Radio club teaches public about communications
By Anna Skinner
Since age 13, amateur radio, or “ham” radio, has been a part of Joe March’s life.
Endearingly referring to himself and other amateurs as a “ham”, the term, coming from the 1800s, was originally used to mock amateur radio and telegraph operators.
And each summer, March, Hamilton County’s Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, or RACES, public information officer, takes his talent and hobby to the streets and to the City of Westfield.
For a full 24 hours, nations across the world participate in the Amateur Radio Field Day. This year’s Hamilton County event drew a crowd to Quaker Park on June 27 and 28.
March said in 2014, there were 45,000 different set-ups last year. He said he suspects about the same number participated this year. RACES and the Central Indiana Amateur Radio Association, or CIARA, all assisted with the daylong exercise.
“The purpose for us being here is to practice and see if there are glitches in the equipment so we learn how to bypass those and work around what needs to be fixed,” he said.
Real-life emergency situations sometimes call on hams for inclement weather, traffic and non-emergency situations like communications for races or marathons.
Hams are often involved in more than one communications group, all assisting each other to make the Amateur Radio Field Day a success.
However, there are more ways to get involved in addition to the annual Field Day event.
CIARA is the general interest radio club for central Indiana, in which March also participates.
“Emergency management is specifically here for support,” said Carl Ericsson, acting executive director for Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency. “We supply the trailers, tents and support equipment. Our next public event is the Hamilton County 4-H Fair, where we push the message out about being prepared and making sure people are aware and knowing what they should do in a disaster.”
“While RACES and Amateur Radio Emergency Services focus on the public service aspects of the amateur radio service, the club serves as a general education and fun vehicle,” March said. “Members hear from various speakers about different topics.”
He said that some of the speakers’ topics are DIY building new and experimental equipment, radio contesting, show and tell of new equipment, making new antennas and more.
“Another part of the club is helping out other members put up new antennas, program their new radios, or resolve a grounding issue for lightning protection,” March said. “Naturally, members also participate in the public service side, providing communications for such events as the Carmel Marathon, Sam Costa Half Marathon and others.”
The club can hold test sessions for amateur radio licensing. March, among others, is a certified volunteer examiner authorized to give exams for amateur radio licenses.
Meetings: First Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at Noblesville Fire Station No. 6, 16800 Hazel Dell Rd., Noblesville.
Member qualifications: Members train as National Weather Service Severe Storm Spotters. Most members, once they get their qualifications through the club, move on to RACES or ARES and become a member of all three.
To join or learn more: Contact March at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio. “Any licensed radio amateur or anyone wanting to get an FCC Amateur Radio License can join,” March said. “Just stop by any meeting, we’re a friendly bunch.” There are more than 720,000 amateur radio licenses in the U.S.