Amateur radio operators from across the country – known as “Hams” – will be banding together this weekend to test their level of emergency preparedness in the event of a disaster.
The local Santa Clarita Amateur Radio Club will be broadcasting from the Castaic Lake Water Agency, Water Treatment Plant Conservatory above Central Park, with generators and less than 12 gallons of fuel.
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The event is part of a national event called Public Demo of Emergency Communications, also known as “Field Day,” in which Ham Radio sites from around the country will be competing to make the highest number of contacts with other broadcast stations in the United States.
The local group of amateur radio operators has welcomed the public to come witness and participate in the operation.
Danny White, a member of SCARC and one of the Co-Chairs for Field Day, described the network of radio operators that exists in Santa Clarita and throughout the country and the purpose they serve for the community.
“Ham radio refers to those of us that are amateurs in the radio business,” White said. “We make our own gear a lot of the times and we work with the city of Santa Clarita as an emergency communications group. We provide back up communications for the sheriff and fire departments.”
Ham operators showed the merit of their alternative communication network during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when many of them traveled to Louisiana to help local law enforcement and the fire department coordinate rescue efforts and ensure that supplies reached the locations where they were needed.
White said the Field Day event is a way to organize amateur radio operators and help prepare them for the possibility of a disaster situation that would lead to the disruption of normal communication networks.
“The purpose is to make as many contacts as we can under emergency type conditions as if power wasn’t available from another source and as if cell phones weren’t available,” White said.
According to White, the group will set up antennas at various locations around the broadcast station including the top of the flagpole, the Water Agency’s building, and the gardens on site.
With the advent of new technologies such as computers and the internet, White said Ham Radio has similarly evolved as a means of communication.
“With the advent of the computer age we are using ham radio in connection with the computers. We can talk to someone in the South Pole in real time using the computer and a hand-held radio,” White said.
While the club will not be using these advanced internet techniques during Field Day – in order to prepare for the possibility of internet failure during an emergency – SCARC will be attempting to utilize satellites as a means of communicating with other radio sites.
White said the event will be open to everyone and encouraged families who may be interested to participate and check out the club in action. The event will begin at 11 am on Saturday and conclude at 11 am Sunday morning.
If you are interested in joining the club or becoming a Ham yourself the SCARC meets the third Wednesday of every month at the senior center in Newhall. Contact information is available on the club’s website, w6jw.org.