The first named storm of the 2015 hurricane season appeared, made landfall and dissipated weeks before the official start of the season. In the Midwest, numerous tornadoes have destroyed many millions of dollars in property and cost lives. Brush fires have also exacted a toll.
What do all of these events have in common? They all affect our ability to communicate with others. Phone lines are damaged. Cell tower sites become inoperative. With these service disruptions, access to the Internet is blocked. Remaining communication modes become jammed, much like the highways serving the affected area.
When this happens, the one communication service that has never failed has been amateur radio. Day in, day out, year after year, amateur radio operators, often called “hams,” provide backup communications for the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and local, state and national emergency responders. There is even a backup contingency plan for amateur radio to provide backup communications for the International Space Station.
When trouble is brewing, amateur radio operators usually are the first to provide rescuers with critical information and communications. How? Amateur radio does not depend on any infrastructure to operate.
A radio operator in Palm Beach County can set up a battery-powered radio connected to a wire antenna and communicate directly with another operator anywhere else on the planet — no wires, no cables, no Internet, no satellites (although “hams” do use satellites when they are available).
On June 27 and 28, Palm Beach County’s amateur radio operators will join with thousands of others from the U.S. and Canada to demonstrate emergency capabilities. From June 27 at 2 p.m. until June 28 at 2 p.m., members of the Palms West Amateur Radio Club (www.palmswestradio.org) will gather at the Osceola Pavilion in Okeeheelee Park to practice their skills. At this Field Day, the public will have a chance to meet and talk with local ham radio operators and see for themselves what amateur radio is all about.
Field Day is the climax of the week-long “Amateur Radio Week” sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio. Using only emergency power supplies, many ham operators will construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and backyards around the country.
The public has been the beneficiary of ham radio’s skills on many occasions. It is part of the “pay forward” for the privilege of using the airwaves.
Amateur radio is growing in the U.S. There are now more than 700,000 Amateur Radio licensees in the U.S., and more than 2.5 million around the world, according to the ARRL.
Through the ARRL’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services program, ham volunteers provide both emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies and non-emergency community services too, all for free.
For more information on this year’s Field Day event, contact Field Day Chairman John Samuels at (561) 909-7150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.