FAIR LAWN, NJ - With summer storm and hurricane season in mind, The Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club worked on radio communication this past weekend to keep people safe as part of the annual ARRL (American Radio Relay League) Field Day event.
“It’s to test our skills at emergency preparedness and to see how many contacts we can make in a 24 hour period,” said Gene Ottenheimer, one of many amateur radio operators who took part in the Field Day event at Memorial Field.
The radio equipment set-up is designed to contact other amateurs (or "hams") using similar equipment with everything from voice, digital and Morse Code, all to establish contact with people doing the same across the US and Canada.
For Ottenheimer, he’s been doing Field Days since 1963 and said it’s always a good time.
“It’s a wonderful and important hobby, we would love to have more young people getting into it,” said Ottenheimer.
But all the club members at the event said they were brushing up on skills that could end up being critical in keeping people safe after a disaster.
“Let's say a major weather event comes like Superstorm Sandy and you have all this infrastructure that isn’t working, so critical communications for evacuees, Red Cross shelters and the like might be moving via local ham radio operators,” said radio operator David Gotlib , who is also the local RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) coordinator for Fair Lawn. He noted that the club has also recently established an ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) group and are seeking members.
Gotlib worries that cell towers and the internet could go down at some point in a storm and it could create a problem after a disaster such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017.
“For the first four days after that storm hit, until they evacuated everyone at the hospital, "ham radio" was their main source of communication with the outside world,” said Gotlib, which is why he said Field Day is critical, “this is just basically a go back and do it the tried-and-true way to prove that we still can and a lot of times it’s still relevant and necessary to do after a disaster.”
Around 40,000 radio operators participated in the event across North America.
If you want to learn more about the Field Day, click here.
Anyone may become a licensed Amateur Radio operator; there are more licensed US operators today than ever before. And with clubs such as Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club, it’s easy for anybody to get involved. The club meets every Friday at the Community Center located at 10-10 20th Street in Fair Lawn.
To learn more about the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio club, visit their website at www.FairLawnARC.org.