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Amateur radio part of emergency communications system
Group can help relay information during disaster

Later this month, a longtime standard of communication will be spotlighted, and is something that continues to be important in the event of an emergency.

The Hidden Valleys Amateur Radio Club (HVARC) and the University of Wisconsin – Platteville Amateur Radio Club (UWPARC) are FCC licensed amateur radio operators (hams) from the tri-state area.  

Over 35,000 U.S. hams will participate in their annual Field Day on Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23.  Field Day is an emergency preparedness exercise held annually on the fourth weekend in June.  Hams assemble a radio station away from their homes using alternative power sources such as batteries, portable generators, or solar energy for twenty-four hours from 1  p.m. on Saturday until 1  p.m. on Sunday.  They will be making as many contacts in the U.S. and foreign countries as possible.  In addition to testing equipment and preparing for a real emergency, they have fun doing it. 

 HVARC and UWPARC will set up these emergency equipped stations in the parking lot across from the engineering building on the UW-Platteville campus (On the corner of Southwest Road and Longhorn Drive).  The club will be operating several stations using portable towers and various types of antennas to communicate via the ionosphere and ground wave using single sideband (ssb), frequency modulation (FM), digital communication, and Morse code.  These stations will also be available to let visitors make contacts under the supervision of licensed FCC ham operators.  

Many people in Southwest Wisconsin are not aware of the contributions to the area rendered by local hams.  HVARC and UWPARC members have been involved in the following public service events:

• Served as trained weather spotters 

• Participated in local and state emergency drills

• Received training in sending and receiving formal messages.

That importance was proven during a statewide emergency communications drill that was conducted at the beginning of May. Centralized in Waukesha, government agencies across the state tried different ways to communicate to Waukesha.

Grant County took part in the event, and in addition to Grant County Emergency Management, Sheriff’s Office, and others, HAM operators participated as another form of communication.

Alvin Bontreger, President of the Hidden Valleys club noted how important it was.

“It is real important because anything can fail,” Bontreger said.

“We can run off a generator or battery. We can be off all the grids. Some of the repeaters rely on the internet, so if that goes down you have to have a backup,” Bontreger noted.

Things are not as easy as flipping a switch - it is a science, as they need to try different antennas, and frequencies.

“We came in, set up, and we are making contacts,” Bontreger noted, with the club’s mobile setup, which includes a mobile center and radio antennas.

Sometimes you need to be creative. “We are trying to contact Waukesha, and we are reaching Michigan,” Bontreger quipped. “We ask Michigan to relay to Waukesha.”

Having communications out is important, not just to call in outside help, but to coordinate outside. “A lot of times its good to have a command center outside the disaster area.”

Come visit them on Saturday afternoon and evening or Sunday morning.  For more information about our clubs, and how to become a amateur radio operator, go to web page and or contact Paul DeWitte 608-330-3666 or Larry Pink 608-348-8242.