Local Ham Radio operators prep for Field Day

Members of the Motor City Radio Club will be participating in the national Amateur Radio Field Day exercise on June 22-23 at Riverview's Young Patriot Park.  

Since 1933, ham radio operators across North America have established temporary ham radio stations in public locations during Field Day to showcase the science and skill of Amateur Radio. This event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend. For over 100 years, Amateur Radio — sometimes called ham radio — has allowed people from all walks of life to experiment with electronics and communications techniques, as well as provide a free public service to their communities during a disaster, all without needing a cell phone or the Internet. Field Day demonstrates ham radio’s ability to work reliably under any conditions from almost any location and create an independent communications network. Over 35,000 people from thousands of locations participated in Field Day in 2023. 

Field Day is the core of emergency preparedness for Amateur Radio. It is a simulation of a situation where all circuits are down, a tornado or other natural disaster has occurred. As if there is no utilities or no power.

"What we use is generators" said Motor City Radio Club member Bruce Menning. "We run our radio equipment off emergency power, and communicate with other ham radio operators across North America, also running emergency power".

The Motor City Radio Club was founded in 1932 by local amateur radio operators and has over 120 members from the metro area. Using Amateur radio, hams can communicate not only down the street but around the world, sometimes using less power than a flashlight. Hams can literally throw a wire in a tree for an antenna, connect it to a battery-powered transmitter, and communicate halfway around the world. Hams do this by using a layer of Earth’s atmosphere as a sort of mirror for radio waves. Members of the club train each year as official weather spotters and report tornadoes and severe weather to the National Weather Service. Some members communicate with other hams by bouncing signals off the moon, using satellites in space, and communicating with astronauts on the International Space Station. 

The term "ham" radio goes back to the early days of the hobby, before World War I. No one knows for sure just how this term came to reference Amateur Radio Operators.

"It’s easy for anyone to pick up a computer or smartphone, connect to the Internet, and communicate, with no knowledge of how the devices function or connect to each other," said Sean Kutzko of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for Amateur Radio. "But if there’s an interruption of service or you’re out of range of a cell tower, you have no way to communicate". In the days after the worst storm in three generations hit Puerto Rico, public electrical, landline and cellular communication systems showed few signs of life. Radio networks used by police officers, power company workers, and other first responders were down.  Yet, a key mode of communication -- one not reliant on infrastructure vulnerable to strong winds and flooding -- saved countless lives. Amateur radio operators set up equipment using emergency power and provided life-saving communications for weeks until the island's public safety and utility radio networks could be rebuilt. 

Ham radio functions completely independent of the Internet or cell phone infrastructure, can interface with tablets or smartphones and can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. That’s the beauty of Amateur Radio during a communications outage."

In today’s electronic do-it-yourself (DIY) environment, ham radio remains one of the best ways for people to learn about electronics, physics, meteorology, and numerous other scientific disciplines, and is a huge asset to any community during disasters if the standard communication infrastructure goes down.  Anyone may become a licensed Amateur Radio operator. There are over 725,000 licensed hams in the United States, as young as 5.

The club will set up antennas, radio equipment, and a temporary shelter. Communications with other hams will run 24 hours from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday. All are welcome to visit.  

Riverview’s Young Patriots Park is at 14300 Sibley Road, west of Fort Street.   

The club will also be offering ham radio license exams at the Field Day site on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. 

Pre-registration is required. Visit w8mrm.net/education for more information.

Anyone who has an interest in radio theory, radio propagation, construction, practical communications, the Morse code, transmitter hunting, or competitive contesting is welcome to join the Motor City Radio Club. The club meets the second Friday of every month (except February and August at the Copeland Center in Wyandotte at 7pm.  All are welcome. For more information on the club, visit: www.w8mrm.net.