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Amateur Radio Operators Test Their Skill at Field Day Event

Ham Radio
Photo credit: Jeremy Shreckhise


Hosted by the American Red Cross the Southwest Missouri Amateur Radio club or SMARC will take part in a nation wide test of ham radio operators to see if they can hold communication for 24 hours without mainline power.  KSMU’s Matthew Barnes has details about the field day event coming up this weekend.

SMARC, a local hobbyist amateur radio club, holds the event annually in connection with the American Radio Relay League’s national field test. The goal is to practice and give a chance for the general public to try their hand at working a ham radio.

Operating a ham radio requires a federal license, but during this event, people can us a radio alongside a certified operator.  Storm spotters will also be giving their first hand accounts of how they used ham radio during inclement weather.

The point of the field test is to be sure that amateur radio operators within the area are up to the task of being able to provide valuable information in the event of a disaster, like the May 22ndtornado in Joplin.  Cheryl Jackson is the Assistant Director of Emergency Service for the Ozarks Red Cross, which is hosing the field test.

“Just like when we had Joplin, all communication lines were pretty much down or clogged and the hospitals had a real hard time maintaining communication with the hospitals on the outside. And with one hospitals in Joplin being greatly impacted it became a life or death measure that amateur radio operators needed to be on the scene to help coordinate the traffic back and forth to hospitals in other areas,” says Jackson.

Ham radios don’t require much more than an antenna and a generator to operate and when phone lines are cut and cell towers are overloaded, Jackson says ham radio can provide a stable way to communicate in an emergency.

“Ham radio can be operated in a lot of different fashions whereas; most of your phones these days are dependent on power. Cell phones don’t, but cell phone towers go down and there are so many ham radio towers up, the odd that all of them would get knocked down at the same time would be very very small,” says Jackson. 

The biggest benefit to ham radio according to Jackson is that it’s mobile and many of the operators who assisted with communication for St. Johns hospital in Joplin were running ham radio rigs out of their cars. 

While ham radio is an important form of backup communication it is still used for fun.  Many ham radio operators communicate with each for enjoyment and also play games.

“Back and forth and around the world people see how many contacts they can make around the world and they do something called a fox hunt where they hide a radio transmitter that intermittently beeps and sends out a beacon and people try to find that radio and the first one to it wins the contest,” says Jackson.

For any one interested in operating a radio or learning more about emergency communication, the event begins at noon June 25th and continues for 24 hours through the 26th on the Red Cross lawn at 1545 N West Bypass.

For KSMU News, I’m Matthew Barnes.