Ham Radio Operators Do It In The Field To Save Lives, Field Day Brings Ham Radio Operators Together

Coburn Palmer - Author

Nov. 16 2016, Updated 4:03 a.m. ET

Whether it’s flesh eating zombies, massive earthquakes, or devastating hurricanes, when disaster strikes and communication lines are down, there’s one way ordinary citizens can stay connected to the rest of the world.

Volunteer Amateur Radio Operators, or Hams, are trained and licensed throughout the year to operate with public service agencies during disasters to keep lines of communications open.

Ham radio operators assisted rescue operations during Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and most recently in Los Angeles during Carmageddon.

This year’s training culminates in Amateur Radio Field Day, June 27 to 28, where more than 34,000 ham radio operators from the United States and Canada simulate disaster conditions.

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Ham radio operators from groups like the Glenn Valenta Memorial Amateur Radio Club in the Denver Metro Area, Colorado, will join tens of thousands of others from across the nation in the emergency preparedness drill.

Formed in 2014, the GVMARC, named after a pioneer in HDTV, will join others in Littleton, Colorado, this month. The group’s seven ham radio operators will compete with other amateur radio groups during the weekend’s competition, along with practicing outdoor survival skills.

During the competition, points will be given out for contacting other ham radio station operators and for operating their radios in unusual methods.

The ham operators will also be meeting with curious members of the public to explain and describe their hobby and to demonstrate how and why their ham radios work.

Sean Kutzko of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for Amateur Radio, told the Tehachapi News most people communicate with cell phones or the Internet with no real knowledge about how the devices connect to each other.

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“But if there’s an interruption of service or you’re out of range of a cell tower, you have no way to communicate. Ham radio functions completely independent of the Internet or cell phone infrastructure, can interface with tablets or smartphones, and can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. Hams can literally throw a wire in a tree for an antenna, connect it to a battery-powered transmitter, and communicate halfway around the world.”

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That’s exactly what one Colorado snowshoer did after becoming stranded in the winter snow. Brad Bylund fell off an icy mountain ledge in the wilderness, but was able to radio for help using his ham radio, allowing rescuers to pinpoint his location, according to a Denver Fox 31 report.

If experimenting with communication equipment and helping out during a disaster sounds like fun, then it’s time to check out your local ham radio club or take a trip to a Field Day near you.

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images]


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