When there are media reports of hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods, there is one common thread in these stories. First reports from the affected area usually come via ham radio. If you want to know how ham operators can get messages out of disaster areas, visit one of several Amateur Radio Field Day Stations in Brevard County parks on Saturday, June 24.
Amateur Radio Field Day is an annual contest administered by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a national association of ham radio operators. Each year on the 4th full weekend of June, ham radio clubs all over North America go out to unprepared fields and public parks, to set up temporary Field Day stations. The object is to contact as many other field day stations as they can during the operating period of the event, 2PM Saturday to 4PM Sunday.
Underlying the fun of "working" (contacting) hundreds of stations, is the training aspect of Field Day. "While I took the usual Novice Class to pass my FCC Exam for my ham license, nearly everything I did to operate radios in Homestead after Hurricane Andrew, I learned during Field Day", says Robert Osband, Vice President of the Titusville Amateur Radio Club, whose FCC assigned call sign is N4SCY. He's used those skills numerous times since then as well. Osband explained that Ham Radio is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the licensing agreement basically states that in return for being allowed to transmit, ham operators will use their radios for public service when the need arises.
In Brevard County, ham radio clubs have banded together to form BEARS, the Brevard Emergency Amateur Radio Service. When county emergency mangers need communications assistance, they contact Ray Kassis N4LEM, the ARRL Emergency Coordinator (EC) for Brevard County. Ray can contact the EC for each club in the county to call upon that club's members to provide the assistance the county requires. "We have a great bunch of guys - and gals, here in Brevard. They come through time and again for hurricanes, and during fires in far parts of the county where county radios can't reach."
A list of the Field Day locations for local radio clubs can be found on the BEARS web site at http://www.K4EOC.Org.