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.