Socorro radio operators start massive exercise

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Socorro’s amateur radio operators will join thousands of others in a giant emergency communications exercise June 22-23.

The Socorro Amateur Radio Association and the Tech Amateur Radio Association will set up and operate a two-transmitter emergency radio station in Socorro County.

The public is invited to visit the operation. The ham radio operators will work at the park near the fire station in San Antonio. The operation runs from noon Saturday to noon Sunday. Once the emergency radio stations are set up, the operators will make as many two-way contacts as possible with other participating stations.

This annual preparedness exercise, called Field Day, is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio. The exercise highlights the skills currently being used to support efforts to fight massive wildfires in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

During Field Day, operators across the country set up in local parks, at shopping malls or even in their own backyards, and get on the air using generators or battery power. Field Day was designed to test operators’ abilities to set up and operate portable stations under emergency conditions such as the loss of electricity and other infrastructure.

Amateur radio has been growing in the U.S., and the technical skills of hams has also improved as almost 50 percent of American amateur radio operators now go beyond the entry-level FCC licensing requirements and pass the more difficult testing to earn higher class federal licenses.

In past years, many reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications in emergencies have been in the news. During floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and other crises, amateur radio volunteers provide emergency communications for many rescue and recovery groups.

Operators are often the first to report critical information to responders in the first hours of crisis situations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Weather Service and local emergency management offices include amateur radio emergency service operators in their communications plans.

Field Day is a serious test of skill, but it also is a contest for fun. It is the largest “on-air” operating event each year. More than 35,000 amateur radio operators participated in last year’s event.

“We invite people to come and see for themselves that this is an exciting and fun activity,” SARA president Dave Johnson said. “The communications networks that ham radio people can quickly create have often saved many lives when other systems were knocked out of service.”

Today there are more than 730,000 amateur radio operators in the United States and more than 2.5 million worldwide. For more information about amateur radio visit http://www.arrl.org/emergency-radio-org or email president@socorroara.org.