Ham Radio 360: ARES responds to the Joplin Tornado-a look back with AC0HA

In times of natural disasters, communication is crucial in ensuring the safety and well-being of affected individuals. Amateur radio operators or “hams” play a vital role in disaster response, providing essential communication support when other means of communication fail. In this episode of Premiere Fo Time Podcast, we talk with Cecil Higgins, AC0HA, who was the “Ham In Charge” during the ARES response to the Joplin MO Tornado Disaster in 2011.

The Importance of Disaster Response

When a natural disaster strikes, communication systems such as telephone lines, cell towers, and internet connectivity can easily become unavailable or overloaded, hampering emergency response efforts. Amateur radio operators, who are trained in emergency communication protocols and equipment, provide reliable and flexible communication support during disasters, ensuring that emergency services can communicate with each other and coordinate their efforts.

The Role of Amateur Radio Operators in Disasters

Amateur radio operators can take on many roles during a disaster response, including providing communication support for emergency services, assisting in the search and rescue of survivors, and coordinating relief efforts. During the Joplin MO Tornado Disaster, Cecil and his team of amateur radio operators provided communication support for the ARES response team, ensuring that emergency services could communicate with each other and respond effectively to the disaster.

Equipment that Worked Best

During disasters, communication equipment needs to be durable, reliable, and easy to set up and use. Cecil and his team found that portable radios with long-lasting batteries and antennas worked best in the field. They also used repeater systems, which allowed for extended communication range and provided better coverage in areas with weak signals.

Lessons Learned from the Joplin MO Tornado Disaster

Cecil and his team learned several valuable lessons during the Joplin MO Tornado Disaster, including the importance of having a backup power source, establishing communication protocols before a disaster strikes, and working closely with emergency services to ensure effective communication. These lessons can help other amateur radio operators prepare for future disasters and ensure that they are ready to respond when needed.


The recent Twin-Tornado that devastated the small Nebraskan town of Pilger serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and the critical role that amateur radio operators play in disaster response. Amateur radio operators like Cecil and his team provide an essential service during disasters, ensuring that communication lines remain open and that emergency services can respond quickly and effectively. Let us continue to pray for those affected by the recent disaster and support the courageous individuals who are always ready to respond in times of crisis.

Cecil Higgins AC0HA: AAR and PowerPoint Presentation linked from the ares-mo.org website.


Upcoming in Episode 2: KF7IJZ and I discuss Field Day, Solar/ Battery, and a great deal more!