(TNS) - A large military-grade antenna sat in a field outside a generator-powered, air-conditioned tent.
Inside, on two ham radio stations, members of the Scranton, Pa.,-Pocono Amateur Radio Klub called out “K-3-C-S-G” across the airwaves.
At one point, turning a knob to adjust the frequency and listening through garbled noises that sounded as if they were coming from space, Bernie Andreoli contacted a fellow radio enthusiast from Alabama.
Andreoli will spend the next 24 hours or so listening and calling out during the national Amateur Radio Field Day emergency preparedness exercise. The global exercise packs the airwaves with amateur radio operators set up in remote areas, practicing keeping in touch in case a natural or man-made disaster knocks out advanced communications.
At Seamans Airport, SPARK joined forces with the Lackawanna County Emergency Management Agency, which donated the tent and generator. The club is part of the county’s emergency management plan if communications are lost.
“The object is to set up in a remote location, operate under emergency power and to make as many contacts as we can for 24 hours,” said Heath Goldstein, club member.
Members, some working on a computer powered by solar energy, called out “C-Q,” which is radio-speak for “seeking you,” into a microphone connected to a large black box with knobs and a screen displaying the radio frequency. Once another radio operator answered, using voice or Morse code with their call sign, they informed the other “ham” they were operating two stations on emergency power and calling from “EPA,” or Eastern Pennsylvania.
The club, whose members were keeping track of who they contacted from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday, had a fellow club member and friend in mind while they worked this weekend — Art Sposto, who died Tuesday.
Andreoli, the trustee of the radio club, ventured into ham radio while learning Italian.
“I thought if I learned how to use ham radio I could get on with an Italian operator and practice Italian,” he said. “I have yet to do that, and I’ve been a ham for 30 years.”
Club member Tom Davis just got back into amateur radio. While serving in the Air Force, stationed in places including Massachusetts, South Korea and Alaska, he worked in radio communications.
“That kind of blended over to the amateur radio operations,” the Scranton resident said.
Radio transmission permits are licensed through the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the airwaves. Ham radio continues to be essential to communications because it doesn’t need a satellite, phone lines or the internet to operate. Users in both remote locations and populated areas can communicate through their radios using a wire in a tree.
“That signal could get through and communicate through some of the worst of atmospheric conditions and low power,” said Andreoli. “I have a 5-watt radio that I work the world with.”
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