The Palo Alto Fire Department is calling on ham radio operators to help watch over fire-sensitive areas around the city during the Fourth of July holiday.
Between 15 and 20 operators will be stationed at strategic vantage points -- such as Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, Foothills Park and the Stanford Dish -- to report any fires or other illicit activity, according to Suzan Minshall, emergency manager for the Palo Alto Fire Department. The operators will be on alert from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The fire watch is an annual Fourth of July event and only Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensed operators can participate. In a decade that has seen numerous advances in communication technology, the fire department still relies on ham radios in emergency situations because radio frequencies are not affected by power outages.
"Ham radios are not outdated," Minshall said. "They are the things people go to when other forms of communication go out."
Minshall added that the Emergency Operations Center in the basement of Palo Alto City Hall has seats specifically for ham radio stations.
"They are involved in just about every drill that we do," she said.
In addition to providing an increased level of notification for the city, Minshall said the watch will give operators valuable communication training in the foothills and surrounding areas.