need for amateur radio communications. Experience has shown that all of these means will be limited or no use in the event of a catastrophe -- whether it be natural or man-made! Amateur radio will be available as a means of communication, even if the repeater is taken out of operation. Using battery power and simplex (radio-to-radio) operation, hams will be able to talk with each other and help officials conduct their very critical operations during a dire emergency.
There is always a need for new people to become involved. Youngsters are especially adept at grasping the theory of radio -- they hold key to the future, anyway, and are welcome to become a part of this fascinating endeavor. That does not mean, however, that the "oldsters" are excluded! For example, the ranks of enthusiastic ham operators include Kings (Husein of Jordan), politicians (Sen. Goldwater of AZ), and even musicians (Chet Atkins of guitar fame) -- along with thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands, of great and not-so-great people across the world who pride themselves with the statement "I have an amateur radio license"!
It's wholesome, challenging and rewarding. Who could ask more of a hobby?