A valuable American resource which sometimes goes unnoticed by media and local communities will again take place right here in many of our northern New York counties. It's called Field Day by the ARRL, a national organization of amateur radio operators.
The ARRL - which stands for American Radio Relay League and which facilitates a great field organization, affiliated clubs and EmCom (emergency communications) groups - has become synonymous with public service and emergency communications. This event, unlike any other preparedness, happens once a year all across the United States and its islands of the Americas. Amateur radio operators, more commonly known as "ham operators," will again set up to operate and communicate with fellow "hams" all around America and Canada.
A field operation means just that: Under less-than-desirable conditions and environments, they will often put up makeshift shelter, antennas and radio stations for communication on emergency power. They will use generators and battery power to send exchanges/messages in many modes, not done by any other entity or organization on this planet. I have witnessed some of the most ingenious electronics and forms of communications by these "amateurs," who are often some the most dedicated professional communicators and communication organizers in an emergency.
Amateur radio operators help out at the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon.
If you don't believe me, just ask the emergency coordinators during 9/11 in New York City, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon; hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Irene and Sandy; and more recently, the Boston bombings during a public service event at which amateur radio volunteers were there, helping in the marathon, which they do for so many of these events all across America when communication organization is needed under less-than-sustainable circumstances by any other means.
When the power goes down, when cell phones get jammed up, when the Internet crashes or the computers won't work, ham radio gets through often enough; our NTS traffic system just works. We boast 85 percent or better success rates when all else fails; we can get the messages through. That's what we are known for in dire times of need. Isn't that nice to know? A group of American Citizens organized and willing to help in times of need - yes, your community needs them.
And we need you to know that we are there! Come see these radio operators in operation. You will be amazed at their number of contacts/exchanges that are accomplished during these field days year after year. You will see Morse code operators, many digital mode stations, voice, satellite, microwave and even software-defined radio stations in today's amateur radio repertoire. There's nothing amateurish about it. Amateur radio is and will always be one of America's greatest resources.
Yes, many of the same northern New York clubs or amateur radio operators that were here during the ice storm of 1998 are still going strong, helping with public service events like the Plattsburgh Half-Marathon, Tinman, Ironman, Adirondack Marathon, St. Lawrence Carp Tournament, Adirondack Canoe Classic (90-Miler), Round the Mountain, Battle of Plattsburgh events, Stride for Pride and many more. We are training and refining our communication techniques all the time to better serve you the public.
I challenge you this Field Day 2013 to get out with your family and youngsters to this fun radio activity on June 22 and 23. Many youngsters are home from school, and what a great way to show them something good that's going on around us in northern New York. You can get a list of the nearest Field Day club sites by going to www.arrl.org/field-day-locator. Check out the map for one close to you!
As for local clubs, you'll find them at nnyara.net, www.cvarc.us, adkara.org, www.qsl.net/sparc, ovarc.us, www.qsl.net/brvarc, www.tirepeaterclub.com, northfranklinars.wix.com/home, sites.google.com/site/ncarcw2lca and k2jji.org.
Please come to check us out; you will be amazed at what you see and hear and may want to ask how you can become a licensed amateur. What a great privilege it is to be a U.S. amateur radio operator, truly an expression of our freedom. Yes, you can enrich your family by understanding communications and enable youngsters to learn how radio waves and frequencies affect most technology we use today, and help our northern New York communities in times of need.
Thomas Dick, KF2GC, of Saranac Lake, is the northern New York ARRL section manager.