By Adam Amour/Itawamba County Times
FULTON – During time of trouble – tornados, floods, thunderstorms and the like – it’s important to be as prepared as possible for whatever may occur.
This is especially true of the members of Northeast Mississippi Radio Amateurs, who typically find themselves as an important means of communication during such times.
Practice is the key to preparation, and that’s where their group’s annual field day event comes into play. The event allots a full 24 hours of practice for local radio enthusiasts – a simulated emergency situation that puts local radio operators in contact with dozens of others across the country.
This year’s event will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Itawamba County Emergency Management office on Access Road in Fulton and last until 1 p.m. Sunday. For the curious, the event is open to the public. Local operators will begin setting up for the event at 9 a.m. Saturday.
According to Jeff Clingan, head of NEMRA, the event – sponsored annually by the American Radio Relay League – serves a variety of purposes. These include a bit of everything from fellowship among operators to training for emergency operations while operating in unfamiliar surroundings as well as under difficult conditions on the air.
“It plays many roles,” Clingan said, “from bringing hams closer together, building cooperation between amateur operators and public agencies and increased training in planning and response. It also gives the public a chance to check us out.”
During field day exercises, operators must maintain 24 hours of contact with different radio groups from across the country.
Often, ham radio operators find themselves the sole source of communication during power and communication outages, such as in the aftermath of a strong storm. They are often the first to report inclement weather and help track storms as they come through an area by staying in contact with one another.
For those who are passionate about the ins and outs of amateur radio operation, it’s just a great deal of fun.
“For some it’s a hobby: a way to pass the time, relax and lower stress; for others, it’s a way to give back to their communities – a way to help out if the need arises,” Clingan said. “Then there is the desire to talk to people in faraway places that you would otherwise never meet.”
For more information about the group, visit www.w5nem.org.