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Gov. declares annual Amateur Radio Week this week

By: Ora Nelson

Gov. Ivey declared June 22-28 as the annual Amateur Radio Week in honor of the over 13,000 licensed amateur radio operators in Alabama.

The week-long event ends with the annual Alabama Field Day where operators can “showcase the skills, science and technologies that make radio communication such a wonderful hobby and a valuable public service,” according to the National Association for Amateur Radio. Due to COVID-19, many events cannot be held in person so operators are participating from their homes instead.

There are three different levels of licenses an amateur radio operator can get, with each level building off of the one before. The first, a Technician class license, is the entry-level and allows operators access to local and most domestic channels. A General class license grants some operating privileges on all Amateur Radio bands and all operating modes, including access to worldwide stations. The highest level, an Amateur Extra class license, has access to all bands and all modes and involves Morse code-only changes and are considered to be “prime operating territory.”

Amateur radio operators use their radio equipment to talk to other amateurs across the country and the world. Some discuss weather while others talk about radios and the other equipment they use.

“In one important role, amateurs support emergency communications,” said Harris. “Specifically for EMA and the National Weather Service during times of severe weather. Amateurs are called upon to assist with communications during severe weather, hurricanes, etc., when other communications are damaged.”

Amateur radio operators can get messages into and out of areas that are without commercial power by using their radio, a wire antenna and a 12-volt battery.

“They can still communicate when no other communications is available,” said Harris.

Of the 13,000 in Alabama, Covington County is home to approximately 25 members, locally known as the RRPA (Rural Radio Preparedness Association), Covington County Range.

“We join the Governor in recognizing the Amateur Radio Club in their contribution to EMA and the county,” said Harris.

The RRPA is “committed to promoting amateur radio in Covington County and is available for anyone interested in learning more about amateur radio” according to the Andalusia Range’s website. The club encourages the participation of younger generations and offers to mentor and help getting licensed to those that are interested.

“This group is vital for communications during an event [weather or natural disaster],” said Harris. “They provide severe weather reports, communications to Mobile Weather and AEMA (Alabama Emergency Management Agency) in Clanton.”

“We want everyone in the county to know what a great job they do for EMA and Covington County,” said Harris.

Those interested in amateur radio should contact Allen Scofield, the range warden of the Andalusia Range, at kg4cna@gmail.com.