Hiawatha Valley Amateur Radio Club takes part in national field dayThe Hiawatha Valley Amateur Radio Club set up camp in Memorial Park last weekend, braving rain and chilly temperatures for nearly 24 hours.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
The Hiawatha Valley Amateur Radio Club set up camp in Memorial Park last weekend, braving rain and chilly temperatures for nearly 24 hours.
The stint atop Sorin's Bluff was part of a national field day for amateur, or ham, radio operators. The goal was to make contact with as many states and Canadian provinces as possible in that time frame.
"It's really like a contest," Lee Finholm, president of the club said.
Nationally, as many as 35,000 amateur radio operators participated in the annual field day, which always takes place during the fourth full week of June.
"(It's a) time to get together and socialize," Finholm said.
Radio operators, stationed in tents to keep out the rain, put out blanket calls, testing different frequencies and listening for any answers.
"CQ field day N0DH," club member Art Haage said into the radio.
The "CQ" meant Haage was calling any operator, Finholm said. One of the more interesting contacts the club made Saturday was to a Boy Scout troop in northeastern Arizona.
Still, it's not all fun and games. The day was also a chance to test the club's emergency preparedness and to practice using radios.
Should something like a tornado, flood or other disaster happen in Goodhue County that would knock out normal means of communication, the amateur radio club would step in.
"If we were to have communication failure or something, we could use them as backup," Diane Richter-Biwer, director of the Goodhue County Office of Emergency Management, said. "It's vital that we have them."
The club, consisting of about 25 members, brought three portable antennas and a power source to the bluff Saturday.
"We're not connected to commercial grids," Finholm said, explaining this the mock emergency conditions.
In addition to the OEM, the club also works with the American Red Cross and the National Weather Service's Skywarn, which provides severe weather updates.
Finholm said no disasters have happened yet in Goodhue County that put the club's skills to work.
But the club members don't seem to mind.
"It's a wonderful hobby," club member Virginia Oliver said. "It's good training for emergencies and to have us prepared."