When four young members of the Pacific Police Explorers Club signed up to take classes for the amateur radio federal license exam, Keith Wilson, Franklin County deputy emergency management director, said it was it was a good day for amateur radio.
Even though the classes, sponsored by the Eureka Fire Protection District and held in the district training center on Route 66, was filled with professionals in the emergency field, Wilson said the interest of the young people is vital to the future of amateur radio.
“With cellphones, Facebook or Twitter, today’s young people can communicate with their friends immediately. It would be understandable if they think amateur radio is out of date,” Wilson said. “But in every major disaster, such as hurricanes, tornados or terrorist attacks, ham radio is the last communication standing.
“Young people are crucial to the future of ham radio,” he added. “In order to keep the amateur bands assigned by the FCC we must use them before they are gobbled up by others wanting to use the radio waves.”
Jill Pigg, Pacific Explorers sponsor, who also is taking the class to become a ham, said a federal amateur radio license will be an asset to the young Explorers.
“The premise of the Explorers club is that they might want to pursue a career in law enforcement,” Pigg said. “Whether or not they go in that direction, being a ham is a great discipline for them.”
Wilson is one three instructors in the ham radio class. The Eureka Fire District is entering its 10th year teaching civilian emergency response team (CERT) classes.
The ham radio exam classes are just another aspect of emergency preparedness, said Randy Gamble, Eureka Fire District deputy chief.
Pacific Explorers taking the class are Kaycee Young, Mary Beth Pigg, Doug Marquart and Michael Brady. Pauline Masson, editor of the Pacific Missourian, also is taking the class.
The class is designed to help students pass the required test to earn a technical class license, which will allow them to transmit on amateur bands, frequencies above 30 MHz.
The license exam covers basic regulations, operating practices and electronics theory with a focus on very high frequencies (VHF) and ultra high frequencies (UHF).
The class encourages new hams to join a ham radio club. Those are the hams called on to help with communications when telephone lines and cell towers fail during a disaster.
Radio waves are always open and available to licensed hams.
The series of classes coincided with the June 22-23 annual national field day competition when hams demonstrate their ability to set up an amateur radio station in the field, often using makeshift antennas and a power source off the commercial power grid.
Field day exercises are monitored by the ARRL, to demonstrate that hams can communicate on amateur radio bands during a disaster, such as hurricane or tornado, when land lines and cell towers are down. Ham radio is part of the national emergency response.
At field day, individual hams or ham clubs compete to see who can make the most radio contacts in a 24-hour period.
Student Mary Beth Pigg made her first radio contact during the Zero Beaters Radio Club Field Day, which was exercise at the club’s property on Prairie Dell Road.
With instruction from Scott MacKenzie, whose call sign is KB0FH, the Explorer listened to the flood of traffic on the airwaves, waiting for a split-second silence when she could press a button and recite the Zero Beaters call sign, “WA0FYA” asking for a response. After half a dozen tries, Mary Beth’s successful contact was logged along with all Zero Beaters club contacts during the Field Day.
Jill Pigg also made her first ham radio contact during the visit to field day.