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Jun 25, 2019 4:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Amateur Radio Operators Stay Prepared For When Disaster Strikes

Members of the East Hampton Radio Club tested their radio communications equipment and skills at their annual emergency preparedness field day in Montauk last Saturday. Kyril Bromley
Jun 25, 2019 5:07 PM

In this day of modern communication, when nearly everyone has the ability to call the farthest reaches of the world in their pockets, the allure of the ham radio has begun to dim. But members of the Bonac Amateur Radio Club say that if, or when, catastrophe strikes, and the modern matrix of communications links is crippled, it will be the old radios that keep civilization in touch with itself.

And that is why the club holds its annual Emergency Preparedness Field Day in Montauk, in the shadows of the last worldwide threat to civilization, the Cold War.

“When everything goes down, it’s always the amateur radio guys who step up,” said Marshall Helfand of Montauk, one of the club’s veteran members. “The earthquake in Italy in the 1980s. The one in Mexico City, the amateurs went down there because our stuff works on a battery, so you don’t need electricity. You can hook up to a car battery and you’re in business.”

Amateur radio was once a widely popular hobby, with hundreds of thousands of “Hams,” from pre-teens to senior citizens, setting up radios in their garages, attics and basements, and tinkering with frequencies to talk to people around the globe in the days when that was not readily possible for the average citizen.

But now the Bonac Amateur Radio Club is seeing its membership wane. With about 25 members left, the club is looking to recruit new adherents, so that the radios and the skills needed to operate are ready the next time they are truly needed.

“Attrition is starting to take a lot of our guys, between getting old and the cost of living out here, so we need new members,” Mr. Helfand said. “We hold classes. We can teach anyone about amateur radio and help them get their license from the FCC,” he said, referring to the Federal Communications Commission.

The club holds practice sessions for new or prospective radio operators before its monthly meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Amagansett Library. Would-be Hams can email the club president, Eddie Schnell, at WZ2Y@BonacARC.org to attend.

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I was an extremely active Amateur Radio Operator prior to moving to Southampton .I took part in emergency communications during hurricanes and handled thousands of Radio to Phone links for areas in distress.
However, now living in Southampton, the ludicrous zoning regulations make it impossible to erect the radio antenna tower needed to partake effectively in aiding during emergencies. When I lived in Bayside Queens NYC I had a 72 foot tall tower and could communicate globally. This is no longer ...more
By jediscuba (71), Suthampton on Jun 27, 19 11:41 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Mr. Z (11668), North Sea on Jun 28, 19 12:25 AM
We can’t have a CB Antenna erected due to town regulations & Historic Society...However, you can have a 15 bedroom “Single family” house...the land of NO Accommodates the rich & wealthy only
By Tommy11963 (9), Sag Harbor on Jul 1, 19 11:17 PM
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