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June 20, 2006 > Hams have a field day

Hams have a field day

by William Artelt

It was an insult from the days of telegraphs, but today's amateur radio operators proudly call themselves "hams." On June 24 and 25, hams across the United States will leave the comfort of their home-based radio "shacks" for a weekend of emergency preparedness called "Field Day." The event is designed to test operators' skills in setting up and operating radio communication equipment in situations where electrical power is limited or unavailable.

Participants will encounter a variety of simulated challenges, including earthquakes and other disasters, both natural and man-made. The event is sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL). Field Days have been held annually since 1933.

Locally, hams will be operating at Central Park in Fremont, using generators, battery or solar power to run their equipment. This type of exercise, along with the operators' dedication to public service, allows them to step in and help emergency officials and relief organizations when disaster strikes. Cell phones, the Internet and other communications technologies have yet to replace what hams can do. They have a long track record of getting the message through when all other systems fail.

Field Day is a serious exercise, but it's also a lot of fun for participants. It's also the most popular "on-air" operating event each year. During Field Day, operators attempt to make radio contact with as many participating stations as possible, simulating the sort of speedy on-air skills needed during an emergency. In past years, more than 30,000 Amateur Radio operators in the United States and Canada have taken part. Field Day participants include hams in virtually all of North and South America and the Caribbean.

Today there are nearly 700,000 amateur radio operators in the United States and more than 2.5 million worldwide. To find out how to get started in this exciting hobby in your area, call Andy Romeril (call sign: KG6MDS) at (510) 791-6478.

You may also contact the American Radio Relay League, toll free at (800) 32NEWHAM (326-3426), or visit

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