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Brandon Radio Operators to Ham it Up This Weekend

The Brandon Amateur Radio Society is participating in a nationwide Field Day June 22-23 at Davis Park. The radio operators will use portable radios and antennas to simulate a deployment into a disaster scene.

Budd Johnson of Brandon is a longtime club member.
Budd Johnson of Brandon is a longtime club member.

They don't sport shiny badges or heavy firefighting equipment proclaiming their role at a disaster scene.

However, the members of the Brandon Amateur Radio Society perform an equally important function during times of catastrophe. 

They ensure that critical lines of communication are maintained when land lines are down, there's no Internet connections and cell phone towers are compromised.

To test their skills and equipment, members of the Brandon club will join thousands of other ham radio operators around the country this weekend, June 22-23, (weather permitting) for a nationwide Field Day. 

The Brandon radio operators will gather at Davis Park, 612 N. Parsons Ave., Brandon, from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday where they will use portable radios, power supplies and antennas to construct an emergency station, similar to one that would be used in a real disaster.

Visitors are invited to come out and watch the club members in action. There also will be an amateur radio station on site so visitors can see what it's like to "get on the air."

Founded 36 years ago, the Brandon Amateur Radio Society (BARS) is a volunteer community service group that meets the third Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at Brandon Assembly of God church, 710 S. Kings Ave., Brandon.  The club members also gather each Tuesday at 9 a.m. for coffee at NY Diner, 2126 Jelane Dr., Valrico.

The club's mission is to provide ancillary communications for the Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management, Brandon Regional Hospital and the Brandon Regional Hospital's new Plant City Emergency Center.  

Club members also provide communications for the Brandon Fourth of July Parade, positioning radio operators along the parade route  to maintain direct contact with the parade organizers and ensure the parade goes smoothly.

During times of disaster, the radio operators are quick to respond, serving a life-saving mission. Every year, tornadoes, fires, tropical storms, hurricanes and other disasters leave people without the means to communicate. 

In the past year, ham radio operators provided crucial information to rescuers during the California wildfires, winter storms, Tropical Storm Sandy and the tornadoes in Oklahoma.

The ham radio operators are able to provide the most reliable communication networks in the first critical hours of disasters because ham radios are not dependent on the Internet, cell towers or communications other infrastructure.

The annual Field Day is the climax of the weeklong Amateur Radio Week, sponsored by the ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio.

Last year, more than 35,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in Field Day. Currently, there are more than 700,000 amateur radio licensees in the United States and more than 2.5 million around the world.

For information, visit the Brandon club's website. 


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