Despite the internet, cell phones, e-mail and other modern communication devices, each year communities and even whole regions of North America find themselves cut off from the outside world because of weather emergencies, natural disasters or accidents. Tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, earthquakes and the occasional cutting of a fiber optic cable can leave whole areas of our nation without a way to communicate from hours to days to months.
Since the early days following the turn of the century one consistent communications service that has never failed has been amateur radio. These radio operators, referred to as “hams,” provide backup communications for everything from local government agencies to the Red Cross and FEMA. The International Space Station even used amateur radio as a back-up communications medium.
During the past few weeks the news has been filled with reports of hams providing critical communications throughout the Midwest and South because of the loss or overload of normal communications due to the outbreak of many tornadoes and flooding. Ohio’s recent tornado outbreak called many hams to action, providing local officials with “health and welfare” and shelter information. The recent outbreak of California wildfires called amateurs back into service after a break from last year’s extensive outbreak when the fires destroyed cell and communications tower facilities. Even after a year, amateur radio operators are still serving “on the ground” in the remote areas of Puerto Rico as the island rebuilds their infrastructure and communications networks following last year’s hurricane
For many years the amateur radio operators in HIghland and Clinton counties have teamed up to jointly participate in a high-level emergency communications simulation of preparation for and carrying out an intense response to a local, regional or national emergency where normal communications have been either lost or overloaded. This two-day training exercise, called “Field Day,” is conducted by the American Radio Relay League and is the climax of the weeklong “Amateur Radio Week.”
Starting the morning of Saturday, June 22 members of the Highland Amateur Radio Association and the Clinton County Amateur Radio Association will gather at an “off the grid” site near New Vienna to start the process of erecting and tweaking antennas, hooking up radio equipment, firing up generators and getting signals on the air. According to HARA’s Steve Lamb, this exercise is similar to what would happen should something occur and the services of the amateur radio community would be requested by a local, state or national government agency or a relief agency like Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
Former HARA President Jeff Collins said that more than 40,000 individual amateurs throughout the United States and Canada will participate in some matter. He said that once stations are in operation an attempt to work as many different stations as possible during the event’s 24 hours will be made using voice and digital mode. Collins said a station using Morse Code is planned.
Anyone wishing to experience amateur radio in operation, or to learn how to join the more than 750,000 licensed amateurs in the United States, is welcome to visit anytime during the weekend. The event site is the Levo Historic Century Farm located at 810 Levo Rd., New Vienna.
The Highland Amateur Radio Association is an organization of federally licensed amateur radio operators and currently has in excess of 125 members from all parts of Highland County. Presently, there are in excess of 200 amateurs with Highland County mailing addresses, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Anyone wishing information about Field Day or how to become an amateur may contact John Levo at 937-393-4951.
Submitted by John Levo.