by Dave Finley
SOCORRO, N.M., June 19, 2006 -- Socorro's amateur radio operators will spend the weekend of June 24-25 practicing emergency-communications skills that many of their fellow "hams" across the nation have used extensively over the past year following hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and other disasters.
The Socorro Amateur Radio Association (SARA) and the Tech Amateur Radio Association (TARA) will set up portable radio stations at Socorro's Clarke Field and at the Datil Well Campground in Catron County, then make two-way contacts with other participating stations throughout the Western Hemisphere. The operation will run from noon Saturday to noon Sunday.
The public is invited to visit and learn about amateur radio and the ability of amateur operators to quickly establish local, national and international communications during and after emergencies.
At the Clarke Field site, the hams will be operating from a travel trailer they have converted into a mobile emergency communications center to serve local government agencies.
The trailer was donated to Socorro County in 2004 by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Since then, the hams have refurbished it and equipped it with radios, antennas and other equipment. It was used for the recent multi-agency emergency drill in Magdalena and is available to serve as a communications facility at emergency sites throughout the area.
During this weekend's event, known as Field Day, ham operators, using only generators, batteries or solar power, construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and back yards around the country to test their skills under all situations. Their slogan, "Ham radio works when other systems don't!" is more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis.
More than 30,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year's event. Nationwide, there are nearly 700,000 licensed amateurs, and more than 2.5 million around the world.