ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Thousands of amateur radio operators are participating in the American Radio Relay League's annual Field Day. The 24-hour event gives amateur radio operators across the country and in Canada, the chance to practice getting off the grid and communicate with a portable radio system, run by a generator. In Anchorage, there are three different stations set up at Kincaid Park.
"When the bad things happen, the reality is there's a pretty good chance some networks are going to go down. We've seen that happen in the past," says Kent Petty, an amateur radio operator who specializes in morse code.
He describes the form of communication as "old school" but says it's a skill that's tough to learn. He enjoys it because, with all of its abbreviations, the basic method of communication is efficient. And in an emergency or disaster situation, that's important, he says. The goal of Field Day is to simulate an emergency- that's why radio operators try to make contact with as many other operators as they can.
TJ Sheffield, co-chair of the event and member of the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club, calls radio operators like himself the "original text-messagers."
"The systems are tride and true. They've been around a long time, and we're just trying to adapt them to the portable aspect of emergency communication," says Sheffield.
The group practices deploying the system in all types of weather. A trained crew can get it up and running in about half an hour, says Sheffield.
The event continues through Sunday morning at 10 a.m at Kincaid Park. Anyone can participate.