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‘Hams’ Take Part in Amateur Radio Field Day at North Shore

The Peabody-based North Shore Radio Association (NSRA) took part in the annual Amateur Radio Field Day, a 24-hour event held by the American Radio Relay League.

Mark Erbaugh, secretary for the Madison County, Ohio, Amateur Radio Club
Mark Erbaugh, who is the secretary for the Madison County, Ohio, Amateur Radio Club, sits at his ham radio.
(TNS) - Atop a hill on Route 1 this weekend, amateur radio operators from the North Shore were making connections from across the country, continent, and beyond.

The Peabody-based North Shore Radio Association (NSRA) took part in the annual Amateur Radio Field Day, a 24-hour event held by the American Radio Relay League. This year's event was projected to have around 35,000 amateur radio operators, often referred to as "hams," participating worldwide.

Jim Palmer, a member of the NSRA, works as district emergency coordinator for the North Shore Amateur Radio Emergency Service, coordinator for the North Shore SKYWARN weather spotting program, and production manager for Peabody TV.

"It's an emergency communications exercise," Palmer, who has been taking part in the event for almost 20 years, said. "The goal is to make as many contacts across the country as we can."

Around 40 "hams" from as far as Rhode Island participated in the NSRA's field site, which ran from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday at Fair View Farm in Topsfield. The NSRA set up tents for equipment and a 40-foot-tall radio tower to transmit voice signals and Morse code in attempts to make connections with more than 6,000 other operators at field sites, emergency-communications centers, and homes across the U.S. and Canada, as well as operators from across the globe who participate in an unofficial capacity.

This weekend, the NSRA communicated with amateur radio operators as close as Middleton and as far as Australia, as well as in every U.S. state except Alaska.

Palmer said the NSRA's field site reached more than 2,100 other operators in total over the weekend, averaging around one and a half connections every minute.

George Falardeau, of Saugus, is another member of the NSRA. He stressed that activities like Amateur Radio Field Day are important exercises for testing equipment and operations as a means of preparation for emergencies like natural disasters. He noted the important role that radio can play in communications, should other methods fail.

"There's a saying, 'When all else fails, 'ham' radio,'" Falardeau said. "Our obligation is to maintain a preparedness state."

He said that "ham" radio operators are an aging population, but that there is growing interest among young people. He also noted that "ham" radio has a long history of moving technology forward.

"Radio amateurs have been around for a long, long time," Falardeau said, "We've been on the forefront of a lot of technology advances."

Palmer and Falardeau both said that "ham" radio, like many hobbies, has a low barrier of entry before getting to the point of needing the expensive equipment required to reach the far-flung operators contacted during Amateur Radio Field Day.

Palmer said that along with communications in emergency situations, "hams" participate in everything from weather-spotting for the National Weather Service to supporting communications at events like the Boston Marathon.

"There's something for everybody," he said.


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