Amateur Radio of Churchill County is putting hours of practice to the test by participating on Saturday in a national field day, a nationwide amateur radio contest for operators to hone and demonstrate their ability to deploy and operate without support infrastructure during an emergency.
According to Bob Clifford, Churchill County emergency coordinator for Amateur Radio Emergency Service, the local radio club will set up at the north day use area at Lahontan Reservoir.
“We set up portable antennas and stations and run our radios on solar power to communicate with other stations all over the U.S.,” Clifford said.
Once ARCC sets up, the club begins to operate from Saturday at 11 a.m. for 24 hours.
“This type of operation is not uncommon in an emergency,” Clifford added.
Clifford said part of the event is to give non-ham radio operators a taste of ham radio by giving them air time.
“We can do that as long as we have a licensed operation coaching them,” Clifford said.
Clifford said ARCC works with closely with both Ron Juliff, Churchill County emergency management coordinator, and Steve Endacott, the city of Fallon’s emergency management director. “Barry Wood, who is the emergency management manager at Naval Air Station Fallon, and we are working with Pam Horsley to set up a relationship to support Churchill County Search & Rescue,” Clifford said. “We have stations at the EOC (emergency operation center) in Fallon, at Banner Churchill for support of the hospital in an emergency and at NAS Fallon Federal Fire Department in order to work with the Navy in emergencies.”
Additionally, Clifford said volunteer-supplied radio repeaters on top of Fairview and Lahontan peaks are used by ARCC to extend the range of local communication.
“We use other amateur radio repeaters on Mt. Rose and other more distant peaks for regional communications,” Clifford said. “We work closely with the amateurs in Lyon County, some of whom are also members of our group.
Clifford said club members do extensive training including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training to prepare them to work under modern ICS incident command system) incident management structures, and many members have taken extensive training in providing emergency communications support.
Clifford said several club members hold amateur extra license status, which is the highest Federal Communications Commission license category and held by only the top one percent of amateur radio operators.
“Overall, we have a very high participation here now compared with other counties if measured on a per capita basis,” Clifford said.
The work has been difficult, to say the least. Clifford said Rick Bischoff deserves much credit for building the club back up. Bischoff recently was elected club president.