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Ham radio ‘Field Day’ signals importance of communication in a crisis

Local News

Jun 28, 2021

Madeline Scarborough

Staff Reporter

mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com

Jerry Williams, left, and fellow members of the Amateur Radio Klub Earl Holts and Rob Wade test their ham radio equipment in the field Saturday. As part of an annual event called “Field Day,” people across the nation gear up to practice communicating over ham radios in case an emergency arises causing an area to lose all other powers of communications. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

PARKERSBURG — In today’s world of technology, reaching people is rarely an issue, as long as one has cell service. But would you know how to obtain help if you were stranded without cell service?

While the Mid-Ohio Valley is protected from many natural disasters, earthquakes, tornadoes and other events could hit the area.

If ever there is an emergency in the Mid-Ohio Valley that despite the Internet, cell phones, email and modern communications, the whole region finds themselves in the dark, Amateur Radio radio could still be used to alert other places to send aid.

These radio operators, often called

“hams,”

provide backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross to FEMA and even for the International Space Station.

Over the past year, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications during unexpected emergencies in towns across America including wildfires, winter storms, tornadoes and other events worldwide. When trouble is brewing, Amateur Radio operators are often the first to provide rescuers with critical information and communications.

On Saturday and Sunday, community members were able to meet up with local Amateur Radio operators to ask questions and see live demonstrations.

The annual event called

“Field Day”

is the climax of the week-long Amateur Radio Week sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, the national association for Amateur Radio.

Using emergency power supplies, local ham operators constructed emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and backyards around the country.

Their slogan,

“When All Else Fails, Ham Radio Works”

are more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis.

“The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,”

said Allen Pitts of ARRL.

“From earthquakes, tsunami and tornadoes, ham radio provides the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the events. Because ham radios are not dependent on the Internet, cell towers or other infrastructure, they work when nothing else is available.”

According to Jerry Williams, a local ham operator and member of the member of the Amateur Radio Klub, who was set up at Fort Boreman for the event, they had contacted over 200 people by lunch on Sunday.

“We have talked to people as far as California, Washington and even Canada,”

he said.

Williams said the yearly event is important, so that operators can use trial and error to see what works, that way in an emergency they can efficiently set up and reach out to people.

Williams’ group powered their equipment using a generator and were able to shunt the flagpole, turning it into an antenna. Williams explained that this does not harm the flagpole in any way.

“We were able to reach Eastern Washington in 20 watts or less,”

said Earl Holts, another member of the Amateur Radio Klub.

To learn more about Amateur Radio, go to arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com

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