Amateur radio operators gather for preparedness drill

Posted June 26, 2017

The group is using voice, digital stations and Morse code.

The Albemarle Amateur Radio Club is joining a nationwide field day to demonstrate its ability to communicate under conditions that could cut off landlines, cell phones, and the internet during a natural disaster or other emergency.

Atop a slight hill, they established a communications village with a network of antennas, aerials, transmitters and six two-way radio stations that were set up in portable screen tents, while humming generators and batteries provided necessary electric power. Through the ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Services program, ham volunteers provide both emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies and non-emergency community services too, all for free.

Oldest licensed Winona radio operator John Kowalik has been a member since 1953, and said Ham Radio in Winona has been around for 40 to 45 years.

Yellow Thunder has members ages 14-66, some who have up to 50 years of experience with ham radios. Members of the North Augusta Belvedere Radio Club, which covers Aiken County, are participating in the exercise and taking shifts during the weekend.

"The commercial communications tend to fail during an acute disaster like that", Rocker said, "Ham radio will always work".

Amateur Radio is growing in the US. He believes one of the reasons is because it has become simpler to get a license, which is acquired by passing an examination.

He said ham operators also can provide communications support for community organizations as his club does for the annual Marine Corps Marathon. To most, it sounds like a foreign language, but it's communication on a basic level.

He's been able to make contacts as far as Saudi Arabia and Yemen. "Ham radio is for making friends".

Field day wraps up Sunday at 1 p.m.

It's that reason, that events like field day are important, so operators can hone their skills for those times when they need them most.

"No one really knows why we're called hams, but one theory is that operators like talking - like show business hams - you know, hamming it up", he said.