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Ham radio operators to host Field Day demonstration

By Staff | Jun 12, 2009

When disaster strikes, some of the first people on the scene are amateur radio operators.
They are able to quickly re-establish communication lines, often aiding first responders and helping those in damaged areas to reach the outside world.
Known as “ham radio,” amateur radio is both a hobby and public service in which participants, called “hams,” communicate with other operators around the country.
The Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club is no different, having responded to some of the nation’s most horrid disasters in recent memory.
FMARC members were in Louisiana for Hurricane Katrina, Dade County for Andrew and of course here in Lee during Charley.
Ham radio operators are self contained units, with their own power supply by which they run their equipment.
“We’re on the scene before it happens, deploying before it hits,” said FMARC member Larry Zimmer. “When you go into something like this, you have to be self contained. You cant rely on the local situation.”
The FMARC hones its skills during annual, national events like Field Day, taking place on June 27 – 28 in North Fort Myers.
Operators work for 24 straight hours, reaching out to other radio operators around the country, preparing themselves for the event of a natural disaster.
“We set up a number of operating stations and we function on emergency power,” Zimmer said. “We try to contact as many field stations as we can … there will be thousands of these set ups across the country.”
An amateur radio operator since 1956, Zimmer dabbled on and off with his self professed hobby for the better part of five decades.
Newer technology eventually brought him back around for good, and he has been a member of the FMARC since 2004, just before Charley hit.
“I was out of it for 20 years and got back into it,” he added. “It’s fascinating. I like the technical side. It had changed so much, made it much more interesting. It’s a whole new ball game now.”
The public is encouraged to come out for this free event. Zimmer said it’s a great opportunity for the curious to check out amateur radio and what it takes to be a ham operator.
For more information, contact Zimmer at 282-1526.