Ham radio operators prepare for emergencies

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 14, 2007

Amateur ham radio operators from around the country joined forces to set up

emergency communications without commercial power during Field Day 2007 sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

Members of the Jim Bell Wireless Association (JBWA) which serves the Butler, Lowndes and Crenshaw County area, joined with the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club to operate two full time stations, CW (Morse Code) and Phone, a GOTA (Get On The Air) station, and a welcome station on Snowdoun Chambers Rd. in Montgomery to demonstrate several sides of Amateur Radio, sharpen operating skills, learn or teach about portable station setup, and enjoy camaraderie.

&#8220The objective of the exercise was to work as many stations as possible on many different amateur bands and in doing so learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions,” said Spencer Edwards, JBWA president.

The exercise began at 1 p.m. Saturday and continued until 1 p.m. Sunday, during the weekend of June 23-24.

Radio check-ins during Saturday afternoon alone were heard from 10 different states ranging from New Hampshire to Florida and as far west as Wisconsin.

Governor Bob Riley recognized the 9,000 amateur radio operators in Alabama as selfless ambassadors of goodwill by providing emergency communications during natural disasters and other non-weather related calamities and proclaimed June 18 through June 24 as Amateur Radio Week.

When Katrina hit and power and phone lines were down, ham radios were used to communicate to the Red Cross, shelters, and other emergency management agencies so food, medicine and other needs could be passed along.

&#8220Observing Field Day operations first hand provided me a better insight into the type of communication equipment available in helping towns handle a disaster when all other means of communication have been knocked out,” said Fort Deposit Mayor Fletcher Fountain. &#8220With hurricane season upon us, I will be consulting with EMA about getting generators for city hall and the fire department to improve disaster response. I also encourage more people to get involved in amateur radio.”

Anyone wishing to know more about amateur radio and possibly becoming a ham radio operator may contact Spencer Edwards at 227-4726.