Amateur radio event is this weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes and communication lines are down, there’s one group who can keep the lines of communication open – amateur radio enthusiasts.

This week marks amateur radio week and local radio clubs will hold an emergency drill Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 1 p.m., at the Sweet Home Alabama Campground on Pt. A and a destination off of Padgett Road.

Those participating will be the South Alabama Radio Club and the Opp Amateur Radio Club.

Officials said this weekend’s event is the biggest operating event in amateur radio.

“When everything else fails; amateur radio works,” said Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar, who signed a proclamation at Monday night’s council meeting.

John A. Brown of the South Alabama Radio Club said the event is stationed for North America, including Mexico, United States and Canada.

“Last year, we even talked to Israel, when were just playing around,” he said. “We talked to them on 20 watts last year.”

Brown said they were able to communicate with 46 states, four provinces and two other countries last year.

Brown told the council that the county has to repeaters – one in Andalusia and one in Opp.

Those who participate are also spotters for the SKYWARN program for the National Weather Service.

“Spotters give first hand info on rainfall, what they are seeing, tornadoes and more,” Brown said. “That information is relayed to the National Weather Service. During hurricanes they station a ‘ham’ at the station.”

Brown said the public is invited out to see what they are doing.

Amateur radio provided emergency communications when other systems failed in the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the USA; the tsunami catastrophes overseas and during sever weather or tornado outbreaks.

“We’ll have a low country boil on Saturday and a Boston butt on Sunday,” he said.