Before the summer of 2013 High River was known as the hometown of the Honourable Joe Clark, writer W.O. Mitchell and the TV series Homeland. In June of 2013 it became the location of one of Canada’s greatest natural disasters. With little warning the river overflowed its banks and raced across town destroying businesses, homes, infrastructure and lives.
Ham radio operators from the Foothills Amateur Radio Club and across the region responded to the emergency in the community by working closely with their town, area hospitals and emergency and support services (including fire, Alberta emergency measures and social services) to augment or replace communications that had been damaged or destroyed in the torrent. This is an example of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) at its finest.
To honour the extraordinary efforts of these amateurs, the Foothills Amateur Radio Club arranged a ceremony and banquet for its members and for those amateurs that came to assist in time of dire need. Their story is one of service and exceptionalism and these hams deserve the recognition that they received.
Honouring the volunteers were:
The Town of High River though Councilor (and former Mayor) Emile Blokland.
High River Fire Chief Len Zebedee.
The President of the Radio Amateurs of Canada; Geoffrey Bawden VE4BAW
The President of the Foothills Amateur Radio Club; Ray Bourne VE6LG
The Foothills Amateur Radio Club Emergency Coordinator; Wally Gardiner VE6BGL
The Emergency Coordinator for the Calgary Regional ARES Society; Ian Burgess VA6EMS
The Master of Ceremonies was the Assistant Emergency Coordinator (and Emergency Coordinator at the time); Vince d’Eon VE6LK
Special Guests included;
Scott Nalder VA6OC/VE6OBL, Assistant Emergency Coordinator and Net Controller at time of flood.
Mitch Mitchell VE6OH, RAC Director for Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Neal Sunderland VE6NL, Section Emergency Coordinator.
The Truly Honoured Guests were the responders to the disaster. Their names are on the RAC website at:
All received a certificate signed by Vince d’Eon, Geoff Bawden and Ian Burgess.
Former Mayor Blokland and Chief Lebedee, the two principle High River authorities during the disaster, presented letters of recognition and thanks from the Town of High River to volunteers signed by the current Mayor Craig Snodgrass.
Mr. Blokland also presented a letter of thanks to the national association signed by Mayor Snodgrass. The letter in part states; “The Radio Amateurs of Canada ... should be very proud and inspired by the Foothills Chapter and its members, in the wake of their actions and services to the community ... The quick response, expert technical knowledge and skill every member of the Foothills Amateur Radio Society demonstrated cannot be discounted in the positive effect they all had on the Town of High River’s quick and safe recovery .. A debt we can’t soon repay, but wish to acknowledge“
In his remarks RAC President observed that “...these amateurs serve as beacons and examples to hams all across Canada and I am proud to be invited to this ceremony and represent Canadian hams. Many radio volunteers had their homes flooded and some had family members missing and despite personal stress and fears they served others.”
Geoff Bawden VE4BAW