Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Ham Radio" operators gather for annual Field Day

On the evening of March 2, 2012 tornadoes had wiped out communication in Henryville, IN. Phone lines and electricity were down along with communication systems used by emergency responders. The Clark County Emergency Coordinator for Amateur Radio took his personal RV, which is fully equipped to set up emergency communication, to the fire station in Henryville where response agencies had gathered. During the first 18-24 hours, members from Amateur Radio clubs across Kentucky and Southern Indiana established communication to provide their services, free of charge, to local emergency management and authorities.
Amateur Radio operator Roman Rusinek.

Roman Rusinek was one of the local amateur radio operators that responded to the disaster. Roman obtained his amateur radio license in 1995 and joined the Oldham County Kentucky Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) when the volunteer group formed last year. The thing that most drew him to the hobby was the community service aspect—helping others during emergencies.

“It takes a lot of preparation and practice to prepare for an emergency,” Roman said adding that he was impressed with the coordination of emergency communication efforts following the March 2 tornadoes.

To prepare for the real deal, amateur radio operators participate in drills offered by the city, county, state and nation that involve emergency management and local authorities. The drills offer an opportunity to build relationships and plan for when disaster does strike.

Operators also provide their services at local bike rides, run/walks and other events where emergency communication might be needed. It gives them an opportunity to test out their equipment and learn where their receivers have the best reception, so that during an actual emergency, they know where they can and cannot set up shop.

Amateur Radio played a larger role in disaster response before cell phones became a staple in every back pocket and handbag, but even cell towers can be affected by disaster. Cell phone lines are quickly tied up when people are trying to contact friends and family to ensure their safety. Without the use of electricity, Amateur Radio operators provide a separate channel for communication avoiding the possibility of being denied due to swamped lines. It’s like their motto says “When all else fails . . . Amateur Radio.”

Roman and other members of the Oldham County ARES will be staging demonstrations from 1-9 p.m. this Saturday, June 23 at the Oldham County Red Cross, 1215 N Highway 393 in Buckner, KY. The demos are part of ARRL Field Day sponsored by the National Association for Amateur Radio. More than 35,000 operators will gather at various locations across the country to show how radio can act very much like the internet when needed. Visitors can view the equipment used and even go “on-air.”

Roman hopes that Field Day will help inform the community of the full capabilities of Amateur Radio and spark interest in others, especially kids. To learn more about Amateur Radio, please visit