If you lived in Topanga during the Woolsey Fire or experienced a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), you know the ability to communicate from inside Topanga Canyon can be severely limited or even non-existent in an emergency.
With no electric power at the poles in Topanga, cell repeaters cannot work and neither can Internet or TV service provided by coaxial cables.
What communication channel is available â€śwhen all else failsâ€ť? Amateur radio.
Amateur radio operators (or â€śhams,â€ť as they call themselves) often provide crucial emergency communications during natural disasters. During and after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico in September 2017, hams provided critical communication within the island and between it and the rest of the world.
In California, hams assisted with communications during the 2018 Cranston Fire in Idyllwild, and during the 2013 Rim Fire in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties in the central Sierra Nevada range.
Even without grid power, Topanga hams are able to communicate with one another in the canyon and with hams outside the impacted area. Using battery and solar power and portable generators, local hams can help provide emergency communications for neighbors, first responders, and government agencies.
For 24 hours, from 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, until 11 a,m, on Sunday, June 26, members from the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (TCEP) Disaster Radio Team (DRT) will practice and demonstrate their emergency communications abilities.
They will be participating in Field Day, an emergency preparedness exercise involving tens of thousands of other amateur operators across North America (USA & Canada).
As part of their emergency preparedness exercise, they will set up antennas and equipment near the water tower along the Summit to Summit Motorway (just off Le Mans Drive in Calabasas).
Information about ham radio and emergency communications will be available to the public, along with a â€śGet-On-The-Airâ€ť station that will give young people an opportunity to be a radio operator.
All Topanga residents and others interested in the activities are encouraged to come by to meet and talk with the hard-working volunteers of the Topanga Disaster Radio Team.
For more information regarding Field Day or the Disaster Radio Team, contact DRT@TCEP.org.