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Amateur radio operators gather for preparedness drill

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At times the wind was blowing the rain sideways

Members of the Baraboo club said the event tests members' skills, and is a contest to see how many contacts the club can make with other ham radio operators in a 24-hour period.

Ham radio operators are able to communicate with other operators all over the world, as long as they find the right signal.

Howard Thompson, with the Germantown Fire Department explained. Amateur radios can be used in emergencies when modern communication devices like cell phones may not work.

The radios use things like solar panels to operate and allow the operators to relay messages to their counterparts across the nation.

These radio operators, often called "hams", provide backup communications for everything from the American Red Cross to FEMA and even for the International Space Station. Using only emergency power supplies, ham operators will construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls, schools and backyards around the country.

The tool can be used as a last resort option if cell towers or other communication means are not available. "From the natural disaster and tsunami in Japan to tornadoes in Missouri, ham radio provided the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of the events".

There was a tent that offered novices a "chance to go on the air" with assistance by a ham, who will help them connect with someone they don't know out in the ether, and perhaps get them interested in the hobby, which can be done with an investment of only several hundred dollars.

The Columbia Amateur Radio Association participated in the drill at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School in Ellicott City. The public is most cordially invited to come, meet and talk with the hams.

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