The gazebo in Wamego's city park was home to several men from MAARS over the weekend, as they participated in the annual 24-hour Field Day exercise. MAARS is the acronym for the Manhattan Area Amateur Radio Society. The club was formed in 1976 to advance amateur (Ham) radio in the Manhattan area. It began with about 20 members and now has about 50. During the Field Day exercise, the radio operators worked on contacting their counterparts from around the country both via traditional radio and a newer computerized digital communication. The Field Day exercise has two purposes, according to Jim Foster of Wamego, who serves as the MAARS club secretary.
"The first is to encourage the operators to get out of their home and operate in field conditions with no main power sources," he said. During the exercise, all the communication devices either ran off of batteries or a generator. "The second purpose is to operate in the public eye where people can see us," Foster said. "Generally, we work out of our homes and we're easy to overlook unless people see all our antennas."
The amateur radio operators have an important role in public safety, according to Paul Schliffke, a club member and Wamego's assistant police chief. "While my membership in MAARS has no association with my position in the police department, I certainly see the importance of the members of the amateur radio community maintaining readiness to assist in the event of a disaster," he said.
Ham radio works as a back-up to more sophisticated systems. Telephones, cell phones, trunk lines and satellite phones all have to go through many vulnerable choke points and need electric power, according to ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. Even if those systems are working, they can be overwhelmed by usage during an emergency. ARRL says ham radio is different because while the operators may use the Internet or a repeater system, they don't have to. They can "go direct" and talk straight through to each other because each station is fully independent.
MAARS club members also work with ARES, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service and several members are local county coordinators. MAARS members also serve as weather spotters. ARES volunteers provide communications for various government agencies, disaster relief organizations, public service events, emergencies or disasters and training exercises.
MAARS is always looking for more interested members. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, July 10, at the Vista Drive-In in Manhattan. For more information visit www.ks0man.org.
Many thanks to The Smoke Signal for this well-written story! (link)