Sunday, June 28, 2015
Just in case
On the last weekend of June, Goochland Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers, sometimes called Hams, gathered at Goochland Fire-Rescue Company 5 to participate in their annual field day. They set up a huge emergency generator and antenna to simulate emergency operations conditions.
ARES volutes provide an important communication back-up that can be deployed quickly and requires minimal equipment to say in touch with the outside world during a crisis.
On Saturday evening, they also kept a close on the weather. Lee Maddox of Maidens, known to his radio friends as N4HOK, said that the line of severe thunderstorms that roared through Goochland on Saturday night chased the group and their equipment from an open-sided tent into the sturdy brick fire-rescue station. They were back in the open after the storm passed and transmitted all through the night.
The object of the radio field day, observed al over the United States, is to make as many contacts with other operators as possible during a 24 hour period that began at 2 p.m. on June 27. Points are assigned for each contact.
All points are not equal, however. Contacts made by ten year-old Kate Davis, participating in her third consecutive ARES field day, count ten times those made by adult operators. Kate made 20 contacts to points as far distant as California, according to her dad Phil, a long-time ham, but can only be credited with 100 points.
“If you’re a licensed operator, all of your contacts will count for points,” Phil told his daughter. “If you study, you could pass the test by the end of the summer.”
There are no age limitations for becoming a licensed amateur radio operator, Phil explained. Tests are administered by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates amateur radio usage and issues licenses.
“I love talking to people everywhere,” Kate said as her brother Mitchell joined her at the radio. He wore a cap emblazoned with Morse code symbol“dah” to complement Kate’s “dit.”
Phil, who has been a Ham for 26 years, got bitten by the radio bug after hearing a talk given by Dave Metzger, WG4T, when he was in school.
Deputies, fire-rescue folk and members of the community stopped by to see what was going on under the tent, Maddox said.
After field day is over, ARES volunteers will still be on guard. They all have “go kits” with simple radios that enable them to broadcast wherever they may be. Each of Goochland’s six fire-rescue stations is equipped with a radio, which can only be used by a licensed operator, explained Maddox.
Although amateur radio seems like a quaint hobby that harkens back to simpler times, in our unpredictable world, it is a very real “suspenders” to the “belt” of cell phones and the internet.