Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Belt and suspenders

Just in case

In our hyper-connected existence, it’s hard to imagine being unable to contact the outside world.

Following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and parts of the Gulf Coast would have been totally isolated without the aid of amateur radio enthusiasts, known affectionately as “Hams,” who stepped in to save lives when the storm crippled traditional communication.

Goochland has its own fine group of Amateur Radio Operators that provides back-up for our excellent deputies and fire-rescue providers. During a recent interruption in local emergency communications, our Hams relayed information between county dispatchers, deputies, and emergency responders. They used their skill to keep things going until the system could be fixed.

Hams are also able to contact other places in the state and around the world. They are part of a global network that enjoy keeping in touch with each other, but often put those connections to good use in all sorts of emergencies.

Ralph Fetty of Shannon Hill, a longtime amateur radio enthusiast, recruited fellow Hams to craft our local communications backup system. Thanks to Fetty, amateur radio operators are prepared for deployment to county fire-rescue stations and the dispatch office.

This weekend, beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 23 and running until 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, the annual Goochland Amateur Radio Field Day will take place at the Courthouse Company 5 Fire-Rescue Station, which is located on Fairgrounds Road near the Food Lion.

The event will run through the night as our local Hams make contact with as many contacts as possible around the nation and perhaps the world and could include ships at sea.

A wide array of equipment, all operating on emergency power sources entirely free of the electrical grid, will be in operation.

The purpose of the field day is for the radio operators to make as many contacts on as many different frequencies as possible. This is part of a competition. Points are awarded for each contact.

Goochland amateurs also get points for the number of visitors that attend the event. (Additional points are awarded for visits by public officials; school and county staff; law enforcement personnel and Constitutional Officers.)

This is  a great opportunity to learn more about this mode of communication. Amateur radio operators must pass a test and be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to operate a radio. Each operator uses a unique call sign, usually a combination of numbers and letters, to identify themselves during radio communications.

Although amateur radio operators are able to send and receive messages using simple equipment and antennae, they also work with local emergency communications systems and have equipment on area communications towers.

A resolution passed by the Goochland Board of Supervisors at its June, 2012 meeting recognized Wayne and Travis Duley of Duley’s Electric Communications Site Service, Inc. for donating about $7,000 worth of specialized labor to upgrade one of the towers used by the Goochland Amateur Radio group.

Goochland is blessed with many generous and talented people, like our amateur radio operators, who share their skills to better the community. Please come out and see them in action this weekend.

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