In an effort to make better use of the San Fernando Police Department's recently upgraded radio facility, a series of free workshops began this week to train amateur ham radio operators.
Ham radio operators are considered a valuable asset when traditional methods of communication are unusable, said radio operator John Bodwell, who is helping to teach the course.
"During any time of disaster, telephones either go down or are so overloaded with people trying to get through that they're useless," Bodwell said. "That's what we're here for, to supply communication in times of trouble."
The training program is funded by a $15,000 grant from GTE California Inc. Workshops last about eight weeks each and will be offered for a year.
"This is really the only group of its kind in the Valley," said San Fernando Police Lt. Dan Peavy. "During the earthquake, [ham radios] were the only reliable form of communication we had with the county."
There is no cost for instruction, but textbooks cost about $10 and the fee to become certified is $5, Bodwell said. Fourteen people have enrolled in the first workshop, which began Monday. Organizers say they are seeking more volunteers, especially those who are bilingual.
The department recently upgraded its radio facilities, moving its radio equipment from a basement into a tower that can better accommodate radio antennas. The improvements were funded with help from a $142,000 state grant, Bodwell said.
More information about the ham radio training is available by calling Rico Rose at (818) 898-1282.