Most people think a cell phone will serve them in an emergency. But a cell phone only works if the cell phone tower works.
If it doesn’t, that’s where amateur radio operators come in.
“With amateur radio, we support the first responders, the emergency vehicles, hospitals, etc.,” said David Kjellquist of the North Augusta-Belvedere Radio Club.
“That’s important when they don’t have other communications available.”
The club participated in the American Radio Relay League’s Field Day, which was held across North America on Saturday and Sunday.
They set up amateur radio stations at the North Augusta Department of Public Safety Station 2 on Five Notch Road.
“That’s part of what Field Day is, a practice for emergency situations,” Kjellquist said.
The goal is to contact as many stations as possible in the U.S. and Canada within 24 hours.
A GOTA – Get On The Air – station was set up for new amateur radio operators. Anyone else who was curious could also try it out.
In the parking lot, a communications trailer contained stations for voice communications, Morse code, digital communications and a station that transmits signals at very high frequencies. Most operators worked in pairs to transmit and receive communications.
Once contact is made, operators transmit their call signs – which are assigned to them by the Federal Communications Commission – the type of power they’re using and their location.
They log the same information from the station they’ve contacted.
Field Day serves several purposes, club member Steve Czaikowski said.
It keeps the members’ skills sharp and provides an opportunity to test the equipment so that both are ready in case disaster strikes.
During last year’s field day, the club made 847 contacts. This year it hoped to break 1,000.
The North Augusta-Belvedere Radio Club has about 60 active members and serves the North Augusta and Aiken area. It meets once a month.
Members sponsor the ham radio club at Schofield Middle School and pay the fees for students who are
interested in taking the exam.
Darby Wills, 12, is a member of the Schofield ham radio club. He earned his license in the spring.
He said there are about five members at his school, and he has enjoyed learning how to operate an amateur radio station.
“I’m kind of a geek, so I like the whole technology aspect of it – the computer aspect, and also the doing amazing things with electricity,” he said.
By 3 p.m. Saturday, Darby was disappointed that he’d only made one contact from the GOTA station.
He had hoped to make more contacts, but technical issues hampered his progress.
Several other members worked to fix the GOTA station just as they would if such a situation occurred during an actual emergency.
“It’s going well. It could be better but it’s good,” Darby said of his first field day experience.