Emergency Communications Demo June 22-23 At Okeeheelee

A higher-than-average number of tropical cyclones are expected this year. Despite the Internet, cell phones, e-mail and modern communications, every year whole regions find themselves in the dark. Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, storms, ice and even the occasional cutting of fiber-optic cables leave people without the means to communicate.

In these cases, the one consistent service that has never failed has been amateur radio. Radio operators — often called “hams” — provide backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross, to local government agencies, FEMA and even for the International Space Station.

Hams from the Palms West Amateur Radio Club (www.palms westarc.org) will join with thousands of other amateur radio operators showing their emergency capabilities this weekend, June 22-23. The public will have a chance to meet and talk with local ham radio operators and see for themselves what amateur radio service is about, as hams across the United States and Canada will hold public demonstrations of emergency communications abilities. This annual “Field Day,” is the climax of the week-long “Amateur Radio Week,” sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national association for amateur radio.

Using only emergency power, ham operators will construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and backyards around the country. The slogan “When All Else Fails, Ham Radio Works” is more than just words to the hams, as they prove they can send messages in many forms without using phone systems, the Internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis.

More than 35,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year’s event.

“The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,” said Jeff Beals, local spokesman for the ARRL. “From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to tornadoes in the midwest, the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and hurricanes in the southeast, ham radio provided the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of these events. Because ham radios are not dependent on the Internet, cell towers or other infrastructure, they work when nothing else is available. We need nothing between us but air.”

Members of the Palms West Amateur Radio Club will demonstrate their service at Okeeheelee Park’s Osceola Pavilion, located at 7715 Forest Hill Blvd. They invite the public to come and see ham radio’s capabilities and learn how to get their own FCC radio license.

Amateur radio is growing in the U.S. There are now more than 700,000 amateur radio licensees nationwide, and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the ARRL’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services program, volunteers provide both emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies and non-emergency community services for free. To learn more, visit www.emergency-radio.org or www.arrl.org.

For more info., contact Beals at (561) 252-6707 or wa4aw@arrl.org.