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Amateur radio operators prepare for all possibilities

Amateur radio members practice for emergencies

Amy Oliver of Braceville, left, and her husband, Larry, reach out to other amateur radio operators during the Mid-Winter Field Day at the cabin at Stevens Park in Niles Saturday afternoon. Members of the Warren Amateur Radio Association are participating in a 24-hour marathon to reach people across the United States and Canada. The event ends at 2 p.m. today. Staff photo / R. Michael Semple

NILES — Members of the Warren Amateur Radio Association are participating in a 24-hour marathon to reach people across the United States and Canada as part of an annual event to practice what to do in the case of actual emergencies.

The association’s members started the event at 2 p.m. Saturday at the cabin in Stevens Park and are concluding at 2 p.m. today. It’s the annual Mid-Winter Amateur Relay League Field Day held throughout the United States and Canada.

The goal of the event is to make contact with as many people as possible over the 24-hour time period to hone the skills of amateur radio operators, Larry Oliver of Braceville, the association’s president, said.

“During times of severe weather and other emergencies, we’re able to communicate with people so we do 24-hour events two times a year to practice,” he said. “We’re connecting with other ham radio operators.”

The association’s member reached California, Texas, Colorado and several parts of Canada less than an hour after the field day began.

“It’s neat that you can talk anywhere in the world immediately,” Oliver said. “I don’t need the internet or phones.”

The local club has 52 members, adding eight in the past two years with Oliver attributing the increase to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You can do it from home and still communicate,” he said. “If you’re locked down in states, you can still talk to people.”

Steve Ruman of Niles, an association member, said he first became interested in ham radio in 2002 and got licensed a year later.

“The radios were initially designed for emergencies, but we use them all the time,” he said. “A lot of people from our club used them a lot because they were stuck inside” during the early days of the pandemic.

Michael Chambora of Warren has been using ham radios for the past three years.

“You make new friends from all over the place,” he said. “It’s interesting and engaging.”

Most of the time, Chambora said he’s on his ham radio for longer periods of time, but during the field day, the conversations were brief as the club members were getting call signs from others from the United States and Canada, he said.

The association’s call sign is W8VTD. It meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at the Warren SCOPE Center. The public is invited to attend.

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