Amateur Radio Awareness

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, June 26, 2011

By 5:30 p.m. Saturday, they hadsuccessfully contacted around 76 amateur radio stations from acrossthe United States and Canada, but the Southwest Mississippi AmateurRadio Club (SMARC) planned to press on.

    “The hard part is about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and thestations start to thin out,” said Homer Richardson, a SMARCmember.

    Thin would be a way to describe club members’ voices after 24 hoursof broadcasting they are doing this weekend.

    “By the end of the 24 hours, your voice is completely worn out fromrepeating our station’s call sign. You have to drink something tokeep going,” Richardson said while holding up a bottled drink. “Butthere will be four or five of us who will be here the whole 24hours.”

    From the Brookhaven Recreation Department, SMARC began operating at1 p.m. on Saturday and planned to broadcast until 1 p.m. on Sundayas part of the Amateur Radio Field Day.

    Annually, amateur radio stations throughout the United States andCanada set up and operate for 24 hours under emergency conditions.During that period they seek to make contact with as many otheramateur radio stations as possible.

    “The main thing is the training this offers for the operators, toensure that if there was an emergency we could deal with it,”Richardson said.

    In emergency situations where phone or Internet communication maynot be available in a given area, amateur radio can operate underemergency power. Local amateur radio clubs often aid emergencyservices in such situations.

    “This is primarily a hobby but also a public service,” Richardsonsaid.

    SMARC operated two radios on Field Day, both on batteries.Richardson said that these batteries could be recharged by solarpower.

    Other stations throughout the country operated solely on solarenergy or generators.

     At one point Saturdayafternoon, Richardson pointed out that 15 minutes had gone by withno radio contacts.

    “This is sort of like fishing,” Richardson said. “You can neverknow when something is going to happen. There may be moments whenwe are working three or four stations a minute.”

    Not much later, Richardson found a station over the radio. GeorgeLambright, SMARC president, leaned in to copy down the station’scall sign as Richardson read it.

    “Kilo five foxtrot delta,” Richardson said, using code words toreplace letters of the alphabet.

    Lambright wrote down “K5FD.”

    SMARC has held its Field Day operations at BRD for the last fiveyears. Prior to that the club operated at a number of locationsincluding city parks and Richardson’s house.

    Club members said that they learn something new every year.

    This year they did not have the adequate equipment to plug theirradios in when they first set up. Next year, they plan to make surethat does not happen.

    The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) coordinates the event andestimates 35,000 operators will participate in Field Day. The ARRLis the national membership organization for amateur radiooperators.

    Amateur radio operators are often called “ham radio operators” orsimply, “hams.”

    Richardson is a veteran. This year marks his 35th field day event,with 20 of those events having occurred in Mississippi.