This past weekend HAM radio operators around the world spent 24 hours doing what they love: perfecting their craft.
This was the annual ARRL (American Radio Relay League) Field Day. Crescenta Valley Radio Club and Glendale Emergency Amateur Radio Service (GEARS) members pitched tents and pulled up their trailers at Verdugo Park early Saturday, June 26, morning.
“We were on the air at 11 a.m.,” said Joe Pardo, of GEARS.
This year the radios went green with solar power brought by fellow ham radio operator Robert Frye with CircumSOLAR Energy.
The weekend was a chance for ham radio operators from around the world to not only communicate with each other but to hone their skills to be prepared for any type of disaster.
“We practice setting up the batteries, in this case solar power panels, at different locations,” Pardo explained.
Last year the field day was at Deukmejian Wilderness Park where they had to deal with pop-up tents in a very hot sun. This year they were under the shade of the numerous park trees.
Pardo explained that they are on call whenever a disaster, from fire to earthquakes, happens. This type of exercise allows them to be prepared and gives emergency responders like fire and police an estimated time of readiness.
Some operators were set up in areas like the park while others were in the middle of the woods or desert hiking but all with the same purpose of communication.
“We are talking to people all over North America,” said Mark Gershen, president of CV Radio Club.
He added that during a disaster, ham radios may be the only type of viable communication.
“Many times during earthquakes we have found cellphones don’t work, but we do,” Gershen said.
Ham radio operators help keep fire and police updated as to the local situation. This helps them when there is an emergency they need to respond to quickly and lets them know that some areas are safe.
“We are the eyes and ears in an emergency,” Pardo added.
Pardo was called into the Glendale emergency operation center during the Station Fire and the subsequent floods.
“We were called in for the fire on the [Glendale] 2 Freeway a few years ago,” said Jim Olliff, Glendale City Radio Officer, GEARS.
Olliff said the city has been supportive of the ham radio operators and they have worked closely with police and fire.
“It makes the city safer. There are numerous operators throughout the city and Crescenta Valley,” he added.
Those who participated in Field Day also wanted to bring attention to the craft of ham radio. The equipment has evolved from radios that used to be large pieces to those now smaller than most cellphones.
“You end up with friends across the country,” Pardo said of the bonds formed.
In addition to the social networking, operators have found they know more about electronics then they ever thought possible.
“I have been an operator since I was a freshman,” said recent Crescenta Valley High graduate Matt Anderson. “Everyone has cellphones. I like this better. This is a way you can really help.”
Anderson introduced ham radio operating to friend Will Richards, a senior at CVHS.
“I just got my license,” Richards said.
He added he liked the fact they could communicate all over the world.
Anderson will be majoring in journalism and said the fact that he is a ham radio operator will be helpful during emergencies.
For more information on ham radio work visit www.qsl.net/cvrc.
“There is a great six-minute video on the website that was done with Walter Cronkite, who was a ham radio operator,” Pardo said.