Ham operators prepare for hurricane season with field day

Two-day event helps amateur radio enthusiasts practice, test equipment ahead of possible disasters

By Nikki Schoenbeck nikki@opcfla.com
Posted 6/23/21

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Now that hurricane season is here, Clay County radio operators are making sure they’re prepared to handle widespread power outages by participating in American Radio Relay …

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Ham operators prepare for hurricane season with field day

Two-day event helps amateur radio enthusiasts practice, test equipment ahead of possible disasters

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Now that hurricane season is here, Clay County radio operators are making sure they’re prepared to handle widespread power outages by participating in American Radio Relay League Field Day.

Every year ARRL hosts a field day for amateur radio operators to test their knowledge and demonstrate their skills. This year’s event will be from 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 26 to 2 p.m. on Sunday at Camp Chowenwaw.

While Clay County has never experienced power outages so severe that amateur radio operators were needed, John Ward, the emergency management director for Clay County understands the importance of radio operators.

“They’re a volunteer organization that supports our efforts during any type of hurricane or tropical system. We activate their group and I will have two or three radio operators that are assigned to my emergency operations center,” Ward said. “ At every shelter we, we open will also have a ham radio operator and that is if for some reason we lost our primary and backup communications, we’d still have a form of communication because they have the ability to communicate when all the major systems are down.”

The purpose of the field day is not only for ham radio operators to show their skills but also to test them. Testing and practicing for operators is crucial for how well they respond to natural disasters. While Clay County is lucky enough to have not experienced a complete power outage, it is still vital that radio operators practice their skills.

Scott Roberts, the public information operator for Clay County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, wants the general public to know radio operators are happy to serve their communities.

“We are a group of amateur radio operators who are available in case the community needs us for any reason,” he said.

To make things a bit more exciting, radio operators like to turn the field day into a contest. There’s also a potluck and cookout for any participants and visitors.

“We turn it into fun by making it into a contest to see how many contacts we can make. There are clubs all around the United States that are doing this and so, each club is trying to see how many contacts they can make, how many states they can contact… so we try to make it a little bit of fun as well as testing out our equipment,” Robert said.

This year’s event is also noteworthy given that a particularly active hurricane season is predicted.

“Hams have a long history of serving our communities when storms or other disasters damage critical communication infrastructure, including cell towers,” Roberts said. “Ham radio functions completely independently of the internet and phone systems and a station can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. Hams can quickly raise a wire antenna in a tree or on a mast, connect it to a radio and power source, and communicate effectively with others.”

During Field Day 2020, more than 18,000 hams participated from thousands of locations across North America. According to ARRL, there are more than 750,000 amateur radio licensees in the United States, and an estimated three million worldwide.

To participate in field day, you have to be a radio operator with a certified license but during field day, radio operators are more than happy to show people how to use the radios.

Hams range in age from as young as 9 to older than 100. A self-study license guide is available from ARRL: The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual (www.arrl.org/shop/Ham-Radio-License-Manual) and for Kindle (https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B07DFSW94G).

Camp Chowenwaw is located at 1517 Ball Road in Green Cove Springs near the Black Creek bridge on U.S. Highway 17.

For more information about ARRL Field Day and ham radio, contact Roberts at (904) 759-7812 or visit www.arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio.

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