Despite the proliferation of Internet access, cell phones and other modern communications, each year whole regions find themselves in the dark. Wildfires, earthquakes, floods and even the occasional cutting of fiber-optic cables leave people without the means to communicate. In these cases, the one consistent service that has never failed is Amateur Radio.
Amateur Radio operators, often called “hams,” provide backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross to FEMA and even for the International Space Station.
Santa Barbara’s “hams” will join with thousands of other Amateur Radio operators showing their emergency capabilities on the last weekend of June. Over the past year, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications during unexpected emergencies in towns across America, including the California and Colorado wildfires, winter storms, tornadoes and other events worldwide. When trouble is brewing, Amateur Radio operators are often the first to provide rescuers with critical information and communications.
On the weekend of June 28-29, the public will have a chance to meet and talk with Santa Barbara’s hams and see for themselves what the Amateur Radio Service is about, as operators across the United States and Canada will be holding public demonstrations of emergency communications abilities. This annual event, called "Field Day," is the climax of "Amateur Radio Week.”
Using only emergency power supplies, ham operators will construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and backyards around the country. Their slogan, "When all else fails, Amateur Radio works,” is more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, the Internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis. More than 35,000 Amateur Radio operators across the country participated in last year's event.
"The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,” said Allen Pitts of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for Amateur Radio and the sponsor of Field Day in the United States. “From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to tornadoes in Missouri, ham radio provided the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the events. Because ham radios are not dependent on the Internet, cell towers or other infrastructure, they work when nothing else is available. We need nothing between us but air.”
Amateur Radio is growing in the United States. There are now more than 700,000 Amateur Radio licensees in the United States, and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the ARRL’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services program, ham volunteers provide both emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies and non-emergency community services too, all for free.
The Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club will be demonstrating Amateur Radio at Camino Real Marketplace, 7410 Hollister Ave., from 11 a.m. Saturday, June 28 through 11 a.m. Sunday, June 29. SBARC invites the public to come and see ham radio’s new capabilities and learn how to get their own FCC radio license before the next disaster strikes.
For more information, click here. The public is most cordially invited to come, meet and talk with the hams. They can even help you get on the air! See what modern Amateur Radio can do.