Amateur radio operators stay on point to help protect communities and provide information across the world and in our neck of the woods, according to Bob Gault, spokesman for the Cleveland Amateur Radio Club.
Next weekend, the Cleveland Amateur Radio Club will be demonstrating equipment as part of the national Field Day communications exercise, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League. Going head to head against other hams in similarly sized groups, the goal of the drill is to set up radios and antennas, and to get on the air to make as many contacts as possible.
Beginning Saturday, hammers will be set up at Red Clay State Historical Park which is located in southern Bradley County. For 24 hours, the operators will be seeking out connections.
“When disaster strikes, amateur radio operators — or hams as they are better known — spring into action working mostly behind the scenes for local, state and federal government agencies and private organizations offering disaster relief,” Gault said.
Being able to step up when they are needed comes from hours of training throughout the year and one event that puts all they have learned into practice, according to Gault.
“Field Day operations simulate those confronting communication operators in the aftermath of natural disasters. A lack of electricity, phone service, and other conveniences must be overcome to get on the air and compile an impressive list of contacts. This prepares participants when they are thrust into an actual situation of less than optimal conditions. Participants score points for each contact and can pick up bonus points for such things as operating emergency power, providing visitors with information about ham radio, and having local officials take part.”
That is only one part of Field Day. The ARRL encourages participants to conduct their activities in public places, letting non-hams see what it is all about.
The exercise officially kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The public is welcome to stop by and watch ham radio in action.
“Field Day is one of the highlights of being a part of amateur radio,” said Jack McCarty, WA5CHJ, chairman of the CARC committee.
“It gives a true sense of what this is all about,” McCarty said.
Thousands of hams take part in the exercise, most in small groups in parks, at shopping malls, and in other locations with easy public access.
“New hams or prospective hams can pick up a lot about the hobby and our role in public service communications from ‘seasoned’ veterans,” McCarty explained. “This is a time of fun, education, and fellowship.”
Amateur radio’s resources are regularly used by the National Weather Service during severe weather. Most NWS offices are equipped with radios for receiving ham operator reports of actual conditions below Doppler radar at ground level.
Operators played a crucial role in recent tornadoes which struck Bradley County and the South.
A number of members also watch the skies through the NWS SKYWARN program.
Club president Derek Wooley, KD5UBL, extended an invitation to anyone interested in communications to take a few minutes to stop by.
Special emphasis is being placed on former members as the club celebrates a milestone in its history, according to Gault.
The CARC continues celebrating its 50th year of continuous service providing amateur radio communication resources to the area. An anniversary dinner is being planned in September. More information will be available through local media as details are finalized.
Regular meetings where business is conducted and training programs presented are held on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, starting at 7 p.m., according to Gault.
Meetings are held at the clubhouse at 560 Johnson Blvd. and are always open to anyone interested in attending or joining.