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Whidbey Island 'hams' to broadcast during national emergency radio test
Ham radio buffs from throughout Whidbey Island will be among thousands nationwide who will operate shortwave radios at remote locations to practice their emergency communications capabilities during an annual field radio event June 22-23.
Cliff Allen, president of the Island County Amateur Radio Club, said members will start pitching tents, setting up radio gear and hoisting up wire transmitting antennas in trees a day prior to the beginning of the exercise at a hilltop location at South Whidbey Community Park.
Whidbey’s only radio club will also set up an additional radio station to demonstrate to the public how shortwave radio communications work and to allow interested persons an opportunity to talk across the nation on the radio.
Beginning Saturday morning, June 22, dozens of Whidbey people, ranging from high school students to retired men and women, will take turns manning their radios around the clock at the emergency powered radio site, located at 5495 Maxwelton Road, Langley.
“We want to invite the public to come see for themselves what this fascinating hobby offers to people and communities,” Allen said. “The communications networks that ham radio people can quickly create have saved many lives after natural disasters in the past several months when other systems failed or were overloaded.”
Allen, a federally licensed ham radio operator for the past four years, said the public is invited to visit the radio camp site beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 22, at the park’s upper most soccer field on top of the hill. Radio activities will continue throughout the night and end at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“We’re inviting folks young and old to see ham radio’s capabilities and learn how to get their own radio license before any disaster strikes,” Allen said.
The Whidbey radio club broadcast from the same location last year and successfully contacted over 500 other radio operators around the nation as a means to test its communications capabilities during civil disaster conditions. The club also supports local communities and governmental agencies with communications support during special events such as parades and sports events, Allen said.
There are 650,000 amateur radio licensees in the U.S. and more than 2.5 million around the world, according to the American Radio Relay League, the hams’ national fraternal organization. Through the ARRL, ham volunteers provide free emergency communications for hundreds of state and local emergency response agencies nationwide.
To learn more about amateur radio, go to www.emergency-radio.org or www.arrl.org. For more information about the Island County Amateur Radio Club, go to www.w7avm.org.