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Ham radio operators talk to world, visitors, at field day event
Doyle Gantt tries to contact other groups participating in Saturday’s Ham Radio Field Day. - photo by Tom Reed

“Amateur radio is almost like magic,” said Larry Tyson, a club member of the Lanierland Amateur Radio Club. “You can talk into this electronic box with a microphone and a piece of wire strung up between trees and talk all across the world — that is amazing.”

Ham Radio Field Day kicked off Saturday at Jackson EMC Operations Center in Oakwood. The event, open to radio operators and the general public, was a 24-hour event in which visitors could learn how ham radio operators set up and communicate under emergency conditions.

“There are amateur radio groups all over the United States and Canada that are participating in field day, so we get on the air and try to talk to as many folks as we can all across the country,” Tyson said.

Last year, the group was able to reach people in 38 different states.

Although amateur radio seems like a fun hobby, its history lies primarily with emergency communications.

When phones and power lines go down during a natural disaster, amateur radio serves as a safety net that can work in any situation.

Tyson said amateur radio operators helped when the North Hall tornados passed through the area in 1998.

Because control operators were available on Saturday, anyone could come out and take their turn talking on the radio.

“We can teach people how to do it and what to say,” Tyson said.

Tyson said the field day has a serious side in that it allows the members of the club to practice their emergency communication skills.

“We never know when a disaster is going to strike,” Tyson said.

“We never know when we are going to be called on to provide communications for the county or any organization.”

Despite the fact many people think amateur radio is dead or dying, Tyson believes that it is alive and well.

Perry Roper, the activities manager of the Lanierland Amateur Radio Club, said the more people they can train, the more people they will have to help out in a disaster.

Roper has seen people ages eight to 83 pass the amateur radio examination test.

“If we can get young people interested now, they can help carry the hobby on in future generations,” Tyson said.