CRESTVIEW — One area club goes beyond its members participating in a shared hobby and assists local authorities in real life emergencies and public events. That is the North Okaloosa Amateur Radio Club.
Amateur radio is described as a hobby that brings people, electronics and communications together, according to a club brochure.
"People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space all without the Internet or cell phones," the brochure states.
Club members Alex Barthe and Richard Girardin took a few minutes to explain some of the club's activities during the Crestview Public Library's Aug. 4 Library on the Air event. Group members spoke via radio with people across the country during the event.
The club provides communication services during community events like the Crestview Christmas and Veteran's Day parades, and even provides emergency communication services during weather watches.
The local club also participates in city parades and community events.
Barthe said members station themselves along the routes and remain in contact with the event organizers and participants to ensure a smooth event.
The group also becomes a vital part of communications during more serious situations, like hurricane watches or evacuations.
"The North Okaloosa Amateur Radio Club members man part of the emergency operations center at Northwest Florida State College," Barthe said.
"We also have an operation cell with the City of Crestview, and then people like Richard and myself can also man shelters when they're activated, if there's hurricanes, if there's other kinds of situations," Barthe said.
The middle schools, which sometimes function as shelters during those times, are all outfitted with antennas and radios at the members' expense to facilitate ham radio help.
Rodney Ryals, an NOARC member from DeFuniak Springs, was manning a radio that afternoon.
He had talked to at least 12 people so far, but said that fewer people are on at the point.
"With it being midday, from about 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock … with the sun out heavy, it interferes with some of the signals, but you can get some people here and there," Ryals said.
He spoke to about 12 people from areas including Idaho, New Jersey and Texas.
The club meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at Live Oak Baptist Church, Crestview, for club business, and 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursdays at the church for its "tech nights," a great time to learn about the hobby.
Visit the group's website, www.w4aaz.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.