The Marion County Emergency Radio Communication Team is just one example of the contributions made by amateur radio operators in an emergency.

Amateur radio operators – so-called ham – are always ready to take action to establish an important communication link in the worst conditions, even when the power and telephone fail, and even for entertaining events such as rallies and concerts.

The American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio operators, describes amateur radio – known as amateur radio, although the reason for it remains a mystery, although there are several plausible explanations – as “a mix of fun, public service, and experimentation.”

On site, members of the Marion County Emergency Radio Communication Team are an example of the contributions made by ham operators in an emergency.

Lauren Lettelier, public information officer for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, said amateur radio operators on the team allow a “proactive support method” to back up communications when needed, such as emergency shelters, tropical storms or hurricanes, political rallies, concerts and parades deploy and forest fires.

“MERT members are not just volunteers, they are an integral part of the community and the emergency management system and as such are subject to the same standards as emergency workers,” said Lettelier.

She said team members last year worked in shelters set up at Belleview and Vanguard high schools during Hurricane Matthew

“Emergency management has provided amateur operators with 14 ‘go-kits’ which are standalone, portable amateur radio devices that are able to work autonomously anywhere and send not only voice but also data / written messages to the emergency Operations center, “she said.

The recent 24-hour American Radio Relay League Field Day, held across the country June 24-25, gave members of the Silver Springs Radio Club the opportunity to test and improve their emergency response skills by playing Established contacts while working under sham emergencies with mostly quickly erected temporary antennas.

Mike Hannah, president of the 60-member, nearly 70-year-old club, said no commercial power was used at the event. Hannah is typical of many amateur operators and has been active on the radio since he got a crystal radio as a teenager.

During the field exercise, approximately 16 club members were involved in the operation of eight transceivers, or radio transmitters and receivers, located in a large open field adjacent to Saint George’s Anglican Cathedral in southeast Marion County. The event took place from June 24th at 2pm to June 25th at 2pm. Heat indices around 102 degrees and storms added to the realism.

“Even in poor atmospheric conditions, we made contacts across North America and made several international contacts,” said club member Carl Berry.

Berry is also involved in SKYWARN, a network of trained weather observers who act as the eyes and ears of the National Weather Service. You can report weather events to the NWS and related damage, such as Report a bridge failure to local law enforcement.

Berry is the assistant emergency coordinator for Marion County’s Amateur Radio Emergency Services. He said the group made 106 Morse Code contacts, 24 digital contacts and 282 voice contacts on the last day in the field, with each operator sharing his or her local information.

Andy Allen is a retired FM radio personality who played artists such as Jethro Tull and Eric Clapton while working for a station in St. Louis, Missouri. He picked up amateur radio when exposed to the transmitter’s transmission equipment. He was licensed for amateur radio in 1978.

During the field day, he worked on a rig that contained a cell phone monitor.

“This is an opportunity to test our skills outside of the comfort zone and get them working,” said Allen, who used a tree-mounted antenna.

Wayne Brown, 74, is a retired Air Force pilot who flew F-106 fighters. He worked on a station with Jim Bilancio, sending and receiving Morse code on a rig using a Windows 10-based program on a system known as “Software Defined Radio” or “SDR”.

Brown, who has 60 years of Morse Code experience, shared contact information with other hams in locations like Tennessee, Illinois, Puerto Rico, New York, and the Dominican Republic. He said even if all commercial power goes out and cell phone towers are down, ham operators can still communicate around the world.

Elbert Wilkinson and Maurice Schietecatte operated a transmitter with a digital signal that uses less power than conventional radio. The duo used a portable antenna about 3 meters high.

Bert Garcia from Summerfield and his wife, Kathy, made contact at his station in Ontario, Canada.

According to, field days have been held since 1933, and 40,000 ham operators across North America are now involved. The exercise is an opportunity “to demonstrate the science, skills, and service of amateur radio to our communities and our country. It brings together civil service, emergency preparedness, outreach, and technical skills into a single event.”