The Washington Area Amateur Radio Club connected with thousands of their peers on Saturday as they participated in the biannual Field Day.
Mark Lukins, president of the club, said the goal of the field day was to communicate with other clubs and keep their skills up to par. At the end of the 24 hours, rankings would be released based on scenarios like how well they were able to communicate and how many kinds of radio frequencies they could communicate with.
Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is important for communities, Lukins said, especially in cases of emergency. He said for example if a storm knocks over a cell tower, ham radio volunteers can step in and remedy the problem.
“We kind of fill gaps with communication with agencies that need them,” he said. “We are able to do everything that is required for communication to get them from point A to point B.”
Ham radio specialists are able to communicate over radio waves, not internet waves, making them crucial in event of an emergency. Their operators go through FEMA training to assist in times of disaster.
Lukins said during Hurricane Katrina, ham radio operators were important for aiding and assisting agencies. Interoperability, the ability to communicate with multiple different agencies through radio frequency, sets them apart, he said.
“We have modes where we can do the same thing they’re doing through radio and internet, but we don’t rely entirely on that,” he said. Lukins explained the club has several different radios, from Marines to the Iowa DNR, in their trailer to help them communicate with whatever agency is in need of assistance. If phone towers and internet access go down, he said, ham radio experts will be the ones the community can rely on for communication.