June 20, 2012
Tens of thousands of amateur radio operators will be firing up portable radio stations from unexpected locations this weekend. These radio operators aid in emergency communications support during major emergencies. Called "hams," they are often among the first to provide rescuers with critical information, because they can send messages from isolated and remote locations without phones or the Internet.
On June 23-24, the public can meet these radio operators and, in some cases, get on the air under the supervision of a ham. Over 35,000 operators will operate from parks, malls, schools and yards around the country. They'll send and receive messages to other operators in the United States and around the world. Using everything from digital and satellite communications to Morse code, "Field Day" is the climax of the weeklong "Amateur Radio Week," sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national association for amateur radio. There's likely a Field Day location near you – to find one, go to www.ARRL.org/field-day-locator.
Over the past year, the news has been full of reports of amateur radio operators providing communications during unexpected emergencies in towns across America and worldwide, including wildfires, winter storms, tornadoes and other events. "The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications," says Allen Pitts of ARRL. "From the tsunami in Japan to tornadoes in Missouri, ham radio provided reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the events. Because ham radios are not dependent on complex systems, they work when nothing else is available. We need nothing between us but air."
Their slogan, "Ham Radio Works," is more than just words to the hams as they prove that they can send messages in many forms without any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis. They invite the public to come and see ham radio's new capabilities, and learn how to get their own FCC radio license before the next disaster strikes. There are now over 703,000 amateur radio licensees in the United States, and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES® ) program, ham volunteers provide emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies, as well as non-emergency community services, all for free.