Amateur radio field day event Saturday

Jun. 25, 2014 @ 01:18 PM

Amateur radio operators from the Tri-County Radio Club will participate in an American Radio Relay League field day June 28 at the Thomasville Police gun range on 1285 Jacob St. Ext.

For a 24-hour period from 1 p.m. to 1 p.m., an emergency preparedness test will be conducted for thousands of “hams,” as they are called across North America. These amateur radio operators use designated radio frequency spectra to provide rescuers with critical information because they can send messages from isolated and remote locations without the use of phones or Internet.

The field day event is designed to allow some the chance to meet some of their local hams.

“In tragic times, these hams supply a very valuable resource,” said John Laughlin, a Thomasville resident and local ham. “I’ve been in ice storms and at shelters providing emergency communication. There was an instance where a woman was having trouble with her breathing, and we had to get her to a hospital. It’s those type of incidents where hams are significant.”

Laughlin said these types of emergency communication are rarely used and often forgotten, but prove vital in many cases, particularly internationally.

“Down in the Caribbean, we provide emergency information back to the National Weather Service,” Laughlin said. “When there’s no power or anything, they’re operating on battery. That’s the whole thing. We provide the people, the general public, a service. If cell phones go down, people are depending on us. When there’s no power, there’s no communication. If something happens to your mom or someone you love, how are you going to check on her?”

In the past year, reports were issued of amateur radio operators providing communication during emergency situations including wildfires, winter storms, tornadoes and other events. Some in Japan were called upon during a tsunami.

“The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,” said Allen Pitts of the ARRL. “Because ham radios are not dependent on complex systems, they work when nothing else is available. We need nothing between us but air.”

Field day, which is observed by an estimated 35,000 amateur radio operators across the country, is the culmination of a weeklong Amateur Radio Week, sponsored by the ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. More information about local hams is available at NC4AR.org, where visitors can also check for test announcements during the field day.

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 847-9911, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.