June 24, 2009 > Voices heard around the world
Voices heard around the world
By Simon Wong
Hayward Radio Club members will participate in the Amateur Radio Relay League's (ARRL) national Field Day on June 27. The annual event is the culmination of Amateur Radio Week, sponsored by ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. The 24-hour exercise will demonstrate the emergency and disaster communication capabilities of amateur radio operators, or "radio hams," to the public. More than 30,000 operators took part last year. An estimated six million people are involved with amateur radio worldwide.
There is a clear distinction between citizens' band (CB) radio and amateur (ham) radio.
There are no age, citizenship or license requirements to operate a CB radio in the US. Forty channels, allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), are shared by the public for two-way personal and business communication, though Channel 9 is reserved for emergencies or traveler assistance. Operators identify themselves with personally chosen "handles." The FCC's relaxed enforcement of regulations in the past is cited as the cause of many problems associated with CB radio.
In all countries, amateur radio operators must pass a written test of their comprehension of regulations and key concepts to obtain a license. In the US, anyone of any age can take the test and obtain a FCC license, if they pass. A vast range of frequencies is available to ham radio operators compared to CB radio; in fact, slightly more than is available to television broadcasters. Amateur operators identify themselves with a unique FCC-issued "callsign" whose format is determined by the International Telecommunication Union. A callsign has three elements - country, sub-division within the country and the person. Hayward Radio Club also has its own callsign, K6EAG.
The term "amateur" simply differentiates these communications from commercial radio. Participants usually have advanced radio skills and in-depth knowledge of electronics and radio theory. For many, ham radio is a hobby that affords personal, worldwide, wireless communication with others and can be put to good use. Strict protocols govern on-the-air conduct and message content. Many clubs, including Hayward Radio Club, maintain call logs to ensure propriety and as a record of contacts.
Public safety and disaster recovery agencies favor radio hams for support because of their professionalism, knowledge and access to so many frequencies. Many radio club members throughout the US also volunteer their skills with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) to assist with communications for national and local disasters.
Besides disaster situations, radio hams volunteer their time and expertise at local community events such as county fairs, parades and sports meetings. Radio stations at certain locations provide invaluable backup for emergency services. At a race, operators relay competitor information to the next station. If a runner does not reach the next station, the alarm is raised.
"Not only do RACES/ARES members know how to operate a radio they're trained to pass traffic which is a new level of communication excellence. This means a net of different stations is established quickly amongst users who begin to relay information," explained Hayward Radio Club President John Buckham, KE6PID.
"RACES and Hayward Radio Club have a symbiotic relationship. Every Monday, we test our equipment and repeater [that receives a signal and retransmits at a higher level and/or power or onto the other side of an obstruction so that the signal can cover longer distances].
"A city-operated system is maintained by one organization. Each ham radio operator must maintain his/her own equipment. Given the latter and the diversity of equipment, our radios are more likely to work in an emergency situation. Some public agencies and municipalities can't communicate with each other because of a lack of interoperability, viz. analog vs. digital. Amateur radios tend to work in the same way as each other so a radio purchased within the last 20 years can communicate with all the others. That's the joy of ham radio," stated Buckham, KE6PID.
Saturday, June 27, Hayward Radio Club will set up three radio stations at 6108 Greenridge Road, Castro Valley, CA 94552. The Club will have a Get on the Air (GOTA) radio for public use from noon onwards.
Field Day also has a competitive element. Who will make the most contacts? Who will make the furthest contact? The Club encourages the public to come and learn about ham radio and to use the GOTA. The club will have a repeater class at 1.30 p.m. and an antenna class at 4.00 p.m.
For more information, visit www.k6eag,org (Hayward Radio Club), www.arrl.org (Amateur Radio Relay League), www.ares.org (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) or www.usraces.org (RACES).
Amateur Radio Relay League Field Day, Saturday, June 27
Ham radio station locations in the Tri-City area
Hayward Radio Club
6108 Greenridge Road,
Castro Valley, CA 94552
Contact: Jessica Westcott, WF6KAT
Ph. 510 924 2040
South Bay Amateur Radio Association
Sailway Dr and Paseo Padre Parkway
Fremont, CA 94538
Contact: Alexander Rendon, WT6K
Ph. 510 656 2427
Friends of The .045 Repeater
41381 Vargas Road
Fremont, CA 94539
Contact: John D Vargas, KI6BEN
If you live outside the Tri-City area, visit www.arrl.org to find a field station near you.