by Dave Finley, N1IRZ
SOCORRO, N.M., June 20, 2008 -- Socorro's amateur radio operators will be among thousands showing off their emergency capabilities June 28-29. Over the past months, ham radio operators have provided critical communications in emergencies world-wide. During the recent tornadoes and in Hurricane Katrina, Amateur Radio was often the only way remaining by which people could communicate.
When trouble is brewing, ham radio operators are often the first to provide critical information and communications.
On the weekend of June 28-29, the public will have a chance to meet and talk with these ham radio operators and see for themselves what the Amateur Radio Service is about. Showing the newest digital and satellite capabilities, voice communications and even historic Morse code, hams from across the USA will hold public demonstrations of their
emergency communications abilities.
The Socorro Amateur Radio Association (SARA) and the Tech Amateur Radio Association (TARA) will set up portable radio stations at Socorro's Plaza 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 Socorro Plaza site, the hams will operate from a travel trailer they 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.
"We hope that people will come and see for themselves that this is not your grandfather's radio anymore," said Allen Pitts of the ARRL, the national association for amateur radio.
"The communications networks that ham radio people can quickly create have saved many lives in the past months when other systems failed or were overloaded."
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, "When all else fails..." 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 34,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year's event. There are 654,000 Amateur Radio operators in the U.S., and more than 2.5 million around the world. Ham volunteers provide emergency communications for the DHS Citizens' Corps, Salvation Army, FEMA and hundreds of state and local agencies, all for free.
For more information about amateur radio in Socorro County, see: