For the past 45 years, residents of Atlanta, Georgia, have celebrated Independence Day by closing one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares and allowing 60,000 runners to take part in the Peachtree Road Race, sponsored by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Atlanta Track Club. Supporting the runners are some 5000 volunteers, including more than 50 Amateur Radio operators. Nearly 200,000 spectators enjoyed this year’s event. Coordinating the Amateur Radio response were race Communications Director David Ziskind, KE4QLH, and Chris Balch, KS4MM, an ARRL Volunteer Counsel and Atlanta ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator. Volunteer operators came from ARES groups and Amateur Radio clubs throughout the Atlanta metro area.
“This year provided a particularly challenging environment as July 4 saw Atlanta hit by a long line of severe and dangerous thunderstorms just as the race got under way,” Balch recounted. “As the storms intensified, Track Club officials made the decision to hold the [remaining] runners and move those waiting to start indoors for safety. After a 30 minute delay, the other 25,000 race participants emerged into the rainy late morning and completed their annual jog down Peachtree Street.”
Working closely with the Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management Agency (AFCEMA), the Atlanta Police and Fire departments, and federal and state law enforcement and public safety agencies, the Amateur Radio contingent provided crucial on-course intelligence and safety reports for injured runners, race conditions, and even the occasional suspicious package. Learning from the Boston Marathon experience, net control operations for the race are located at AFCEMA’s underground Emergency Operations Center. AFCEMA Director Matthew Kallmayer worked with Atlanta ARES EC Ken Reid, KG4USN, to stock the EOC with three dualband radios. This let the ham volunteers run and respond to three separate (as well access a D-STAR link to the Atlanta Police Headquarters), providing coordination among public safety, Atlanta Track Club organizers and media outlets.
Race communications benefited from the use of repeaters owned by the Atlanta Radio Club, the Metropolitan Atlanta Telephone Pioneers Amateur Radio Club, and the Georgia Tech Amateur Radio Club. — Thanks to Chris Balch, KS4MM, AEC Atlanta ARES, via The ARES E-Letter