Preparing for the worst and hoping it never happens — that’s the order of the day for Michael Schlenker, who is perched atop San Vicente Mountain Park on a Saturday morning. He is a volunteer with the Los Angeles Fire Department Auxiliary Communications Service, which is comprised of more than 100 amateur ham radio operators spread across four bureaus.
When all else fails during a disaster, they jump into action.
“Cell phone towers will go down, the power will go out and your cell phones will be rendered obsolete for communication,” Schlenker said. “If you have a ham radio, you’re able to reach out to those in your neighborhood or community.”
That is exactly why the group is so valuable to the LAFD for backup communications. On this day, he led a three-hour drill across the Southland, relaying fire and medical calls, just as they would during a disaster.
Schlenker got his operator’s license seven years ago, but his passion for radio goes way back.
“My grandfather had a police and fire scanner and so as a kid, we’d sit and listen and listen to all the calls that go out. It was just fascinating to hear that,” he said.
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