Winona Ham Radio enthusiasts gathered on Saturday for the annual Field Day at Wincrest Park, and spent a day experimenting with electronics in a communication trailer.
The 24-hour event is primarily an exercise to demonstrate that the participants can set-up and operate a portable radio station in the event of an emergency that disables electronic communication. But Field Day is the big one.
Cory Lynch of MVARA spoke on how essential the ham radio is, "When the infrastructure goes down for phone calls, and public safety, radio, and internet, amateur radio is there to help".
Ham operators used high frequency radio bands, satellite and VHF/UHF to transmit messages through Morse code, digital or voice, said Butch Eigenbrode, a Smithsburg resident who serves as the liaison between the club and the Washington County Division of Emergency Services.
Club member Tom Christovich said about 30,000 ham radio operators from around the country took part in the drill, which was sponsored by the American Radio Relay League.
"During Hurricane Katrina, there was no power available for many, many days and through using generators and ham radio that was the only communication means they had in Hurricane Katrina".
Lance Tagliapietra, vice president of Winona Ham Radio, said, "The furthest I've talked to is Estonia". Field day planning begins in April as members discuss the anticipated conditions, what they should bring and the anticipated adjustments made before they go live.
The rapid jaunt of Morse code dots and dashes Nick Yokanovich tapped out on his telegraph sounder carried across the field on the sluggish summer wind like an echo from another time.
"You contact them on the air, you exchange signal reports", said Rocker, "Then you get a confirmation".
It's that reason, that events like field day are important, so operators can hone their skills for those times when they need them most. Those windows might last 9 to 12 minutes and could come around every hour and a half or possibly sooner if he got a cluster of satellites closer together.