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Franklin County radio hams join in national deployment

GREENFIELD — Franklin County ham radio operators will join with thousands of amateur radio operators across the country who will be showing off their emergency communications capabilities over the last weekend of this month, by operating under field conditions at Poet’s Seat Tower this weekend.

The event is free and open to the public.

Despite the Internet, cell phones, email and modern communications, every year whole regions find themselves in the dark. Tornadoes, fires, storms, ice and even the occasional cutting of fiber optic cables leave people without the means to communicate. In these cases, the one consistent service that has never failed has been amateur radio. These “ham” radio operators provide backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross to FEMA and even for the International Space Station. On Saturday and Sunday, the public will have a chance to meet and talk with Franklin County ham radio operators as they join with thousands of other operators showing their long distance emergency communications capabilities.

This event is part of the American Radio Relay League’s national Field Day event. More than 35,000 amateur radio operators across the country and in Canada will participate in this annual event. Using only emergency power supplies, ham operators will construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and backyards around the country. Their slogan, “When All Else Fails, Ham Radio Works,” is more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, Internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis. Because ham radios are not dependent on the Internet, cell towers or other infrastructure, they work when nothing else is available.

In Greenfield, the local station, sponsored by the Franklin County Amateur Radio Club, will set up on Saturday morning and operate 24 hours from 2 p.m. until approximately 2 p.m. on Sunday. A voice and a Morse code station will be in regular operation. Demonstrations of other operating modes such as low wattage transmitting, and alternative sources of power, including the use of solar power and batteries, are also planned. There will also be a “Get on the Air” station where the public can experience ham radio under the supervision of a licensed ham operator.

The Poet’s Seat site is a preferred operating location because it gives operators a clear transmission path in all directions. Communications can be maintained with other amateur operators in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont as well as with amateurs outside the New England area.

Amateur radio is growing in the US. There are now over 700,000 amateur radio licensees in the U.S., and more than 2.5 million around the world. Ham volunteers provide both emergency communications for thousands of state and local emergency response agencies and nonemergency community services too, all for free.

The public is invited to come, meet and talk with the hams.

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