During these crises, amateur “ham” radio operators can often help emergency management agencies stay connected with law enforcement and relief agencies throughout the storm-damaged areas.
“Despite our modern technology of the Internet, cell phones and e-mail, every year whole regions find themselves in the dark,” said John Playford, secretary and treasurer of the West Georgia Amateur Radio Society.
Playford said such a situation occurred on April, 27, 2011, when a severe tornado
outbreak struck Alabama, Georgia and much of the Southeast. In places such as Tuscaloosa, Ala., ham operators kept emergency forces in contact with one another so they could get aid to injured people.
On Saturday and Sunday, the West Georgia Amateur Radio Society will get vital practice in emergency communications by participating in Ham Radio Field Day, a 24-hour nationwide emergency communications simulation.
“Our station will be set up in the pavilion behind Carrollton Fire Station 24, at the Georgia 166 and Northside Drive intersection,” Playford said. “We invite the public to come visit and learn about ham radio’s capabilities and how to get a ham radio license.”
Playford said Field Day activities will be conducted from 1 p.m. Saturday, throughout the night until 1 p.m. Sunday. He said ham operators will be onsite starting around 10 a.m. to begin setting up equipment.
“If you have a weather radio that you’d like programmed, the club will be doing that free of charge during this event,” Playford said. “Another highlight will be a visit by 11 Alive’s weather forecaster Mike Francis, who is scheduled to be here about 1 p.m. Saturday.”
Field Day, sponsored by ARRL, the national association for amateur radio, comes at the end of the organization’s annual Amateur Radio Week observance. More than 35,000 ham operators participated in last year’s event.
“Only emergency power sources, such as generators, batteries and solar cells are used during Field Day,” Playford said.
He noted that Field Day is part emergency communications practice and part contest, with each Field Day site competing to see how many other ham radio stations they can contact during the 24-hour period. He said it teaches hams to sharpen their communication skills during simulated emergency conditions.
Playford said ham radio operators are trained weather spotters and the West Georgia club holds weather nets during hazardous weather to report conditions to the National Weather Service.
According to the ARRL, ham radio is a growing hobby in the United States. There are now more than 700,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the U.S. and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Services, ham volunteers provide free assistance in both emergency communications and community service.
More information is available online about ham radio at www.emergency-radio.org. The West Georgia Amateur Radio Society website is www.wgars.com.