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Hamming it up for fun … and emergency prep.

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Commercial radio is a staple part of everyday life, whether you’re tuning in on your way to work or listening to it piped in at the mall. For those wondering what it would be like to broadcast themselves, that’s where amateur radio comes into play.

“Amateur radio is really fascinating,” said Richard Clausi, former president of the Elmira Radio Club. “There are opportunities to talk to people from all around the world. I keep wondering if the key to world peace is to make sure everyone gets a ham license.”

The Elmira Radio Club Inc. is a non-profit group dedicated to promoting amateur radio. The group is hosting a “Ham Tech” seminar on September 22. A diverse group of guest speakers is scheduled to teach attendees about new, significant topics within the industry. For example, digital radio, which can allow users to communicate with people in different countries.

“The very first experience I had, I was being coached by someone else on the air, and the coach said ‘punch in this number,’” said Al MacDonald, former Elmira Radio Club president. “So I dialed in the number on the radio, and all of a sudden the acknowledgment at the other end was Melbourne, Australia. So I asked if anybody is listening.

“And there was a taxi cab driver who had an amateur radio system in his car. And when I put out the call, he came back with “G’day mate!” We had a wonderful conversation. It’s really peculiar, these kinds of experiences, but really gratifying.”

In addition to this topic, Dr. Katanya Kuntz will be covering quantum communications, Dr. Gord Hayward will speaking about the innovative use of the AM band, Ted Rypma on implementing mesh networks, and Bob Moyer on the advantages of digital radio.

The seminar will include other little-known facts and background information. MacDonald pointed out the usefulness of ham radio, particularly in emergency situations.

“This is why the government is so keen on keeping amateur radio alive,” explained MacDonald. “Because we can step in when other communications fail. There a lot of examples of it – the ice storm down in Quebec a number of years ago, now wiped out all of the emergency communications from the provincial and the federal government.

“Yet the ham radio operators set up and were operating and carrying on the communications for the whole province. They managed to keep it going for about three weeks until the emergency personnel could get their equipment back up and running. Governments are quite keen on keeping us around.”

The group is also involved with local firefighters.

“We have an affinity with the Elmira fire department,” explained Clausi. “We meet over in the fire hall. We are part of their emergency plan, not in a pushy way – you know, we’re there. We want to provide radio services in the event there’s a communications collapse from the communications and evacuation centres.

“What we are quite happy to do is set up an emergency station in an evacuation centre and ensure that the little old lady whose evacuated at 2 o’clock in the morning can send a message to her son in Vancouver, that she is okay, and at this location.”

The seminar is intended to advance innovation within the amateur radio community in a casual setting. A light lunch and coffee will be provided at the event. For those interested in attending, it is set to take place at the Elmira Legion Hall on September 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $30.

To register or find out more information, send an e-mail to raclausi@rogers.com.

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