Archive for Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ham radio club hits the airwaves

June 28, 2006

The members of Pilot Knob Amateur Radio Club held their annual field day Saturday and Sunday to test their ham radio skills.

During this national event, members of similar clubs across the country attempted to contact as many other ham radio operators as possible, both nationally and internationally within the 24 hours.

Pilot Knob, which is based in Leavenworth, met at VFW Memorial Park, 900 E. First, where members set up four emergency stations. Different members of the club operated the stations. And all worked at making contacts that could reach as far as the international space station.

"We're just out to have a good time and give the equipment a good test to see what breaks and what works," said Gary Anchard, member of the radio club.

Anchard has been operating ham radios since he was a youth. He said that ham radios were more reliable than other systems in an emergency. Where other systems need phones or Internet to work, the ham radio systems can send messages in many forms without the type of infrastructure that can easily become unavailable in a crisis.

People who operate ham radios can also get to an emergency and they can set up their equipment faster, said Anchard. He said that benefit has allowed them to operate even under difficult situations.

These benefits were tested last summer when Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and left the city destroyed and without much of its communication with the outside world. Mike Stuart, president of the club, went to New Orleans and provided communication to the Red Cross.

Not only do the ham radios provide important emergency assistance, but they also can be a fun way to communicate to others.

"I like working the foreign countries and just talking to different people," said William Meyers, another member of the club.

Meyers got started in ham radios in 1971 when his father introduced him to the hobby. He has contacted about 324 distant countries, including Antarctica and China.

For those interested in getting involved in ham radios, Anchard suggested contacting a club member, or attending one of their monthly meetings. The club holds its meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month at the American Red Cross building, 525 Shawnee St. in Leavenworth.

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