Claremore Daily Progress

June 19, 2013

Ham Radio operators ready for Annual Field Day

Mark Friedel
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

Amateur radio operators or “hams” from the Mayes County Amateur Radio and the Rogers County Wireless Association will present an Amateur Radio Field Day from 1 p.m. Saturday until 1 p.m. Sunday at the Claremore Expo Center. 
Participants will practice emergency set-up and real amateur radio communications. 
“The amateur radio community is a close camaraderie of those who have an interest in emergency communication, who want to educate the public about the ability to talk around the world without using commercial communications,” said MCARC and RCWA member Coralee Duncan.
Duncan said the field day is a nationwide exercise in setting up emergency communication without conventional power sources, generally in remote locations. 
“(The event) will be an informal contest to talk to as many other hams as possible,” she said. “Airwaves are full of hams contacting and responding with one another as they log their contacts.”
Times of contact are written down as well as call signs which can then be “thrown” out for radio operators in other states or countries to answer.
According to information from the national association for Amateur Radio, the  American Radio Relay League Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the U.S. and Canada. 
More than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or friends to operate from remote locations.
All are welcome and have an opportunity to use the radios without a license. Interested participants sit down with a ham operator who will provide a cheat sheet which shows the steps of operation. 
Each ham radio operator has a unique call sign; however, for the Claremore event everyone is going to use one specific call sign, said Duncan.  
“We communicate back and forth with people around the U.S., some in Canada, maybe Mexico. We tell who and where we are, connecting with as many contacts as possible, usually for a 24-hour period of time,” said MCARC and RCWA member Ken Duncan.
 “It’s really a big contest for some ham radio clubs. (Club members) keep points for how many contacts are logged and a different amount of points for receiving call signs in different ways. Some people plug in power, some people use powercells or generators.”
Duncan said some clubs take the contests seriously, but the Claremore event will be just for fun.
The field day will also include learning how to operate the radio gear in abnormal situations and less than optimal conditions. Ham radio has been called into action again and again to provide communication in crises when it really matters. Amateur radio operators are well known for communication support in real disaster and post-disaster situations.
“What happens when Internet or cell phones shut down? We live south of Chouteau and had a big ice storm one year,” said  Duncan.
“The back-up generator died, telephones were down, but I had my ham radio and could talk with 50 people at any point in time.”
Emergency management systems and “storm spotters” still use ham radios just in case for similar situations.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Red Cross had stations set up across the U.S. Operators were able to forward updated information regarding location and health status of family members affected by the storm.
Duncan said Red Cross workers made more than 22,000 ham radio calls during that time.
“Operators have to be licensed through training and there are three different levels,” said Coralee Duncan. 
“All levels can talk on the radio, it’s just that higher-leveled operators have more previleges and can speak on additional frequencies.”
Unlike CB radios, ham radio polices themselves, she said.
“We keep it clean. If you’re on the radio and trash talking, someone is going to call you on it and if not, the FCC will get involved.”
Currently, radio clubs are located around the area in Rogers, Mayes and Tulsa County. 
“Clubs hold monthly meetings and most of them participate in high-frequency nets each week,” said Duncan.
Nets are organized to foster communication between clubs on a regular basis. Members relay messages and discuss a common topic of interest, including severe weather or emergencies.
For more information on the Rogers County Wireless Association, visit rcwa.org.