There are a number of lessons that can be taken from the COVID-19 pandemic. One that might be overlooked is the need for constant and secure forms of communication.

For more than 20 years, one local organization has been educating the public on one such form of communication, the amateur or ham radio.

On June 27, members of the Sedalia/Pettis County Amateur Radio Klub (S.P.A.R.K.) will participate in the national Amateur Radio Field Day highlighting the form of communication that needs no cellphones or internet service.   

“Visitors to field day will be able to see how we can handle emergency communications for Sedalia and the surrounding area in case all other forms of communication (landline phones, cellphones, etc.) fail, such as what happened during the Joplin tornado,” S.P.A.R.K. Public Information Officer Dennis Henderson explained via email. “They can witness High Frequency (H.F.) communication which allows us to talk halfway around the world on 100 watts, and also digital communication which involves using the internet to communicate.”

Club members will be available to visit with guests regarding how easy it is to obtain a Ham Radio license for those who are interested, Henderson added.

There are 25 to 30 members of the club, and most will attend sometime during the approximately eight-hour event. Members work in shifts at field day with four or five radio operators working at any given time. Operators are rotated periodically throughout the event so everyone has an opportunity to participate.

According to a S.P.A.R.K. news release, there are more than 725,000 licensed ham radio operators in the United States ranging in age from 9 to 100.  

“It’s easy for anyone to pick up a computer or smartphone, connect to the internet and communicate with no knowledge of how the devices function or connect to each other,” David Isgur said in the release. “But if there’s an interruption of service or you’re out of range of a cell tower, you have no way to communicate.”

Isgur, who serves as the communications manager for the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio, added, “Ham radio functions completely independent of the internet or cellphone infrastructure, can interface with tablets or smartphones, and can be set up almost anywhere in minutes — that’s the beauty of amateur radio during a communications outage.”

Henderson is an Extra Class license holder and has been a member of S.P.A.R.K. since he received his first license in 1995. He explained there are a number of benefits of belonging to the organization including becoming a volunteer member of Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency. 

The S.P.A.R.K. Amateur Field Day exercise is scheduled from 1 p.m. to dark Saturday, June 27 behind Our Savior Lutheran Church, 3700 W. Broadway Blvd. The event is free and open to the public.

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Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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