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Radio operators ready to step in if there's a race day emergency

If cell phone towers go down on race day, these guys will be the eyes and ears of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Sixty amateur radio operators will be ears and ears at every water stop at the marathon on Sunday, standing by in case something goes wrong. 

"They expect that at some point, someone might come over and say we just lost all of our communications," Jim Snyder, an amateur radio operator, said. 

He's part of an organization called "METERS," which stands for Middle East Tennessee Emergency Radio Service. 

Snyder, whose call sign is AJ4NO, and his fellow HAM radio operators will be fanned out across the race course Sunday, serving as a secondary line of communication. 

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"You can imagine that an event of this size, over eight thousand runners spread out over 26 miles, it puts quite a strain on the public safety participants," he said.

Barry Brown, call sign K4BLB, will be running things for METERS at the emergency operations center on Sunday. 

"Should there be a very serious emergency in which the cell towers might be down or overloaded, we would be relied upon to handle emergency traffic," he said. 

If something happens and cell service goes down, the radio operators can help coordinate first responders to where they are needed. 

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"Lacking any other mode of communications, they could use a water stop as their field command post," Snyder said.  

He's played an important role in emergencies before: he spent six days at the Gatlinburg fires supporting TEMA. 

And even if something serious doesn't happen, METERS will keep an eye out for runners who need help and make sure everyone knows if conditions change on the course. 

"[The message] would go out instantaneously since all of our ham radio operators around the course would be monitoring the same frequency," Brown said. 

Part of their mission to ensure everyone stays safe, from the starting pistol...to over and out. 

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