On the air from the Point Roberts Community Center on Gulf Road, members of the Point Roberts Amateur Radio Club were able to connect with 137 radio operators in 24 hours, the furthest away in Santiago, Chile.
Starting on Friday, June 22 local amateur radio operators, or “hams,” set up an emergency communications center outside the community center. They went on air at 11 a.m. on Saturday June 23 as part of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL)’s annual Field Day.
The nationwide event allows amateur radio operators a chance to collaborate on the rapid deployment of emergency communications equipment, practice how to use it and get community members involved. For 24 hours local hams will man the radios outside the community center and connect with other hams in Canada and the U.S.
“It’s a contest to see how many people you can contact on how many different bands and how diverse those contacts are,” said radio club member Halden Field. “There’s the emergency preparedness part. There’s a technical part because it’s technically challenging. It’s an organizational challenge and finally it’s a challenge to make and log the contacts.”
Of the 137 contacts made during the event, 39 were made in Morse code and 27 were in western Washington.
The club has been growing and working with the Point Roberts Emergency Preparedness committee (PREP) to develop a reliable auxiliary communications service that will keep the Point connected in an emergency. Through grants from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) they have been able to purchase radio equipment that will be stored in the PREP trailer (also acquired through a PSE grant) and a new community antenna that was mounted at the community center.
“This is really about getting to use our skills,” Field said. “When the earth starts shaking, we won’t have the time to read manuals.”
Radio club president Tom Bailey said the club was connected with other auxiliary communications services in the county and the network has a regular weekly check in. In case of an emergency that takes out phone and internet service, the club aims to be ready to handle communications needs outside the scope and capacity of regular emergency communications channels.