‘On the air’ even in storms

Published 11:59 pm Monday, June 22, 2009

When severe weather hits Covington County and knocks out all other forms of communication, often the only media that can stay on the air are amateur radio operators. This weekend, two local amateur radio clubs will join thousands of other amateur radio operators across the continent in the annual American Radio Relay League Field Day.

John Brown, secretary of the South Alabama Radio Club (SARC), said the field day serves as a practice exercise for operators, to determine if they will be ready in time of an emergency.

“Our club, as well as the Opp Amateur Radio Club (OARC), will spend 24 hours this weekend participating in the field day,” he said. “We’re going to take some temporary antennas, and set them up between two trees or a similar spot, and then we’ll try to contact as many other radio operators as we can, both here in the U.S. but also in Canada and even across the world.”

Brown said the SARC will have its field day exercise at the campground pavilion at Lake Frank Jackson State Park, while the OARC will hold its exercise in the Carolina community on Padgett Road, near the Conecuh River. Both clubs will be broadcasting from 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon until 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s basically an emergency preparedness exercise,” Brown said. “If a storm were to hit, for example, and knock out all radio and electricity then we might be able to set up a temporary radio spot in a large parking lot or something like that. We might then be able to call out to the National Weather Service, or an emergency organization elsewhere in the state, to get help or information. This weekend’s field day will kind of let us know what we could expect in an emergency situation.

“I think it will be very interesting and the public is welcome to come out and watch what we do.”

Brown said there are about 30-35 total members in both the SARC and OARC combined.

Monday, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson signed a proclamation declaring the week of Mon., June 22, through Sun., June 28, as “Amateur Radio Week.”