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HAM OPERATORS SWUNG INTO ACTION AFTER QUAKE

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Thousands of ham radio operators from across the nation and around the world swung into action following the earthquake that rocked California Tuesday.

And many of the radio operators involved in helping to relay and secure information on the whereabouts of possible victims of the quake were from Utah, said Jerry Wellman, who is a ham radio operator and production systems manager for the Newspaper Agency Corp.Wellman, who was operating his own equipment Tuesday night and early Wednesday from his home in the Kearns area, said ham operators set up what are known as radio nets soon after the quake hit about 5:04 p.m. PDT.

"They started relaying information about damage, conditions and requests for assistance from people," Wellman said.

The ham operators also set up "area nets" on shortwave frequencies, which are used to handle radio traffic between major cities and from outside the areas affected by the quake. The area nets were valuable, Wellman said, because telephone service was disrupted over wide areas in the earthquake zone.

"I was really impressed with how orderly the ham radio operators were. They were very polite and handled a lot of messages directed to the San Francisco Bay area. Most of the responses coming out of that area were positive about the condition of people," Wellman said.

Despite the severe conditions, Wellman said he was impressed that ham operators remained calm, relayed factual information and "weren't repeating rumors on the air. A lot of information and public service was given for relatives and friends of people in and out of San Francisco."

Wellman said one man on the East Coast was trying to find out about a relative in San Francisco. One ham radio operator, located close to the person on whom information was being sought in San Francisco, was able to help the man in the East, he said.

"It was neat to hear the two communicate and to hear information that the man's relative was OK. That was within about an hour after the earthquake hit," Wellman said.