Radio Club Hosts Field Day to Test Emergency Communication

Posted: Updated:
at Emergency Communication Center in Charlottesville at Emergency Communication Center in Charlottesville

Amateur radio operators in central Virginia are testing their skills for when all other technology fails.

The Albemarle Amateur Radio Club is joining a nationwide field day to demonstrate its ability to communicate under conditions that could cut off landlines, cell phones, and the internet during a natural disaster or other emergency.

Club members set up make-shift antennas and brushed up on their Morse code to show that cell phones and computers only go so far in emergencies.

“I call it real time texting or real time email,” Alan Swinger, club member, said.

The club held its field day Saturday to prove its ability to operate when no other technology is working.

"We demonstrate to the public the ability of ham radio operators to provide communications literally on a shoe-string budget and a make shift operation," Ed Berkowitz, club member said.

Ham radio operators are amateurs with licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. There are more than 700,000 amateur radio operators in the United States.

"Despite the proliferation of cell phone, satellite and modern digital communications, any time theres a natural disaster or a manmade event such as 911 ham radio operators step up to the plate and provide emergency communications to more local community,” Berkowitz said.

One member recalls a disaster when demonstrations like this one became reality.

"Hurricane Katrina up the Gulf Coast not too many years ago and basically the only communication for many days was ham radio, there were no cell phone towers, there were no cell phones, the power was out and people were either two cans and a string or they were talking to the ham radio," Swinger said.

Club members say the event prepares them for local and long distance communication in emergency situations.

The club’s drill runs non-stop until 2 p.m. at the Emergency Communications Center in Charlottesville.