WILKES-BARRE — Carol Kozak was beaming after receiving a point of contact through her radio inside the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency building on Saturday.
The Wilkes-Barre resident, who also happens to be blind, officially passed her FCC exam to be a licensed amateur radio operator earlier this month and was eager to be a part of the annual American Radio Relay League Field Day.
Since 1933, amateur radio operators have picked a day in June to come together throughout the nation (and beyond) to practice their emergency and communications skills, interact with their communities and more.
Saturday was that day, as many local ham radio operators descended upon the emergency building to participate in the annual event.
“I love it,” Kozak said of Field Day. “I wanted to do it because I wanted to be a part of the club and I wanted to just have fun.”
Ham radio operators are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, and take an exam to become operators. The FCC also provides radio frequencies for the service. Over 300 countries have amateur radio, and when not working in an emergency capacity, many operators opt to communicate with people all over the globe.
The Field Day is a 24-hour competition for amateur radio operators to set up their equipment under emergency situations and make as many points of contact throughout the country as possible within that time frame.
The local event was held as a collaboration between Luzerne County Amateur Radio Services, or ARES, and the Murgas Amateur Radio Club, said ARES assistant emergency coordinator Dave Kirby.
“Basically, we provide emergency communications for Luzerne County,” he said.
A part of the Radio Relay League, the ARES offers various means of communications in emergency situations, Kirby said, using the relief efforts of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as an example of what can be done on a local level.
“There were operators that went down to Puerto Rico and basically held the torch and got them whatever type of communication they needed, whether it’s real time emergency traffic or if it’s sending messages back and forth from one government agency to another,” Kirby explained.
Three stations were set up using high-frequency HM bands and ran simultaneously inside the building, each with the ability to operate through voice, digital and Morse code.
Former Murgas president Rick Rinehimer said the Field Day functions as a “disaster test” for ham operators, with the Murgas group being just one of roughly 1,500 clubs nationwide participating.
Previously, the group has made roughly 1,300 contacts in a 24-hour span, and is hoping for more this year.
Both Kirby and Rinehimer agreed that being an amateur radio operator is both a fun and challenging hobby at any age. They also spoke of the need for more licensed ham operators in the area.
The Murgas Amateur Radio Club will also hold its annual Hamfest on Sunday, July 1, at the Polish American Veterans in Plains.
For more information, visit Murgasarc.org