Operators take part in national emergency preparation contest at Eisenhower Park
Mike Kozma, a Nassau Amateur Radio Club member, designed the antennas used to send and receive signals during Field Day.
High-frequency radios were common in the 20th century, a primary communication device during the world wars as well as the Vietnam and Gulf wars. But cell phones and wireless Internet connections replaced them, and amateur radio enthusiasts began to believe their hobby was outdated — until September 11, 2001.
“The New York City Fire Department had a very elaborate communications system — it covered the New York City area and then some,” said Timothy Cregan, district emergency coordinator of the Nassau County Amateur Radio Emergency Service. “The problem is, the antenna was on top of [the World Trade Center’s] Tower One, so when that came down, they lost everything.”
In the midst of a catastrophe, licensed amateur radio operators came to the rescue, and in the process discovered that their hobby would always be useful in times of emergency.
To practice for similar situations, the American Radio Relay League organizes a yearly Field Day competition — the most popular on-the-air event in North America, according to the organization, rallying more than 35,000 amateurs each year who attempt to connect with as many other operators as they can.
After a seven-year hiatus from Eisenhower Park, the Nassau Amateur Radio Club chose the East Meadow venue as its location for this year’s Field Day, which took place last weekend. After setting up four high-frequency stations, which included two oral and two Morse code communications tents, the 50-member club rotated positions during the 24-hour event as they connected with radio operators in Missouri, Texas, Canada, Mexico, Turkey and many other locations.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said NARC President Rob Martens, of Levittown. “It’s a great hobby … [but] nobody knows what we do.”