Amateur Radio operators from across Rensselaer County and the Capital District practiced their emergency communication skills June 22-23 during “Field Day” which is held annually each June. The event began in 1933 as a way for Amateurs – also known as “Hams” – to demonstrate their ability to communicate independently of traditional telecommunication systems, such as telephones and the Internet.
Among the groups participating were the East Greenbush Amateur Radio Association, the Troy Amateur Radio Association, and the Hoosick Amateur Radio Club. Each operated in public locations on Saturday and Sunday for a total of 24 hours, making contacts throughout the United States and Canada.
“Amateur Radio has a slogan – When all else fails, there’s Amateur Radio,” said Tom Scorsone, call sign KC2FCP, President of the East Greenbush club. “During a communications outage, Hams can literally throw a wire in a tree for an antenna, connect it to a battery-powered transmitter, and communicate halfway around the world,”
Scorsone noted that after the hurricane devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, the island relied on Amateur Radio operators to handle emergency communications for several weeks because the regular telecommunication systems had been knocked out.
Each group that operates on Field Day is given points for various activities, including the number of contacts made by voice, Morse Code, and through various digital modes. The East Greenbush club reported it made nearly 500 contacts during the event and reached stations as far away as Oregon, California and western Canada. Additional points are gained for such things as using only battery power and operating at a public location.
“For more than 100 years, Amateur Radio — also called Ham radio — has allowed people from all walks of life to experiment with electronics and communications techniques, as well as provide a free public service to their communities during a disaster or emergency,” said John Fritze, K2QY, of Delmar, who is the Eastern New York Section Manager for the American Radio Relay League. “Today there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are licensed hams and it’s easy to get involved, especially if you join a local club.”
“There’s a big emphasis these days on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – and Amateur Radio involves them all,” said Bryan Jackson, W2RBJ, who is ARRL’s NYS Legislative Liaison. “I can’t think of a better way for a young person to learn while also having a lot of fun.”
Anyone may become a licensed Amateur Radio operator. Today, there are more than 725,000 licensed hams in the United States, as young as 9 and as old as 100. There are many local Amateur Radio clubs in the Greater Capital Region that are ready to help new Hams get licensed and on the air. They are easily found by visiting the American Radio Relay League’s website at: http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club.