NFARL field day 2020

Ian Kahn, left, teaches his son Spencer about using ham radio at his Roswell home station during the June 27 North Fulton Amateur Radio League Field Day. This year’s event, which is normally held at a public park, was held at individual members’ homes to accommodate for COVID-19 safety guidelines. At their station, the Khans were able to contact another operator in Canada after about one hour of equipment setup.

NORTH FULTON, Ga. — Amateur radio is alive and well in North Fulton.

On June 27-28, dozens of members of the North Fulton Amateur Radio League held demonstrations at their home stations as part of the group’s annual Field Day exercise. The group, made up of about 300 members, usually holds the Field Day in public spaces, such as at Groveway Community Park, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members decided to operate in smaller stations to accommodate public health and safety guidelines.

Amateur radio allows people to experiment with electronics and communication techniques without needing a cell phone or the internet. It is often a safety net when all other forms of communication go down and can be invaluable in emergency situations, such as natural disasters, to connect emergency personnel with one another.

“If there’s an interruption of service, or you’re out of range of a cell tower, you have no way to communicate,” said David Isgur, communications manager for the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio. “Ham radio functions completely independent of the internet or cell phone infrastructure, can interface with tablets or smartphones, and can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. That’s the beauty of amateur radio during a communications outage. Hams can literally throw a wire in a tree for an antenna, connect it to a battery-powered transmitter and communicate halfway around the world.”

The annual Field Day serves as a drill for amateur radio operators to see how quickly they can set up equipment. It also offers the public a glimpse into how the technology works. Traditionally, the Field Day has acted as an opportunity to Boy and Girl Scouts to learn more about the system and potentially earn merit badges.

Amateur radio, as a hobby, can be a great source of education along with entertainment for people of any age, said NFARL Volunteer Examiner Ian Kahn.

“The applications are endless,” he said. “It’s only limited by imagination and creativity.”

Amateur radio, for example, can help teach participants about electronics, math, physics and meteorology. It can also be vital when people go camping or hiking in areas of poor cell service, Kahn said.

NFARL also hosts a HamJam event, typically in the fall, with all proceeds going toward youth education. 

For more information or to get involved, visit nfarl.org.

Julia Grochowski is a Reporter with Appen Media Group and covers Roswell.

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