MAMARONECK, N.Y. – The Westchester Emergency Communications Association held its annual American Radio Relay League Field Day at Harbor Island in Mamaroneck on Saturday and Sunday.
The event and contest is held nationally and is used to promote amateur radio use, or ham radio, which allows licensed radio operators to communicate with other users all over the world. In emergency situations, these licensed radio users can help communicate important information when commercial communication devices, such as cells phones, are down.
The friendly contest is to see who can contact the largest number of other amateur radio operators within the weekend.
“The event is a demonstration of our ability to provide emergency communication to and from Westchester to the nation, and our capability to maintain that ability over the whole weekend,” said Tom Raffaelli, emergency services director for WECA and radio officer for Westchester.
WECA is an all-volunteer amateur radio organization in Westchester, whose 200-plus members provide two-way radio communication for public service and emergency communications. They also provide two-way radio communication for special events, such as bicycle races, for various organizations in Westchester.
“Hams love to help people,” WECA training director Larrie Sutliff said. “Doing events that help others keeps us practiced for emergencies.”
At Harbor Island this weekend, WECA had three of its emergency response trucks, and other stations set up so members could demonstrate their two-way radio capabilities and educate others about amateur radio service. They had a “Get on the Air” station set up, which could be used by first-timers without a license, and they were promoting their entry-level ham radio classes starting in the fall, which prepare users for an official test by the Federal Communications Commission.
“You get to learn geography, you can earn awards for every certain amount of communication you make with other countries, and it’s a great way to learn electronics,” Sutliff said.