Amateur radio operators (also called ham radio operators) across the country will be setting up temporary transmission facilities in unfamiliar locations this weekend as part of the annual Field Day exercise.
Operators use the weekend-long event to test skills and equipment in case of a massive failure of commerical and public safety communications. The expertise was put to the test in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when ham radio was, for a time, the only reliable form of communication out of the disaster zone. Operators assisted in coordination of disaster services and rescue, as well as passing messages out of the damaged area to inform families around the country of the condition and location of loved ones.
Ham operators set up several stations on different frequencies and attempt to contact and log contacts with local and distant operators in a sometimes frantic 24-hour time period, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday. Many operators work the entire time, forsaking sleep to boost their club's contact scores and push equipment and training to the limit.
The public is invited to Field Day activities, to learn more about becoming an amateur radio operator and even participate in the radio communication. Many become ham operators in order to be Skywarn severe storm spotters, relaying information of severe weather to the National Weather Service.
Several locations of Field Day activities in East Texas:
Tyler Amateur Radio Club: Tyler State Park, Blackjack campground.
Longview-East Texas Amateur Radio Club: northeast parking area of Longview Mall near Payless Shoes.
Palestine Amateur Radio Club: Texas State Railroad Depot.
Cherokee County Amateur Radio Club: From Gallatin, take FM 768 toward Rusk for 1.2 miles. Turn right on CR1503 (directly across from Taylor Cemetery). You will travel CR1503 for about 1.4 miles. The Field Day site will be on the right at the top of the hill.