Many have seen the movie or television image, a lone radio operator in a small room braving a hurricane, tornado or other disaster to get messages out relating to damage and a community’s need for assistance. In many cases this person is an amateur radio operator and for hours or even days they may be the only source of contact with the outside world and relief and governmental agencies.
Chances are this “ham” is using his or her personal radio powered by a generator or bank of batteries because that is the only source of power available. Additionally, telephone and cell services may be disrupted and fail due to damage to equipment and towers, loss of power, user overloads or other technical issues.
Since 1933, in order to keep their skills sharp, hams get together yearly for a training exercise event known as Field Day. This is North America’s largest single event dedicated to emergency preparedness. It typically has a participation of over 30,000 licensed amateur radio operators. The event is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League and this year is the weekend of June 24-25.
This year finds members of the Highland Amateur Radio Association and the Clinton County Amateur Radio Association joined by hams from the Fayette Amateur Radio Association. They will head to New Vienna and the Ohio Historic Family Farm of Kathy and John Levo – each a Federal Communications Commission licensed amateur – to erect antennas, set up their equipment and stations, fire up a generator and get on the air to contact stations operating in a similar fashion throughout North America. Though the event starts at 2 p.m. on Saturday, many of those participating will arrive at the site early to start the set-up process. The exercise lasts 24 hours.
According to Clinton County ARA President Mike Boyle (amateur call WF8B), “Although any kind of disaster could happen in the area, the most common is weather-related. Therefore, many hams in Clinton, Fayette and Highland counties have received training from the National Weather Service and participate in their SkyWarn program. A ham station is an official part of the equipment at the Wilmington NWS Office.” He also notes that amateur radio plays a very important role with the Clinton and Fayette County Emergency Management Agency.
Fayette County’s Jim Scott (N8ORJ) stated, “Hams provide a vital link in the early hours of a natural or man-caused disaster when the communication infrastructure breaks down. Many people today falsely believe their cell phone (invented by hams based upon repeater technology developed by them) or landline will save them. What they do not realize is that if something happens such as a ‘Carrington Event’ where a solar flare disrupts the power grid, call towers will lose their battery backup within hours. Therefore, communications are lost until a generator can be delivered to the tower site. Amateurs pride themselves on being prepared and most have an alternative power source be it a bank of batteries, a generator or even a solar panel or wind turbine.”
Highland Amateur Radio Association President Dave Tourtelot (KD8TUR) says, “Amateur radio allows for all kinds of people of all nationalities to communicate, learn science to advance many of today’s technologies and just have fun communicating by voice, digital modes or Morse Code with other people in all parts of the world.”
The event is open to the public and those participating are more than willing to show the public the benefits of amateur radio to use as basic communication or during a real emergency when tornadoes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks or any other situation where normal public or governmental communication is unlikely.
Elected officials, public service officers, Scouts, community members and those interested learning more are invited to visit the Field Day site on either Saturday or Sunday, June 24-25, to learn more about ham radio and how “When All Else Fails, There’s Ham Radio” may benefit your community. There will even be a station available where a non-licensed individual can make a contact with another operator in some remote part of the United States or Canada.
The site location is 810 Levo Road, New Vienna. It is in the Snow Hill area. More information may be obtained from John or Kathy Levo at 937-393-4951.
Submitted by Kathy Levo.