Amateur radio enthusiasts to 'ham' it up in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — The news has been full of reports of disasters such as the California wildfires and Mississippi/Alabama tornado outbreaks.

Despite the Internet, cell phones, email and modern technology, entire regions have been plunged into darkness without a means to communicate. In these cases, the one consistent service that has never failed has been amateur radio.

These radio operators, often called “hams," provide backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Newport County Radio Club “hams” will join with thousands of other amateur radio operators in showing their emergency capabilities during its annual “Field Day" this weekend. The public is invited to observe and participate beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at Glen Park, corner of Glen Road and Frank Coelho Drive.

More than 35,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year's Field Day. Using only emergency power sources, Newport County Radio Club members will deploy several emergency stations at Glen Park, with operations running for 24 hours non-stop.

Members of the public will have a chance to meet and talk with Rhode Island hams and see for themselves what the amateur radio service is about. There will be a station dedicated to demonstrating amateur radio communication to the public, and anyone interested can make contacts of their own (no license is required).

The amateur radio operators slogan, "When All Else Fails, Ham Radio Works” is more than just words to these hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of telephone systems, Internet or any infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis.

“Amateur radio plays a vital public safety communication service, with tremendous potential when all other forms of communication fail, especially during emergencies," said Congressman Greg Walden.

For more information about the Newport County Radio Club, click here.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.