By Stephanie Rebman
Stephanie Rebman 6/11/09
Hed: Ham radio operators prepare for field day
By ADAM ARMOUR
Itawamba County Times
FULTON – Every year, for a single day, people from around the entire country connect across the nation’s radio waves.
Members of the Northeast Mississippi Radio Amateurs, based out of Itawamba County, connect with other ham radio operators around the country during the American Radio Relay League’s annual field day event.
This year’s event will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, at the Itawamba County Welcome Center and last until 1 p.m. Sunday. The event is open to the public so that anyone can learn just what being an amateur radio operator is all about. Local operators will begin setting up for the event at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Preparing for the worst
According to Jeff Clingan, president of the Northeast Mississippi Radio Amateurs, field day is an important event for all ham radio operators, as it helps them prepare for emergency situations.
“The main thing the amateur radio operators are doing is testing their emergency communication skills and preparedness, how fast we can move to a site and set up our needed equipment and be on the air,” Clingan said, adding that the event also helps raise public awareness for the important role amateur radio operators play during emergency situations. “It’s a way to help operators learn their weaknesses and strengths if an emergency were to arise and hone their skills in communications if needed.”
The event is similar to a party for the ham operators – food, friends, talking and joking. It’s a good time – Clingan likened it to a “family picnic” – but also involves a lot of preparation and work. Operators arrive hours before the event begins to set up and ensure everything is working smoothly. Once communications begin, the goal is to keep reaching out to as many people across the radio waves as possible.
“We try to make contact with as many stations as possible in the 24-hour period,” Clingan said, adding it can get hectic. “We are constantly listening or calling for stations using either voice or Morse Code.
“Once a contact is made you give and receive a small amount of information that tells the station you are talking to how many radios you are using, what kind of power you have, batteries, generators or commercial, and what state you are located in. Once the information is confirmed you move on to another contact and do it again.”
Since the group is set up at the busy Welcome Center, their operations draw a lot of attention from visitors. The more, the merrier, Clingan said.
“Oh, we get all kinds of attention – from funny looks to people who will stay with us for hours talking, watching and listening,” he said. “Providing communications during emergencies is, after all, a public service so we want people to know who we are and what we do while also possibly stirring their interest in amateur radio.”
For more information about the Northeast Mississippi Radio Amateurs or the upcoming field day event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.