The North Stafford Amateur Radio Club takes to the airwaves | Local News

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Even without the internet or cell phone, there is still a way to communicate with people all over the world.

“I’ve talked to people in California, Canada, all along the east coast,” Chris Rhoney said. “Omaha, Nebraska, twice, Colorado, Arizona, it’s just over my head.”

Rhoney said those simple, short conversations he’s had with people across the country are always professional and to the point.

“We basically talk about our radio equipment, how our signal is reaching, events of the day, but we steer clear of politics and religion,” he said.

Rhoney, who is the co-founder and acting chairman of Harbor Radio Group within the Aquia Harbor Subdivision in Stafford, said amateur radio operators — or “hams” — are men, women and even people. ordinary children who are authorized by the FCC to operate a home, portable, or field radio to communicate with other amateur radio operators across town or anywhere else in the world.

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“A lot of teenagers get involved in this hobby because it’s technology,” Rhoney said. “And the kids are good at technology. More than we have ever been.

Rhoney, a retired Air Force medic, helped form a group of ham radio enthusiasts in Aquia Harbor after the Jan. 3 blizzard left thousands of area residents without power or service. mobile phone for several days. Within the confines of the North Stafford ward itself, hundreds of downed trees and power lines made travel through the subdivision virtually impossible.

“We rose up in response to that and have grown ever since,” Rhoney said. “The possibilities for this are truly endless and it has made a difference.”

Rhoney said the group has 28 members, 14 of whom are fully licensed as operators, while others are working diligently to achieve the same result. He said when cell phone service was interrupted in the area following the January blizzard, residents of Aquia Harbor turned to him because of his volunteer experience with the Aquia Harbor Response Team. county emergency, as well as his volunteer involvement with the subdivision’s own small police force. Obligate.

After the blizzard left the area, Rhoney and his team of radio operators coordinated many community services in the Port of Aquia, including delivering wood to families to burn in their homes. They also helped coordinate emergency services, such as ambulances, snow plows and tow trucks when residents were in need. The group also responded to other requests.

“A lady was low on formula and had a special needs child who was taking a special formula,” Rhoney said. “We coordinated that.”

Beginning around 2 p.m. Saturday and running through Sunday, Rhoney and other members of the local amateur radio club will participate in the annual American Radio Relay League Field Day. During the national event that has been around since 1933, more than 40,000 radio amateurs across North America will set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to show the public how radio amateurs work and how they can be an essential of any community’s emergency services plan.

Rhoney said many of the radios and their associated equipment will be installed in the lower level ballroom of the Aquia Harbor clubhouse. Around eight antennas for carrying and receiving radio signals will also be carefully positioned along the back side of the clubhouse to take part in the weekend’s event, which has relatively simple rules.

“The idea is to contact as many other hams as possible to practice sending emergency messages,” Rhoney said. “We have a plan to reach operators using as many bands and frequencies as possible.”

Rhoney said that when contact is made with other radio operators, those in Aquia Harbor will exchange information about signal strength and the location of the remote message recipient.

“That’s about it, then we move on,” Rhoney said.

Rhoney said this weekend’s Amateur Radio Day is open to the public and he hopes the event will pique the interest of some of the visitors who he hopes will consider joining the group and getting involved. get involved to help the community during difficult times.

“So when the next disaster happens, we’ll have a cadre of people here in the harbor with radios that can show up at some point,” Rhoney said. “They will be briefed and then dispersed to areas of need under central control.”

Rhoney also hopes that National Amateur Radio Day will help raise awareness in the community that there is the ability to communicate with emergency response teams and a wide range of officials within the community next time. a major storm or other event will disrupt communications in the area or travel. by road is out of the question.

“When all else fails, amateur radio works,” Rhoney said. “We will be there to fill the gap.

James Scott Baron: 540/374-5438

[email protected]

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