Dan Wilt has spent hundreds of hours developing training guides and plans for fellow amateur radio operators in Howard County, to ensure that first responders and others will be able to communicate during the worst of emergencies.
“Dan has a special and often unrecognized set of technical skills as an amateur radio operator and chooses to support his community,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a news release. “Many people might not know about the critical role these radios could play in an emergency, but they would be invaluable to our communication and our ability to respond to our neighbor’s needs if phones, power or other communication systems were unavailable.”
Last month, the Howard County Office of Emergency Management and Ball announced that Wilt, 68, of Columbia, was named the county’s Emergency Management Volunteer of the Year.
The award is given annually to recognize an individual who volunteers to assist the county in preparing for, responding to and mitigating or recovering from emergency disasters or incidents in the county. Wilt was awarded for his dedication to county safety and advancing emergency response capabilities, according to the news release.
Wilt works in the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and is a member of the Columbia Amateur Radio Association. He leads the Howard County Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, and volunteered more than 150 hours last year at RACES activities and events.
Wilt’s interest in amateur radio began after a high school teacher invited him to join a newly formed amateur radio club, in which he and his friends tested out radio equipment and called other amateur radio operators around the country and world, according to the news release.
Amateur radio sparked his interest in communications and electronics, which led to a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from the University of Southern California and a doctorate in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology.
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His hands-on experience with amateur radio helped him gain skills in conducting research and taught him to look at scientific problems from a practical standpoint, he said.
“I’m really very honored, particularly to be picked out of a group of great people who help the county and volunteer for the county,” Wilt said. “I really enjoy being a part of the county volunteers and having an opportunity to give back.”
Mike Hinson, director of the Office of Emergency Management, said it is Wilt’s ability to train others and his track record of service to the community that made him a good candidate for the award.
“[Wilt] is very affable and I think that’s a huge quality when you’re asking people to give to the community,” he said. “To have that level of technical expertise and also be willing to train people and do it in a way that’s welcoming and inclusive of others is really important.”