When all else fails there’s Amateur Radio

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When all else fails there’s Amateur Radio

The title of this arti­cle is not just a slo­gan; those are words ama­teur radio oper­a­tors live by. When­ever there is a major dis­as­ter, such as an earth­quake or a hur­ri­cane, ama­teur radio proves to be the only form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion into and out of the dis­as­ter area. This was espe­cially true dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina. The winds and storm surge dev­as­tated the reg­u­lar tele­phone ser­vice, cel­lu­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works, police com­mu­ni­ca­tions, fire com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and the inter­net, along with the elec­tric power grid. Over a thou­sand ama­teur radio oper­a­tors con­verged on the dis­as­ter area and very quickly re-​established com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the affected agen­cies and over 200 evac­u­a­tion centers.

Ama­teur radio oper­a­tors work very closely with the Red Cross, the Sal­va­tion Army, the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, Home­land Secu­rity, local police and fire, along with many other agen­cies to pro­vide emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tion is what ama­teur radio oper­a­tors do best. Imme­di­ately after a dis­as­ter we can get on the air because our equip­ment is portable and can be pow­ered by a car bat­tery or a small gen­er­a­tor. A sling­shot and some rope are all it takes to get a wire antenna up into a tree. A mast of PVC or metal pipe will also work as an antenna sup­port. With that sim­ple setup an ama­teur radio oper­a­tor can talk to just about any part of the globe.

The knowl­edge and exper­tise that is essen­tial for suc­cess­fully han­dling com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing an emer­gency is far more impor­tant than the spe­cial­ized equip­ment. Through­out the year ama­teur radio oper­a­tors prac­tice for emer­gen­cies by pro­vid­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions for events such as parades, road races, and other sim­i­lar events. In Octo­ber ama­teur radio oper­a­tors take part in a sim­u­lated emer­gency test. There are two orga­ni­za­tions within the ama­teur radio com­mu­nity that spe­cial­ize in train­ing and orga­niz­ing emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions. They are the Ama­teur Radio Emer­gency Ser­vice and the Radio Ama­teur Civil Emer­gency Service.

The fourth week­end in June is set aside for the sin­gle largest emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions exer­cise in the United States. This exer­cise is called field day. That week­end 30,000 ama­teur radio oper­a­tors con­verge at thou­sands of loca­tions, such as parks, across this coun­try. They set up com­plete sta­tions, housed in tents or trail­ers, where no facil­i­ties exist. All of the equip­ment is pow­ered emer­gency power and all anten­nas are set up using tem­po­rary sup­ports or trees. The setup takes only a few hours and the sta­tions are kept on the air for 24 straight hours. This year field day begins at 2 pm on Sat­ur­day June 24th and ends at 2 pm on Sun­day June 25th. Many groups will begin the setup process on Fri­day the 23rd at 2 pm.

The club I belong to, the East­ern Con­necti­cut Ama­teur Radio Asso­ci­a­tion will be hold­ing field day at the Pom­fret Recre­ation Park in Pom­fret Con­necti­cut. We will set up six com­plete sta­tions. All are wel­come to visit us this week­end. Here is a map of field day sites in the North Amer­ica. All will wel­come visitors.

The title of this article is not just a slogan; those are words amateur radio operators live by.  Whenever there is a major disaster, such as an earthquake or a hurricane, amateur radio proves to be the only form of communication into and out of the disaster area.  This was especially true during Hurricane Katrina.  The winds and storm surge devastated the regular telephone service, cellular communications networks, police communications, fire communications, and the internet, along with the electric power grid.  Over a thousand amateur radio operators converged on the disaster area and very quickly re-established communications with the affected agencies and over 200 evacuation centers.

Amateur radio operators work very closely with the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security, local police and fire, along with many other agencies to provide emergency communications.  Emergency communication is what amateur radio operators do best.  Immediately after a disaster we can get on the air because our equipment is portable and can be powered by a car battery or a small generator.  A slingshot and some rope are all it takes to get a wire antenna up into a tree.   A mast of PVC or metal pipe will also work as an antenna support.  With that simple setup an amateur radio operator can talk to just about any part of the globe.

The knowledge and expertise that is essential for successfully handling communications during an emergency is far more important than the specialized equipment.  Throughout the year amateur radio operators practice for emergencies by providing communications for events such as parades, road races, and other similar events.  In October amateur radio operators take part in a simulated emergency test.  There are two organizations within the amateur radio community that specialize in training and organizing emergency communications.  They are the Amateur Radio Emergency Service and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.

The fourth weekend in June is set aside for the single largest emergency communications exercise in the United States.  This exercise is called field day.  That weekend 30,000 amateur radio operators converge at thousands of locations, such as parks, across this country.  They set up complete stations, housed in tents or trailers, where no facilities exist.  All of the equipment is powered emergency power and all antennas are set up using temporary supports or trees.  The setup takes only a few hours and the stations are kept on the air for 24 straight hours.  This year field day begins at 2 pm on Saturday June 24th and ends at 2 pm on Sunday June 25th.  Many groups will begin the setup process on Friday the 23rd at 2 pm.

The club I belong to, the Eastern Connecticut Amateur Radio Association will be holding field day at the Pomfret Recreation Park in Pomfret Connecticut.  We will set up six complete stations.  All are welcome to visit us this weekend.  Here is a map of field day sites in the North America.  All will welcome visitors.