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Ham radio operators practise for the next emergency

Central Alberta Amateur Radio Club held its annual Field Day at the Hillcrest Community Hall

RED DEER COUNTY — The world became a little smaller late last month as the Central Alberta Amateur Radio Club (CAARC) held its annual Field Day at the Hillcrest Community Hall, at the corner of Township Road 342 and Range Road 22. 

From June 24 at noon to June 25 at noon, members of the club competed to make as many contacts as they could on a wide variety of radio frequencies. 

The goal was to do so without using regular power – utilizing portable generators or solar power instead. 

When the Albertan was there, contacts had been made as far east as Finland and as far south as Arizona. 

A forest of antennas of differing sizes and heights was set up and club members did their communicating in a nearby shelter. 

The idea of the challenge, held worldwide, was to prove the operators’ ability to communicate to others without relying on traditional power in case of an emergency. 

CAARC director Brian Davies of Innisfail and Red Deer resident Garry Jacobs of the Radio Amateurs of Canada said ham radio operators have proven how key their operations can be during emergencies like the Pine Lake tornado and the 2013 flood in Calgary. 

During those disasters, they said, ham radio operators served as key communicators and communication relays for emergency crews. 

“Sometimes the fancier the infrastructure, like cellphones versus land lines, etc., the more fragile it is. When it goes down it makes a bigger splash,” Davies said. 

Jacobs agreed. 

"Especially cellphones, because their towers get blown away or the power to them gets blown away," he said. “Cellphones are fantastic for an emergency, but they’re no good for a disaster, because it just gets overloaded.” 

Davies said their antennas were grounded to ensure they’d be safe in case lightning struck the area during a thunderstorm. 

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