When All Else Fails…

Last Friday, we had a wind gust sweep through Hampton Roads and with that one lone gust of 65+ mph winds, we lost power here at the Ringer Ranch (as did 307,000 other households in Hampton Roads). Next, I picked up my cell phone to call my daughter Crystal. Apparently, the cell towers were overloaded. I could neither make nor receive phone calls.

Those little cell phones we all love so dearly are actually radios, operating on less than one watt (and sometimes as low as .3 watts). But this technologically advanced system of communication has a big downside: It’s very fragile.

During a storm, cell towers can be damaged. When too many people use their phones, the system can get overloaded. During a crisis, the government has a legal authority (and ability) to commandeer cell phone towers or even cut them off (as happened with the Boston bombing).

Communications – especially in times of emergency – are so vital. How can we reach people when power is down, phone lines have fallen and cell phones aren’t working?

Ham (Amateur) Radio.

Field Day provides live demonstrations of Ham Radio in countless cities throughout the country and specifically, here in Norfolk (at Tarrollton Park on Tarrollton Drive).  This is a nationwide event, and thousands of experienced Ham Radio operators will be involved, and all will be eager, ready and able to answer any questions you might have.

The raison d’être for “Field Day” is to help amateur radio operators hone their emergency communications skills.  In other words, we’re training and practicing to help you when things get rough.

In 2003, my elderly father lost phone service and power during Hurricane Isabel. We had no way to contact him. Had I known about the availability of Ham Radio, I would have eagerly sought out an experienced ham radio operator and asked him/her to relay a message to Portsmouth, and check on this 83-year-old man who’d already had three severe heart attacks.

The American Radio Relay League (also known as the ARRL) is the largest organization of radio amateurs in the world (with 160,000 members). And the title above (“When All Else Fails”) comes from ARRL.

Want to see how this all works?  Drop by Tarrollton Park (in Norfolk) on Saturday or Sunday and learn a little bit about what Ham Radio is all about.

If nothing else, we’re good people to know. Just in case.

Just in case.

To learn more about Field Day, click here.

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

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Two years ago, I became a licensed ham radio operator. Since then, Ive obtained my Extra license (the highest level) because I believe that being able to communication in times of emergencies is vital.

Two years ago, I became a licensed ham radio operator, thanks in part to this movie, "Testament." Since then, I've obtained my "Extra" license (the highest level) because I believe that being able to communicate in times of emergencies is vital.


My friend Milton has an awesome set-up.

One example of an awesome vintage ham radio set-up (from the 1980s).



My set-up is so simple that even a Sheltie can operate it! Okay, maybe not, but if she had opposable thumbs, that'd help. .


Jim and Milton (fellow hams) install a new antenna.

Jim and Milton (fellow hams) install a new antenna.


The best of both worlds: Large antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois

Ham radio antenna mounted on Sears kit home ("The Avondale) in Litchfield, Illinois. When times get rough, the people who have these antennas in their yard will be your new best friends. But not all antennas are visible from the front yard.


To learn more about the movie Testament, click here.

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