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Ham operators stage emergency drill

Over the past year, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications in emergencies worldwide.

Over the weekend of June 24-28, five amateur radio operators from the Twin Cities, Thief River Falls, and Bemidji participated in a nationwide exercise called "field day" in Hubbard County.

During this event, these hams set up a completely portable field station near Blue Lake. They operated under simulated emergency conditions using a gas generator for emergency power and antennas strung from trees.

The group made contact with over 1200 other emergency radio groups operating throughout the county in this national Field Day exercise. Field Day is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, a national association for Amateur Radio.

"Ham radio works when other systems don't" is more than just words to these hams as they proved they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, internet, or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis. The Park Rapids group communicated using both phone and Morse code.

"It may be called 'Amateur Radio' because we are unpaid but that does not mean that we are unprepared." said Ron Dohmen, the group's spokesman. Operating with Dohmen were Alan Dewey and Kirk Pengally from the Twin Cites as well as Ron Stordahl from Thief River Falls, and Glen Johnson from Bemidji.

There are 670,000 Amateur Radio operators in the U.S., and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the ARRL hams provide emergency communications for the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA, and many state and local agencies.

To learn more about Amateur Radio, go to ham.