Amateur radio is one step closer to having a place on campus. Yesterday, Bill Boyd from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Office of Emergency Services came to campus with Stu Sheldon, a representative of the volunteer Auxilliary Communication Service (ACS), to check out Bell Tower 2301. This small closet between Bell Tower and Bell Tower West has been identified as a potential home for a radio room on campus.

The radio room would be home to communications gear that could be operated by people who have an amateur radio license, or anyone under the supervision of a person with a license. Students could use the gear to learn how to be on air and talk with other people in the area or beyond. This skill doesn’t seem notable until you try it and you start to explore what it means to be able to use amateur radio to communicate.

Most people have the experience of listening to news or music on a radio in the car or at home. In that situation, you are a consumer of radio. When you have an amateur radio license, you find youself on the other end of that production-consumption process. You are putting things out into the airwaves for everyone to hear. It’s like using a walkie-talkie but with the expectation that you’re on a stage and anyone could hear what you’re saying.

Bill and Stu thought the space would be great. It’s a little far from the campus Emergence Operation Center (EOC), but that may be OK for now. (When the county activates our EOC, the ACS will be able to come in and staff the radio room to augment communications between the EOC and other disaster response partners in the County and beyond.) It’s enough to take the next steps in making the radio room a reality, anyway.

Preparatory work includes making sure the space has internet connectivity (ethernet), has enough power outlets (and a circuit that’s at least 15 amps), and can be plumbed to allow for cable being run from the inside of the room to antennas that will be mounted on the roof outside the room. (Hopefully, the campus is not going to be so precious about the appearance of the buildings that it’s going to deny a request to mount some antennas!) Once the space has that infrastructure, we’ll call on the talented folks from the Conejo Valley Amateur Radio Club and ACS and ask them to help us set up the shack! And once the radios are running, we’ll start opening the doors to students.