Communication and Electronics: Information Security Analysts Man the Amateur Radio Band Waves

WashU IT is comprised of an elite group of professionals. Each individual brings a unique skillset used to advance the mission and goals of our organization.  Security analysts, Bob Therina and Joe Cathell, from the Information Security Office happen to have an additional skillset that benefits the WashU Emergency Management team in case of a disaster. Both analysts are HAM amateur radio operators.  

HAM Amateur Radio Wave History 

According to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), “The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their older profession. In those early days, every station occupied the whole spectrum with its broad spark signal. Government stations, ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators all competed for time and signal supremacy in each other’s receivers. Many of the amateur stations were very powerful.” 

Where does the name HAM come from? 

ARRL explains, “Two amateurs, working with each other across town, could effectively jam all the other operations in the area. Frustrated commercial operators would refer to the radio interference by calling them hams. Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves. As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared.” 

Therina on his and Cathell’s volunteer role with Emergency Management 

“Joe and I have amateur radio operator licenses and it is a strictly volunteer, non-paid assistance. Ham operators have been involved in disasters over the decades communicating, typically non-emergency communications so that emergency resources aren’t being used for non-essential communication. Of course, it can be used for passing along emergency communications if other modes are inoperable. From a legal standpoint, only licensed amateur radio operators are allowed to communicate on amateur radio bands.”  

He also explains, “If some kind of disaster happened nearby and normal, everyday communications were taken out, this may be one way that they could get communications out to a loved one across the country that they are okay. There would be more communication with regard to request for intelligence and supplies and such from the WashU Emergency Management Team.” 


Click here to learn more about HAM amateur radio operators.