Picture this: A hurricane smashes into Hawaii, knocking out the usual forms of communication. Satellite coverage is disrupted, cell towers are down and the old familiar telephone poles have toppled like dominoes throughout the state. Emergency responders are overwhelmed, neighborhoods are isolated and help will be a long time in coming.
Learn how amateur — or ham — radio can, and does, make a life-and-death difference in emergency situations all over the world at the June 22-23 annual amateur radio Field Day to be hosted at Wailoa Center in Hilo by the Big Island Amateur Radio Club.
Watch demonstrations of emergency communications equipment and techniques by the hams from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday.
The 24-hour event is one of hundreds of Field Days across the United States and Canada which are the climax of the Amateur Radio Week observance sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League, or ARRL. Visit www.arrl.org.
Using only emergency power supplies, ham operators will construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and backyards around the country. Their slogan, “When all else fails…” is more than just words to the hams, as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, Internet, or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis.
“Many thousands of amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year’s event,” said Hilo Field Day Chairman Robert Oliver.
“We hope that people will come and see for themselves, this is not your grandfather’s radio anymore,” said Allen Pitts of the ARRL. “The communications networks that ham radio people can quickly create have saved many lives in the past months when other systems failed or were overloaded.”
Over the past year, Oliver noted, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications in emergencies worldwide.
And during Hurricane Katrina, ham radio often was the only way people could communicate; hundreds of volunteer hams traveled south to help save lives and property.
“When trouble is brewing, ham radio people are often the first to provide critical information and communications,” said Pitts.
Field Day is a no-smoking and no-alcohol event.
Read more about BIARC, an East Hawaii-based club, at www.biarc.net. If you have questions, please give Oliver, whose ham call sign is NH6AH, or call on the telephone at 969-9993.
On Field Day weekend, folks of all ages will have a chance to meet and talk with ham radio operators and see for themselves what the Amateur Radio Service is about. The hams will demonstrate the newest digital and satellite capabilities, voice communications and even historical Morse code, to show how amateur radio works in the most modern of situations, and in the most primitive of communications conditions.
Parents are encouraged to bring children. There’s no age limit to becoming a ham. Girls and boys as young as age 6 have passed the initial exam and gotten on the air. “The club invites people to come and see ham radio’s capabilities and learn how to get their own FCC Amateur Radio license before the next disaster strikes,” said Oliver. “Interested people will be given the opportunity to try operating the radio transceivers on the air with supervision.”
Testing for radio licenses and license upgrades will be offered on that Saturday at 1 p.m. Anyone interested in testing should contact Milt Nodacker, NH6I, at 965-6471.
“To learn more about amateur radio, the public is most cordially invited to visit, meet and talk with the hams,” said Oliver. “See what modern amateur radio can do. The hams can even help you get on the air.”