The Highland Amateur Radio Association, a local organization of amateur radio operators called “hams,” was named the Club of the Year during the three-day annual Dayton Hamvention event at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center Saturday, May 21.
The Dayton Hamvention has grown to be one of the two largest gatherings of amateur radio operators in the world and the largest of its type in North America. The awards are considered by amateur radio enthusiasts to be the “Academy Awards” of amateur radio.
While accepting the award, Highland Amateur Radio Association President Pat Hagan said this is the first time the award has been awarded to a club serving a lesser-populated, rural, Appalachian area of the nation that is “in the middle of nowhere.”
The local club’s information officer, John Levo, attributed attaining this year’s award to the increase in the organization’s membership over the years.
“Primarily it was because of the growth of the club; growing from the original 22 charter members back in 1977 to our present 137,” said Levo. “We ended last year with 143 members, and clubs in the major metropolitan areas of the United States and Canada do not even have these kinds of numbers, so the national leaders have taken note of what is going on here in southern Ohio and Highland County with our club in promoting amateur radio.”
Additionally, Levo said the club provides public safety and promotional services to the local community as well as general participation in community events.
“We promote travel and tourism and the history of Highland County throughout the world through what we call special event stations,” he said. “Each year we pick a location that we go out to and set up and use our portable equipment to transmit for a day or two from one of the historic spots here in the county.”
Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is the use of radio frequencies for non-commercial message exchanges.
Although the technology may seem antiquated, it is still considered important.
“The benefits of ham radio are important today and maybe even more so than in past years,” said Levo. “For instance, last year and the previous year during the west coast forest fires in Oregon, Washington and California, many cell towers were strictly destroyed, and electric power was lost because of the fires so it was ham radio that was the only dependable method of communication for government authorities, fire departments, and life squads.”
Not reliant on an electrical grid, ham radios can operate from batteries, generators and solar power.
Levo said ham radio operators were particularly useful during a local blizzard in the 1970s when the village of Leesburg lost power and telephone service.
“We placed one of our members in a county snowplow, and he was delivered to the police department in Leesburg, and he operated and provided communication from Leesburg to the sheriff’s department for two days until the electric company got power back to the village and the telephone company was able to fix the phone lines,” Levo said.
As a hobby, Levo said he enjoys ham radio for “the magic of it.” Through ham radio, he said he can “give a call out over the airwaves using less electricity than a light bulb and talk to people in Australia or England or even the astronauts circling the earth.”
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.