Ramona Outback Amateur Radio Society (ROARS) History
In the fall of 1989, Vernon Leming (president of the Ramona Municipal Water District), Karl Diekman (chief of the Ramona Fire Department -- a subsidiary of the RMWD) and Kevin O'Leary (assistant chief and emergency preparedness officer for the Ramona Fire Department) met to develop an emergency plan for Ramona and environs.
The overriding concern was that Ramona (because of its isolation) could not rely on outside assistance during the first two hours of any emergency, or during the first two to six days of a major regional disaster. Additionally, the Ramona valley is dependent on regional radio repeaters and the telephone system for communications, neither of which can be relied upon during an emergency. This is a critical consideration, since direct "simplex" communications are limited due to the terrain.
Chief Diekman stated that at his former location (in Florida) the community relied upon amateur radio operators ("hams") during frequent emergencies. He suggested that a local radio club could fill much of the community's needs. President Leming, an amateur radio operator, agreed to attempt to found such a club.
Leming consulted with local hams active in emergency organizations and with the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The ARRL provided mailing labels for all hams in the Ramona area, and Art Smith (Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) section manager) provided technical advice.
Leming arranged for a meeting attended by 42 local hams in November, 1989. A consensus was reached to start a local ham club, and a committee was established to determine the structure for a club. Bylaws were drafted, meetings held, and the Ramona Outback Amateur Radio Society (ROARS) was incorporated in September, 1990.
While organizing activities progressed, ROARS began training activities.
Twenty-six members met to test point-to-point simplex communications in the Ramona area. A matrix was developed so that communications gaps could be anticipated and adjusted for during an emergency. Several drills were organized which focused on notifying and mobilizing ham operators, using self-imposed limitations -- such as telephone and repeater failures -- which could be expected during disasters.
To develop the skills required to assist the Ramona Fire Department during an emergency, drills were carried out with Department personnel. During one, ROARS operators "rode along" with fire trucks, rescue vehicles, and ambulances -- providing simplex communications to and from the emergency command center; ROARS also provided links to the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), using only ham operators.
Members were encouraged to participate in activities which would develop skills needed in emergencies. Regular information nets were established on HF, VHF and packet radio bands. ROARS provided communications for a back county bicycle race which traversed areas which had poor communications, and which required a mobile relay system. Members participated as communicators at the Miramar Air show, Ramona Fair Parade, El Cajon Friendship Days, Ramona Crop Walk, etc.
During the first few months of 1990, ROARS developed a corps of dedicated, trained amateur radio operators who had the skills to provide the immediate, minimum needs of the community.
Laura Lenci (KK6IGA), the ROARS secretary, went through old files about the club. Here is perhaps the first press announcement about ROARS forming, circa late 1989.
Laura believes the first club meeting was indeed held on December 6, 1989.