Radio amateurs tune in to annual Field Day

Community invited to learn more about the world of ham radio

June 22, 2005

On Friday, June 24, ham radio enthusiasts from all over the Gorge will descend upon the Wal-Mart parking lot to set up camp for Field Day, an annual two-day event.

Field Day, which always takes place the fourth full weekend of June, is an international event that has been happening for more than 50 years.

“It’s the biggest event in the avocation,” said Dick Frost, Field Day chairman and member of the local ham radio group Radio Amateurs of the Gorge. “What we’re going to do is operate a station without a commercial power source. We’ll set up a communication station from scratch and operate for 24 hours.”

This event, aside from seeing how many contacts can be made, is actually a training exercise to see if the operators can function in the event of an emergency. “We’re mandated by Congress to be able to operate in an emergency or natural disaster that wipes out communications,” Frost said.

“There’s no organized backup for the phone system,” said Terry Shellman, another member of Radio Amateurs of the Gorge. “It requires people to be involved. It’s a real need, and people need to realize that need. It’s a small commitment.”

But in addition to all that, the Radio Amateurs of the Gorge hope that this event will spark interest in the community and bring people back to the hobby. “That’s why we’re doing it at Wal-Mart,” Frost said. “We hope that a lot of people will see it.”

Frost also noted that the average age of hams is approaching sixty, and he hopes to get a new generation involved. “We never have enough operators,” he said, “but we have to make do with what we do have.”

Most prospective hams are daunted by the technology, but free classes are offered to help those new to amateur radio pass the licensing exam. “Most people are scared of Morse code, too,” said Shellman. “But it’s not even required for the lowest level, and the fastest required for any level of operation is five words per minute. That works out to about two-and-a-half seconds for each letter,” he said.

Ham radio is also utilized for many community events. “We communicate during the cross-channel swim, bike races and even the Gorge Games,” Frost said. “It’s completely volunteer work, but it’s important.”

Radio Amateurs of the Gorge has tried in the past to sponsor a class through Community Education, but the class was canceled due to lack of enrollment. Frost and Shellman hope that this Field Day will provide the boost needed to interest the public once more in amateur radio.

Field Day will take place all day Saturday in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The public is welcome and invited to come see what amateur radio is all about.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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