A 24-hour remote exercise over the weekend linked Jamestown Amateur Radio Club WØFX with radio operators across North America.

The club set up a remote station at the Fort Seward Interpretive Center to take part in the national Amateur Radio Field Day exercise that occurs annually on the third weekend in June.

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"We usually do this at the Pipestem Reservoir and this year we thought we'd try a different location to make it a little more public," said Jason Linz, president of the Jamestown Amateur Radio Club.

The club set up three radios with three separate power sources, he said. Two radios ran off gasoline generators and a third ran on marine batteries that are charged by a 300-watt solar panel.

The exercise gives an opportunity for any club member to operate the radio without yet having a license at a particular level, said Michelle Linz, secretary. The privilege is allowed as long as the appropriate license holder for a frequency is present and the operator uses the club call sign, she said.

A technician license is for communicating above certain bands and limits portable radio and data privileges below certain frequencies, according to the National Association for Amateur Radio. A general license grants privileges to use most high frequencies, and the amateur extra license allows all privileges.

Tom Simpson, vice president, said the club is part of local and regional networks. It is social, but the club also serves an important role in emergency communications, he said.

"There are a lot of amateur radio contests but Field Day is more about emergency preparedness and being able to set up in remote places," Simpson said.

Local law enforcement and the National Weather Service monitor amateur radio during bad weather events when remote operators can call in funnel cloud sightings, precipitation levels, washed out roads or other vital information. In the same way the Military Amateur Radio Service uses local networks following major disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes.

Doreen Eckman, committee chair for Cub Scout pack 139, said she brought four Scouts to attend the field day. Also an amateur radio enthusiast since the age of 16, Eckman said the exercise introduced the Scouts to the importance of disaster communications but also to enjoy talking with people around the world and even the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

"We're just trying to get them started young," Eckman said.

The Radio Club will be invited to set up a field day in October so that Pack 139 can participate in Jamboree on the Air, a one-day Boy Scout program that involves Scouting all over the world with amateur radio.

Shawn McClintock, Dazey, N.D., said he is fairly new to the area and is getting to know the club. He was a communications equipment repair specialist in the U.S. Army and an amateur radio enthusiast for many years.

"Another part of the hobby is that you get to meet new folks," McClintock said. "It really is a lot of fun."

Amateur radio has never been more affordable with simple radios costing as little as $30, he said. The equipment has also improved over the years with better noise filters and the ability to incorporate digital technology to work with portable radios and computers, he said. Many amatuer radio operators use hand-held radios that can get a signal boost from the local repeater tower in Cleveland, N.D.

"We aim for wide area coverage like police and fire would have," McClintock said.

The repeater offers an automatic retransmission of a hand-held signal for a 50-mile radius, he said. With atmospheric conditions the signal can go further, he said.

For more information, visit jarcnd.com.