HAM radio enthusiasts gather for a ‘field day’

HAM radio enthusiasts gather for a ‘field day’
From left: Amateur ham radio operators Greg Gibbs, Tom Howard, Brian Tagg and Terry Runyon at the annual Field Day event on Sunday. For two days, amateur ham radio operators gather to try and make as many contacts as possible. Photo by Tony Cagala

SAN MARCOS — Ham radio enthusiasts were literally having a field day.

Sifting through static and listening for another voice on the other end, ham radio operators spent two days in a field off of Rancheros Drive, participating in the annual ARRL Field Day event.

Greg Gibbs, organizer of the event, said one of the goals was to see how many messages could be sent from their camp to others around the U.S. and Canada.

During the two-day event on June 28 and June 29, their group made 776 contacts from cities within the U.S. as far away as Virginia and Florida to Texas, Ohio and Hawaii. They were also able to reach other ham radio operators in Canada.

The Field Day event is part fun, but part training, too.

Meant to simulate an emergency where all power and communications are down, the event served to highlight that with portable generators communications were still possible by using ham radios.

“The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,” said Allen Pitts of the ARRL in a press release.  “From the tsunami in Japan to tornadoes in Missouri, ham radio provided reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the events.  Because ham radios are not dependent on complex systems, they work when nothing else is available.  We need nothing between us but air.”

Brian Tagg, an amateur radio operator demonstrates making a radio call. Photo by Tony Cagala

Brian Tagg, an amateur radio operator demonstrates making a radio call. Photo by Tony Cagala

Terry Runyon, a member of the Palomar Amateur Radio Club, said that as people are becoming more addicted to instant communications through cell phones, ham radios are important because during an emergency, cell phone signals are cut to allow for emergency personnel to communicate, leaving ham radio operators to help spread the word on what’s going on.

If the ground shakes, Runyon said, a ham radio operator will be there to report on the damage. He said that law enforcement is also using ham radios as backup communication devices.

Tom Howard, an Oceanside resident, has been involved with ham radios since 2007. Howard, who is blind, said he keeps his radio by his bed and is able to talk with people all over the world.

In March 2012, the ARRL listed 702,506 ham radio operators in the U.S. and more than 2 million around the world.

Getting involved with the radios sounded like something interesting for Brian Tagg, who’s been with the Palomar Amateur Radio Club for three years. He said he didn’t know anything about it when he started, but found out how much there was to it.

“It’s a very neat hobby,” Tagg said.

The Palomar Amateur Radio Club has more than 300 members, who come from all over San Diego County, Howard said. It was founded in 1936 and meets at the Carlsbad Safety Center the first Wednesday of each month.

Visit PalomarARC.org for more information.



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