Amateur radio operators from all over the United States and Canada will be heading for the hills on Saturday, June 22. The event is the annual ARRL Field Day, in which “hams” leave the comfort of their shacks to spend 24 hours communicating under simulated emergency conditions.

The event draws 35,000 licensed radio operators and countless interested spectators.

In Santa Barbara, the Wasteland Communication Corp will be setting up an operation next to East Camino Cielo, about 2.7 miles east of the intersection with Gibraltar Road. The area offers amazing views in every direction as well as good conditions for radio work.

Why do so many people still bother with ham radio? Despite the Internet, cell phones, email and other modern communication systems, every year whole regions find themselves in the dark. Earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, storms 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 has been amateur radio.

These radio operators provide critical backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross to FEMA, and even for the international space station. Field Day is a chance for radio operators to practice their craft without the comforts of home and usually in the absence of mains power. It is also a chance to show off the capabilities of radio communications, and for the public to meet the hams.

Last year, Wasteland Communication Corp made contact with more than 500 stations in 24 hours from its temporary mountain top radio station. Powered only by batteries, cold snacks and sitting in folding chairs, two lone operators exchanged information with points across the continent. All this communication was done without the help of the Internet, cell towers or any other infrastructure.

The WCC will be at the site on East Camino Cielo from 10 a.m. Saturday, June 22 to 10 a.m. Sunday, June 23. The public is invited and encouraged to visit, to see the capabilities of radio communication in action and learn how to join the ranks of 700,000 licensed U.S. amateur radio operators.

Click here for more information about amateur radio.

— Erik Lundin represents Wasteland Communication Corp.