Sawnee Amateur Radio Association uses amateur radio for emergencies, fun



A local group is able to talk to people halfway around the world and report emergencies without using cell phones or the Internet.

Members of the Sawnee Amateur Radio Association use amateur or amateur radios both for personal enjoyment and as a source of communication in emergencies, which Tom McElroy says is part of a license that every operator must obtain. of the Federal Communications Commission.

“This license says, ‘you can have millions of dollars worth of radio spectrum for your use, but in exchange, in times of need when all else fails, you better be able to operate your radios to serve your community’ he said. says, “So we make it fun to serve our community.”

Jim Farmer, chairman of the group, said he met people from across the country and around the world through amateur radio and it even led to his career in electrical engineering.

“We talk to people from other counties, and that can build a lot of goodwill,” Farmer said. “One day…in ten minutes, I spoke to people in three different countries. So this kind of thing promotes goodwill, and people from different countries will collaborate on different projects.

The group holds monthly meetings at Northside Hospital Forsyth and broadcasts a weekly emergency drill on its radios.

“We’re building our own radio station, putting up our own antennas with the goal of talking to people close to us and talking to people around the world,” Farmer said. “It’s for the challenge to do it. It is to take up the challenge of accomplishing something with our own hands and our own skills.

Farmer said there were some theories about how amateur radio came to be known as amateur radio “but none of them can be verified”.

Every June, the group organizes a local field day to compete and improve their skills.

“For 24 hours, we talk to as many other people as possible in North America,” Farmer said. “We get points based on how we talk to them and how many people we talk to. The prize for winning is bragging rights, but it allows us to fine-tune our emergency operation since we are far from our base stations.

Farmer said amateur radios were used this year by some in southern Georgia when Hurricane Irma approached and in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria when other methods, such as cell phones, were unusable.

McElroy said local operators tested their emergency skills when tornadoes hit the county a few years ago.

“We’ve had tornadoes here in Cumming,” he said. “That day that network became the real McCoy. We were really talking, we were running away [and] provide information to the community.

McElroy is involved in increasing youth membership and interest. His children, Audrey and Jack, already have their licenses and are able to send messages and videos to an Android device via the radio without being connected to a network.

“It’s a great equalizer,” he said. “When you get an amateur radio license at 10 or 60, it’s still the same license. You are equal to an adult.

He said he would like the program to reach more young people, and the family has made presentations for local schools and scout groups.

“Kids love to talk to each other, and if they talk to each other, they’re using technology,” McElroy said. “The best possible way for them to do that is to use technology so that they really understand the theory, how it works, how the antennas work, how the radios work and that gives them a boost.”

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