HAM radio drill in Longview to test global communication - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

HAM radio drill in Longview to test global communication

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LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -

It's an old hobby among radio enthusiasts, but it's one that could be a life-saver. 

It's called HAM radio and this weekend radio operators are holding a 24-hour-drill to test their ability to communicate on a global scale. The event is called International Field Day.

For 24 hours, ham radio operators in Longview will talk to other operators around the country and around the world.

"Primarily in the U.S., but we do make contacts all over the world. Department of homeland security chief reiterated the importance of ham radio as a backup communications," says Longview HAM operator Gary Lewis.

In a crisis, if national communications go down or become overloaded, HAM can quickly be up and running.

"Over the years I've talked to over 220 countries around the world. Considering the equipment we've got: the mobility of our radio and our antenna, we could get on the air with a portable generator in probably an hour or so, something like the minutemen were back in the day," says HAM operator Dennis Smith.

Even morse code is practiced.

Now HAM transmissions can even be made hand-held.

"We also have some modes that involve the internet as the long haul, we use computers," Lewis says.

Less than the wattage of a light bulb is enough.

"I worked a station in Venezuela, it was 18 watts," Smith says.

A longtime operator, Smith once took a chilling message from the infamous Jonestown.

"I talked to those guys on my radio just before they had their mass suicide. In the background I could hear all the children screaming and laughing, its just something you'll never forget," he says.

International Field Day will end at 1 pm tomorrow, exactly 24 hours after the drill began.

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