Ham radio operators hold on-air open house

STAFF PHOTO BY TAMMY MALGESINI Bill Quick gives a thumbs up after Whitley Smith, right, makes contact with an ham radio operator out of California during the 2017 Amateur Radio Field Day at Boardman Marina Park. This year's event is Saturday at Drift Fence Campground near Ukiah.

Ham radio operators from across North America will connect this weekend during the largest annual on-air event.

An open house of sorts, the ARRL Field Day features local clubs and ham radio enthusiasts who set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate the purpose and capability of ham radios. Upwards of 40,000 people participate each year.

Don Drayton of the Hermiston Amateur Radio Club said a group is planning to head up to Drift Fence Campground, located near Ukiah. The small rustic camping area features vault toilets. People need to bring their own drinking water.

The Field Day event begins Saturday at 10 a.m. and runs until Sunday at noon. Part of the reason some are heading up early, Drayton said, is to participate in another event.

“We’ll have our stations up earlier … because there is a FEMA drill,” Drayton said.

Members of the group will set up antenna lines and offer people a chance to get on air. Although operating ham radios is a hobby for many, they also serve a practical purpose. In the event of emergencies resulting in the loss of electricity, cell phone towers, landlines and internet access, amateur radio operators are called on to assist with communications and emergency management. During the 2017 Field Day, Drayton said they can get set up and on the air within an hour.

Drayton said the Field Day provides an opportunity for people to learn about ham radios. He encourages people to come out to see what they do and get on air with a licensed operator. As a hobby, Drayton said ham radios can be fairly inexpensive.

“You can buy a handheld for $30,” he said. “It doesn’t cost much to get on the air.”

The Hermiston Amateur Radio Club meets the second Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at Umatilla County Fire District #1’s Station 23, 78760 Westland Road. For more information, visit www.ai7ho.org or call Drayton at 541-314-3138.

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