Alaskans were fortunate none of the state's communications systems were taken out during Nov. 30's 7.0 earthquake. But what happens when cell towers and internet go down?

Civil Air Patrol volunteers like Retired 2nd Lt. Pete Marsh are ready to respond via radio.

"This is an HF (high frequency) radio with automatic link establishment," Marsh said, showing off one of the six radios in his home.

The technology is always evolving and that's what he loves about it.

"The constant changing conditions require you to keep learning, and it never gets old because it's always a new situation," Marsh said.

His hobby started when he was in the Army in a long-range reconnaissance unit.

Pete Marsh, pictured in the front right, was part of a long range reconnaissance unit in the Army.

"We were jumping out of airplanes with all the stuff that we used and the radios were really heavy, and you had to carry a lot of batteries," Marsh recalled. "And no one wanted to jump and hump that radio."

He said he was the new guy and other soldiers gave him a hard time, but being the radio operator made him an indispensable member of the team.

"And right away, as soon as I figured out what was going on with the radio and how to make it work, no one messed with me anymore," he said, laughing.

As a CAP volunteer, every day he and dozens of other operators from around the country check their communications and test the system to make sure it's working properly.

Marsh said what makes radios so valuable is that they don't need any infrastructure.

"Basically if you have a car battery and a wire for an antenna, you can connect to any other stations that are in your network, up to several thousand miles away," he explained.

The network becomes crucial in an emergency and allows multiple agencies to communicate when other methods fail. Marsh said the problem now is the growing number of people who lack the necessary skills.

"The Civil Air Patrol really needs people who are interested in wireless technology and digital communications computers," he said.

It's a communications system that could save lives in a disaster – and the more people who know how to use radios, the better prepared the state will be in the long run.

More information on the Civil Air Patrol's radio program is available on its website.

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