Darlene Ragon (left) and David Burnham make contact with other ham radio operators during the 2012 field day.
The Butts County Emergency Communications Auxiliary participated in the national Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day event during a 24-hour period from June 23 to 24, making contact with 502 other amateur radio operators, or hams.
Ham radio is another term for amateur radio, and having a license allows users to make contact with other hams all over the world. Over the weekend, the ARRL staged its annual field day, during which ham radio groups from across the country practiced communicating under emergency conditions, and made contact with each other with no other form of information, power or communication. Buzz Kutcher, a Butts County emergency coordinator, said the goal was to simulate a national communication crisis.
“It was a practice in emergency communications, with the idea being to go out to a green site, set up antennas that operate without commercial power, and operate for a 24-hour period of time,” said Kutcher, who added that the group was stationed at a pavilion at Locust Grove United Methodist Church. “We simulated an emergency where we did not have power, and we did not have our normal ham radio infrastructure antennas and things to rely on.”
Kutcher said the event is held during the fourth weekend in June throughout the United States and Canada. According to statistics from the ARRL’s web site, more than 39,000 hams participated in last year’s event. This was the first year that the Butts County Emergency Communications Auxiliary participated in the event, according to Kutcher, who said he was pleased with his team’s participation and performance.
“We made contact with 502 other stations across the country and in Canada, Alaska, and we even contacted someone in the Virgin Islands. For it being our first time out, I think we did real well,” Kutcher said.
He explained that his team had two transmitting positions online throughout the majority of the 24-hour window. “Our group has members from each of the counties that border Butts County, and we had 11 members operate radios, plus several that did other things,” Kutcher said. “We had several members who were making contacts on the radio for the first time, and I think a bunch of them really had a ball.”
Kutcher added that while the field day event is a time in which hams can learn more and improve their hand at amateur radio, it also has a lasting social component.
“As a ham, I can sit here and vividly recall my first ham field day I participated in in the ‘80s,” Kutcher said. “There’s an awful lot of visiting and socializing that goes along too. We had a family picnic where we suspended operations at around 6 p.m., and all the kids and wives came over to our station where we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and had a great time. So, there’s the operational part, there’s the practice part, but there’s also a big social part that’s involved in this field day.”
The Butts County Emergency Communications Auxiliary will hold its monthly training session at Butts County Fire Station No. 7, at 144 Colwell Road, Jackson, on Monday, July 2 at 7 p.m. Persons with an interest in amateur radio and providing communications support during emergencies and community special events are invited to attend. For more information, contact Kutcher, K3GWK, at (770) 957-0779.