Amateur radio operators key to Harvey emergency relief

Jeff Roberson / AP

Amateur radio operators, or ham radio operators, have stepped up after electricity and cell towers in Hurricane Harvey's path shut off.

What they're doing: These radio enthusiasts have been using their hobby and expertise to help emergency responders, hospitals, and shelters communicate by sending important data about barometric pressure, damages, wind speed, and wind direction to help response efforts.

"The saying for Ham radio is that when all else fails you have to rely on amateur radio," — John Newman, Ham Radio Operator, told

Why it matters: 320, or 4%, of the 7,804 cell sites in the region are out of service, the WSJ reports. And although most cell towers have backup batteries, they only last about 8 hours, and if they're flooded or their equipment is blown away, they're toast.