First responders join radio club for ARRL Field Day

First responders join radio club for ARRL Field Day

Image Credit: Dan Starcher

Area first responders joined Wayne Amateur Radio Club members on Saturday at the Justice Center as they began their annual American Radio Relay League 24-hour Field Day event.

Agencies and offices represented were Wayne County Sheriff's Office, Wayne County Dog Warden, Dive Team, Emergency Management Agency, Wooster Police, Wooster Township Fire and Rescue, 911 Dispatch, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Historically, the operation was held at the communications tower at Kinney Field on Oldman Road, but this year Sheriff’s Office Capt. Doug Hunter suggested a change of venue so first responders could participate.

“Many public safety personnel has absolutely no exposure to amateur radio,” Hunter said. “So this was a way to bring everyone together and get that exposure to amateur radio that has been lacking for many years.”

The Field Day exercise is a national event that draws about 35 thousand amateur radio operators nationwide each year to hone their skills and prepare to provide communications assistance in an emergency if called on by the EMA or law enforcement.

Hunter, who was operating the emergency command vehicle for the duration of the event, explained the importance of the group of operators and how public safety personnel depends on them.

“In most cases their (amateur radio) lines of communications are ongoing,” Hunter said. “That happened recently during the storms. A local operator was standing by and heard of the severe weather heading toward the area and announced it to other stations.”

Routinely, volunteer radio operators help with marathons and other events throughout the county, like the Wayne County Fair. The group also staffs the Skywatch Tower and provides direct communication to the dispatcher who is stationed at the sheriff’s command post.

“They are a great group of volunteers. They help with other operations as well,” Hunter said. “They helped deliver personal protection equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year one of the volunteers spotted a man who had collapsed due to a medical condition. The man may not have been seen for a considerable amount of time had the amateur radio operator in the elevated tower not spotted him.”

One of the advantages of amateur radio is the equipment is portable and reliable. Hunter said most safety offices have amateur radio equipment to use in dire circumstances.

“This is conventional analog technology, and it is reliable,” Hunter said. “When we call licensed operators, no technology is needed other than the radio and the antenna. The EMA has had radios as part of its operation for many years. There are also amateur radio stations at the Orrville and Wooster hospitals.”

The Silvercreek Amateur Radio Association also participated in the event.

Dan Starcher is a public communications specialist for the Wayne County government.