Red Clay State Historic Park will once again be the site chosen for the Cleveland Amateur Radio Club to hold its annual Field Day. Ham radio operators will be onsite for 24 hours beginning Saturday at 2 p.m. and ending Sunday afternoon.
The event will help give insight into the communication systems available when a major disaster disrupts the platforms that we use every day. A public demonstration, put on by the CARC, in conjunction with the Auxiliary Communications Service, will give those attending an opportunity to see how local communications and links to key agencies outside of our area are established.
The demonstration is a part of the annual Field Day communications exercise sponsored by the American Radio Relay League. Participants in the CARC group will set up their equipment at Red Clay.
The exercise encompasses hundreds of groups across the country. Operating for 24 continuous hours gives first-hand experience for maintaining communications over a long period of time, which is likely to occur in a major disaster.
Amateur radio personnel, who have acquired the nickname of being HAMS, use their skills to set up a communications link with those beyond boundaries of the affected area. Normal communications such as landline phones and cellphones are often severely affected in situations such as a tornado, hurricane or flood. In addition electric utilities can lose connections to hundreds or thousands of their customers until damaged parts of the power distribution network can be repaired or replaced. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has seen how amateur radio operators respond in this situation and uses them for supplemental communications.
Buddy Kimsey, whose call letters are WA4NIV, is serving as Field Day chairman and is being assisted by Jack McCarty (WA5CHJ).
“This is an excellent opportunity for the public to come out and see what goes on whenever we have a situation that disrupts the ability of our public safety organizations to communicate,” Kimsey said.
Kimsey urged anyone who would like to learn more about amateur radio communications to visit the station and spend some time enjoying the pristine beauty of Red Clay.
Club members set up their gear prior to the scheduled 2 p.m. starting time. Portable generator power is installed and antennas erected before being connected to transceivers.
McCarty explained throughout the 24-hour exercise they will be reaching out on several frequency bands and contacting other participants. Each contact is assigned a point value determined by several factors as outlined in rules governing the event.
Contacts via one of the oldest communication forms, Morse code, and incorporating innovative power sources into the exercise, enhance points.
In addition, bonus points are earned for a number of activities coinciding with the exercise, such as being in a public place, providing information about amateur radio for the public, and having an elected official and representative of a served agency to visit.
Jesse Rogers (W4JUU) plans to participate with other club members who are recent graduates of a Morse code class. Rogers and others meet weekly to work on increasing the speed they receive and send messages.
Kimsey said “The purpose of Field Day is two-fold. First it helps those of us who have participated for quite some time to retain our familiarity with operating under primitive conditions. It also gives us the opportunity to mentor new amateurs still developing these skills. Second is the public relations aspect of giving non-HAMS the chance to see what we are all about, and hopefully instill in them an interest in joining our ranks.”
Field Day is the climax of the week long "Amateur Radio Week" sponsored by the ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. Their slogan, "When All Else Fails, Ham Radio Works” is more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, Internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis.
The ARRL reports more than 35,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year's event.
"The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,” said Allen Pitts of the ARRL. “From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to tornadoes in Missouri, ham radio provided the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the events. Because ham radios are not dependent on the Internet, cell towers or other infrastructure, they work when nothing else is available. We need nothing between us but air.”
The ARRL reports amateur radio continues to grow in the US. There are now over 700,000 amateur radio licensees in the U.S., and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the ARRL’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services program, ham volunteers provide both emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies, as well as nonemergency community services, all for free.
Kimsey encourages anyone wanting to learn more about amateur radio visit the CARC Field Day site Saturday.
Club President Jim Blackburn W4EXG said club meetings are open to anyone pursuing an interest in communications or electronics. They are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the CARC clubhouse at 560 Johnson Blvd. Other activities are conducted on Saturdays beginning around 9 a.m.
More information about amateur radio as a hobby and in disasters is available on the ARRL’s website, www.arrl.org.