Ham Radio Operators First to Report Deadly Haiti Quake

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Over the past few days, Charlie Wooten has had his ear on his ham radio. Steadily listening to updates from the devastation in Haiti.

He's one of hundreds of amateur radio operators or "hams" in our area. He runs his ham from what he calls his shack at his home.

When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, hams were the first ones to break the news.

"Ham radios were on the air within an hour of getting the news about the earthquake," Wooten said.

Communications are still limited, but Wooten has been able to hear a Haitian priest and a U.N. worker on the Salvation Army’s amateur radio network.

"They want to set up some repeaters, vhf repeaters. They need the radios, equipment, walkie talkies to make that system viable for them to be able to hear in Port Au-Prince," Wooten said.

In Wooten's back yard, you'll find this 70-foot tall beam tower. The tower rotates to find the best signals, giving ham operators like Charlie a way to communicate and provide a helping hand to those who can't be heard.

"The equipment is so compact and very efficient and doesn't require a lot of sophistication more than a car battery and a piece of wire to be able to be on the air to talk hundreds even thousands of miles," Wooten said.

Charlie, who worked at Newschannel 7, said back in 1969, he and some of his fellow hams went down to cover Hurricane Camille.

He said for ten days, his crew was the only line of communication out of Pass Christian, Mississippi.

He calls his work an expensive hobby, but a very important hobby.

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