HAMMIN' IT UP: Okaloosa ham radio enthusiasts gather for field day

amateur radio ham operators field day

Mike Martell shows his grandson, Daniel Sainz, 17, how to operate a ham radio during the American Radio Relay League’s National Field Day on Saturday at Dorcas Fire Station 42.

MATTHEW BROWN / News Bulletin
Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM.

CRESTVIEW — If a natural disaster wipes out north Okaloosa County’s power lines, amateur radio enthusiasts can link and guide first responders using satellite positioning and related technology.

The North Okaloosa Amateur Radio Club displayed its telecommunication skills using different forms of amateur, or ham, radios, on Saturday at Dorcas Fire Station 42. Members participating in the American Radio Relay League’s National Field Day contacted as many ham operators as possible during the 24-hour exercise. This year, club members made 800 contacts.

"The goal also is to set up emergency power, emergency antennas in a short amount of time," club member Steve Hayes said. "Demonstrating what you would do in an emergency situation."

To that end, members erected antennas and installed a gasoline-powered generator near the Deer Spring Road building — just in case. The fire station — where the club meets monthly — is an alternative Emergency Operations Center for communications and food-and-water distribution.   

Daniel Sainz received his first amateur radio experience last weekend with an invitation from his grandfather, club member Mike Martell. The event left an impression, he said.

"You get to meet people from everywhere," Sainz said. "The furthest I have made contact was South Carolina."

 Martell said amateur radio operation — which requires a license, as the Federal Communications Commission regulates it — is a hobby someone can have for life.

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