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Members of the Charles County Amateur Radio Club will take to the airwaves June 28 and 29 to practice emergency communications during a 24-hour nationwide Field Day drill. They will join many thousands of other radio operators across the country setting up portable radio stations in community parks, shopping centers and parking lots under simulated disaster conditions.

Amateur radio operators, called “hams,” are often among the first to provide rescuers with critical information because they can send messages from isolated and remote locations without phones or Internet.

The radio club members will exchange radio messages with other hams in the U.S. and around the world, during the 24-hour drill.

“It is both an emergency drill and a contest,” said Bob Curran, the radio club’s training officer and FCC license exam team leader, in a news release. “By running the drill as a contest, this gives a metric where all participating stations can measure their level of success compared to all others. In time of crisis, communication capability is crucial.

“Those who score the highest obviously have assembled an emergency station that will have the greatest success at securing help,” he said. “This drill is sponsored by the [American Radio Relay League], the national association for amateur radio.”

During the past year, the news has been full of reports of hams providing communications support during unexpected emergencies in cities and towns across America.

Wildfires in western states and the devastating tornados in the Midwest are only a few of the disasters where hams sprang to action to provide vital communications in the critical early hours of assessing the damage and getting help on the scene, according to the release.

“The fastest way to turn a crisis into a total disaster is to lose communications,” said Allen Pitts of the ARRL in the release. “Because ham radios are not dependent on complex systems, they work when nothing else is available. We need nothing between us but air.”

Locally, members of the radio club who have completed appropriate NIMS training staff emergency shelters to provide needed communication during extreme weather events.

These radio volunteers free important emergency response personnel to handle the more critical needs in communities brought about by the extreme weather conditions. Their slogan, “Ham Radio Works” is more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis. The public can come and see ham radio’s new capabilities and learn how to get their own FCC radio license before the next disaster strikes.

The local club will set up in Laurel Springs Park at 5940 Radio Station Road in La Plata starting at noon June 28 and will send and receive messages continuously until early afternoon June 29.