The Sampson County Amateur Radio Services, also known as SCARS, will be at the Clinton Farmer’s Market in downtown Saturday afternoon with a special opportunity to generate some interest in using and operating ham radios.
“SCARS goes back into the 90s here,” said member Lawton Eure in an interview. “We are a backup for emergency management. Ham radio operators provide communications when nothing else works.”
For example, said Eure, if a hurricane comes through and wipes out the internet and cell towers, ham radios will still work. He explained folks often think their technology will always work, but if a disaster is big enough it can wipe out those types of communication.
Saturday’s Amateur Radio event is part of a national campaign to get the word out about the emergency communications capability of the ham radio.
“We will be hanging a wire up in a tree,” Eure explained. “We want to keep building on what we are doing.” Eure and the other members of SCARS will be using the event Saturday as a recruitment opportunity.
“It doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80,” Eure said, adding that one girl got her license before she was 10, and he knows of people that are 99 and still actively using a ham.
“I regularly talk to two men in their 80s,” he detailed. “We provide a service to the community in times of need.”
“We will be setting up at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday if people want to come ask questions,” Eure added. They will have a ladder truck to help them get the antenna setup downtown in the late afternoon and plan on doing demonstrations on voice and Morse code communication.
This national field day is being sponsored by the American Radio Relay League or ARRL, which has been around 100 years, said Eure. The ham radio is just as old.
“A lot of this came as a result of the sinking of the Titanic,” Eure divulged. “The radio man on the Titanic got out the radio call.” That led to a presentation to Congress and actions being taken to formulate and regulate amateur radio.
“First you have to get a license from the FCC,” Eure explained, saying there is a test that you have to read and study for. There are also three categories of license, but after getting the first one you can talk on the amateur radio, and that the bands are based off of these licenses.
As of right now there isn’t anywhere you can take the test in Sampson County. The closest place is Smithfield, he said.
“They will tell you right on the spot if you’ve passed,” he said, adding that there is usually a test available every month.
“There is also a clear distinction between CB radio and ham radio,” he said. “They are very, very different.” They are regulated differently.
Using a radio and antenna ,the greatest distance that Eure has talked is 11,000 miles.
“I had a friend that connected me with someone in Hong Kong. He has antenna set up at his house where the base of the antenna is 55 feet off the ground.
“My antenna looks like an upside down umbrella,” he said. There is no where to buy the radio locally but, he said, there are plenty of places you can get one online.
“There is an active market in used equipment,” Eure detailed. A database is also in the works that is going to be used for “spotting” who they have talked to by their call sign and frequency. The signals bounce off the ionisphere, he said.
“It’s like a bunch of guys talking at a service station,” he said about their conversations on the ham. He often gets on in the evenings and talks, and there are others that still do Morse code and other digital mediums.
“You can get a used radio for anywhere between $500 to $700,” he informed. He said that the upper limit goes as far as $10,000 to $11,000.
“Various radios have different capabilities, with different things inside,” he said. The level of clarity of the communication is what separates the cheaper versus more expensive equipment.
The local club wants to get more people involved and be able to provide even more of a public service.
“We want to be that backup for 911,” expressed Eure.
Setup for the event will start at noon on Saturday, with demonstrations running from 2-6 p.m.. The SCARS club will be joined by local law enforcement, Emergency Management Services and fire departments.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd