What would you do if all electronic communications were to break down?
No Facebook, Twitter, email, cell phone or even your good old-fashioned landline telephone.
This is exactly the situation that members of the Orchard City Amateur Radio Club will be preparing and practising for this June 25 and 26 at Raymer Bay Regional Park.
The event the OCARC members will be participating in is called Field Day, an annual contest designed to test the emergency communications ability.
To simulate this, amateur radio operator’s set up in the ‘field’ using portable, makeshift antennas and emergency power. Then they talk to as many other amateur radio operators as possible during a 24 hour period.
The ham radio operators in the Central Okanagan, as they are more commonly referred to, know the importance of setting up communications in the field.
During the Okanagan Park Fire and the wild fires in West Kelowna in 2009 ham radio operators were called upon to provide communication support for Emergency Social Services as well as Interior Health.
In fact, radio amateurs are an integral part of the regional district’s emergency communication plan and have a spot in the EOC (Emergency Operations Centre).
The Filmon Report, a study commissioned by the B.C. government, recommended that: “All Emergency Operation Centres should include a provision for amateur radio operators, including power and antenna space, in case they are needed.”
Norman Barton, EOC communications coordinator and a long-time ham operator explained, “The amateur radio operators were an integral part of the EOC during the 2003 firestorm.
“They provided the communication link for emergency social services and the evacuation reception centres in Kelowna.
“This was especially important during the first couple of days as cell phone and other radio systems coverage were spotty.”
Members of the Orchard City Amateur Radio Club also provide communication support for COSAR (Central Okanagan Search And Rescue) about a dozen times every year.
And then there are the social aspects of Field Day as well.
“Field Day is as much a social event as anything else,” noted OCARC member Carl Bertholm.
“While Field Day gives us the chance to practise our communication skills, it also gives us a chance to socialize with other hams.
“At Field Day you might be able to put a face to someone that you have only talked to over the air.”
Ham radio operators are also proud of their hobby and Field Day gives them a chance to showcase it.
“Besides,” joked OCARC member Mike Fleming, “public exposure is worth bonus points.”
Field Day runs from Saturday 11 a.m. to Sunday, 11 a.m.
For more information about the Field Day exercise, call 250-859-7767.
Barry Kerton is a Capital News contributor.