So far this year, the weather has played nice. A little over a year ago, powerful thunder storms hammered the region leaving many without power for days. Utility crews worked around the clock to get people back on line.
What if the power stayed off for a very long time? What if communications infrastructure was damaged? How would we keep in touch with the outside world?
Can’t happen, you say. Remember Hurricane Katrina?
A group of intrepid amateur radio operators, sometimes known as hams, use their interest in communicating outside of the usual ways, to provide a “just in case” alternative to cell towers and satellite signals.
Part of ARRL, the national association for amateur radio, the Goochland Amateur Radio Team (GART) Team and the Henrico Amateur Radio Response Team (HAART) set up their equipment at the Courthouse Company 5 Fire-Rescue station on June 24 and 25 to join 40,00 other hams participating in the nationwide amateur radio field day, which has been an annual event since 1933.
In addition to practicing deployment of communication equipment able to operate from remote locations using emergency and alternate power sources, Field Day also provides an opportunity for the community to see what amateur radio is all about.
If you passed Company 5 on the last weekend in June, you may have noticed the enormous generator in the parking lot. While the GART equipment was hooked up to the generator, which is owed by emergency services and stored in Goochland, the amateur radio group used a fraction of the available power. As the radio event happens around the June 1 start of hurricane season, it’s a good time to test the emergency equipment.
GART equipment can run for hours using a simple gasoline powered generator that can be easily transported wherever it is needed.
The “keys” that tapped out messages in Morse code are rarely used these days, having been replaced by radios connected to computer monitors that display the call letters and locations of other hams as contacts are made.
As with traditional field days that include different kind of competitions, the ARRL Field Day awards points for various activities, including the number of contacts made with other participants in the event.
An antenna that can be easily transported and deployed is essential to ham operations. One of the visitors to the GART Field Day was Jack of Buckmaster antennas, whose equipment, was being used to send and receive radio signals. He swapped tales with GART assistant coordinator Lee Maddox.
Amateur radio has a place in modern communications. For more information visit http://www.arrl.org.