Local radio operators participate in national exercise

The newest Grant County amateur radio operator, Cameron Brockway, speaks to the oldest, 90-year-old Daron Dierks of Dayville, at the annual amateur radio field day June 23 in John Day.

A dozen local, amateur radio operators from different parts of Grant County set up radios, antennas and other equipment in front of the Corner Cup in John Day on Friday and activated a multi-radio station from 11 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday as part the annual Amateur Radio Field Day exercise.

In the United States, the first field day took place in 1933 when amateur radio operators began hauling their equipment to outdoor sites, where they would test their ability to rapidly deploy and operate their stations under remote conditions that often accompany a disaster, according to a press release from the Grant County Amateur Radio Club.

To gauge their effectiveness, points are awarded based on a number of factors. The day has become the largest single emergency preparedness exercise in the country, with more than 35,000 operators participating.

Grant County Amateur Radio Club and Grant County Emergency Services sponsored the event in John Day. Many radio contacts were made to places both near and far.

The longest distance contact made was Washington, D.C. Ed Ellesson of John Day made a number of contacts using Morse code. Seth Klingbeil, also of John Day, made contacts using a digital mode call PSK31.

People without radio licenses were allowed to stop by and get on the air. The youngest of those who got on the air was a 3-year-old boy. After prompting from his father, the 3-year-old said, “I want to talk on the radio.” A contact was established with Tom Bessler in Seneca and with Rick Allen of John Day.

The operators set up a temporary shelter, several vehicles, five fixed-station radios, four fixed-position antennas and used a number of hand-held radios. All the main radios were powered by batteries charged by solar power.

Not only did the radio operators make voice contact, but they used other radio modes to make contacts. Automatic Packet Reporting System was demonstrated with a radio strapped to a four-wheeler and a map automatically displaying its position on the internet. Radios connected to weather stations using APRS were also demonstrated. Contacts were also made with a number of digital modes.

Visitors stopped by to ask questions about equipment capabilities and about how to get an FCC license. Staff explained how the FCC regulations have changed and that it is relatively easy to get a license in Grant County. Others explained it is no longer necessary to know Morse code in order to obtain a license. The visitors were mostly Grant County locals, but some tourists also stopped by. The visitors from the farthest point were three amateur radio operators from Los Angeles. Rick Allen, who organized the event, said it was a huge success.

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