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KCARC is area source for ‘radio hams’

Emergency communications demonstration set for Saturday, Sunday

Posted: June 18, 2018 5:22 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Despite the internet, cellphones, email and modern communications, every year, entire regions find themselves in the dark. Tornadoes, fires, storms, ice and even the occasional cutting of fiber optic cables leave people without the means to communicate. In these cases, the one consistent service that has never failed has been amateur radio. These radio operators, often called “hams,” provide backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, and even the International Space Station. “Hams” will join with thousands of other amateur radio operators showing their emergency capabilities this Saturday and Sunday.

During the past year, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications during unexpected emergencies in towns across America including the California wildfires, winter storms, tornadoes and other events around the world. When trouble is brewing, amateur radio’s people are often the first to provide rescuers with critical information and communications. This Saturday and Sunday, the public will have a chance to meet and talk with Kershaw County’s ham radio operators and see for themselves what the amateur radio service is about as hams across the country hold public demonstrations of emergency communications abilities.

This annual event, called “Field Day,” is the climax of a week-long “Amateur Radio Week” sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, or ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. 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, Ham Radio Works,” 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. More than 35,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year’s event.

“The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,” the ARRL’s Allen Pitts said. “From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to tornadoes in Missouri, ham radio provided the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the events. Because ham radios are not dependent on the internet, cell towers or other infrastructure, they work when nothing else is available. We need nothing between us but air.”

In the Camden area, the Kershaw County Amateur Radio Club (KCARC) will demonstrate amateur radio at 1020 York St. in Camden (the same building as the Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands’ Jackson Teen Center) this Saturday and Sunday. Station set-up will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with communications exercises beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 4:59 p.m. on Sunday. The club invites the public to come and see ham radio’s new capabilities and learn how to get their own Federal Communication Commission radio license before the next disaster strikes.

Amateur radio is growing in the U.S., KCARC members said. There are now more than 700,000 amateur radio licensees in the U.S., and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the ARRL’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services program, ham volunteers provide both emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies and non-emergency community services too, all for free.

To learn more about amateur radio, go to www.emergency-radio.org. The public is invited to come, meet and talk with the hams. See what modern amateur radio can do; they can even help you get on the air.

(Story provided by the KCARC.)

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