Thousands of ham radio operators will be showing off their emergency capabilities this weekend.
During the past year, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications in emergencies including the California wildfires, Michigan storms and Iowa flooding, tornadoes and other events worldwide. During Hurricane Katrina, amateur radio -- often called "ham radio" -- was often the only way people could communicate, and hundreds of volunteer "hams" traveled south to save lives and property. When trouble is brewing, ham radio people are often the first to provide critical information and communications.
This weekend, June 28-29, the public will have a chance to meet and talk with these ham radio operators and see for themselves what the Amateur Radio Service is about. Showing the newest digital and satellite capabilities, voice communications and even historical Morse code, hams from across the USA will be holding public demonstrations of emergency communications abilities.
In the Payson area, the Tonto Amateur Radio Association (TARA) will be demonstrating amateur radio at East Verde Estates Clubhouse on June 28-29 from noon Saturday to noon on Sunday.
The public can visit and learn about ham radio's capabilities and how to get their own FCC radio license before the next disaster strikes.
There are 650,000 amateur radio licensees in the U.S., and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the ARRL's ARES program and Gila County's RACES program, ham volunteers provide emergency communications for state and local emergency response agencies, all for free.
This annual event, called "Field Day" is the climax of the week-long "Amateur Radio Week" sponsored by the ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. Using only emergency power supplies, ham operators will construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and back yards around the country.
Their slogan, "Ham radio works when other systems don't!" is more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, Internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis. More than 34,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year's event.
"We hope that people will come and see for themselves, this is not your grandfather's radio anymore," said Allen Pitts of the ARRL. "The communications networks that ham radio people can quickly create have saved many lives in the past months when other systems failed or were overloaded."
To learn more about amateur radio, go to www.emergency-radio.org.
The public can come, meet and talk with the hams. See what modern amateur radio can do. They can even help you get on the air.