Amateur radio enthusiasts prepare for the possibility of disaster



IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) — A fun weekend for amateur radio enthusiasts started at noon Saturday and ended at noon Sunday.

The purpose of the 24-hour period was to help prepare these radio operators to respond to an emergency. The Eagle Rock Amateur Radio Club (ERARC) spent the 24 hours in Freeman Park simulating emergencies by contacting as many people in the United States as possible.

“We’re going to run out of money generator batteries, backup power to simulate a real power loss, and then we’ll try to make as many contacts as possible in this 24 hour period just to test our skills and test our equipment, make sure that, you know, we can broadcast, that we can make contacts and, you know, select as many as you can,” said ERARC President Jeff Tomchak.

He says the goal is to see how you can improve your skills with radios and how you might be able to help people in times of disaster. But others find ways to have fun with it.

“It’s just that it’s a measure, more of skill than actual points. There are people who take it as a very strict common test and do it for points and for contests. And there are d ‘other groups that just do it to get out in the field and, you know, interact with other ham radio operators at a time when tons of operators are available on the air and easy to contact.

The 24 hours were a very successful moment for ERARC and they were able to establish contacts with many people.

“We’ve done a lot in the last 24 hours. We’ve got two stations running right now, we’ve been able to get all the modes. We’ve been talking on CW, which is Morse code. We’ve got the digital modes run by the computer, we’ve made tons of contacts there, and we’ve also made voice contacts, usually using sideband. We’ve got about 250 contacts in the last two hours. We’re averaging d ‘about ten an hour.’

He says the contact process is short.

“So either you or another station will call CQ, who is looking for a contact, and then another station will answer or you will answer that station and you will exchange calls. So you will get that person’s call sign.’ I’ll give yours and then you will exchange information about the location and the type of station they operate, it will be something similar to our particular course.

Tomchak says that this year their call sign KC7SIK helped them.

“This year it was KC 76 in Alpha, Idaho which means we are a club station operating on normal backup power and located in Idaho. Other clubs will then respond with their information , letting us know what kind of section they are and what kind of power they are running on and how many radios.This is the first part of the contact.

The second part of making contact is “and then they’ll let us know their location code and that makes contact. And then we know that and we’ll go into our contact logs and that counts as points. If you’re points of tracking and if not, it’s just good for other clubs that are tracking points because you turn in your logs and they’ll confirm that you had contact with that other club.”

ERARC club president says they also had a good time and lots of people also came.

“We had about 25 people coming in and out throughout the day, plus a bunch of people from the public walking through the park. We stopped and they could hear us on the air. We were able to have unlicensed people are joining and going on the air with us as contacts for the first time so they can jump on it and make those contacts as well.”

They say they learned some things about how they can make it a better experience and a faster response in case they really need to step in and help emergency responders in a disaster.

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