June 23, 2013

County radio club taps into world's air waves

Cass's amateur radio operators test skills

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Members of the Cass County Amateur Radio Club joined thousands of other ham radio operators across the county and Canada Saturday to test their communications skills in a competition that will last through this afternoon.

The club set up shop in the Cass County Emergency Management Agency yesterday and began manning radios, attempting to contact other amateur radio operators across the country and Canada. A point is awarded for each successful contact that is made and the team with the most points by 2 p.m. today is declared the winner.

“We’re in it for fun though,” said Phil Snider, the club’s president, adding that last year the club scored a total of about 400 contacts.

Snider said he was expecting about 50 to 60 of the club’s members to come out for the cookout Saturday evening, with members coming in and out throughout the night and into today to man the five stations they set up at the agency.

Snider estimated the club has participated in the event ever since the club was started, which he said was about 60 years ago.

Besides providing an outlet for club members to engage in their hobby, Snider said the competition also lets them know what the county’s emergency communications status is.

“It helps us find out what works and what to fix,” he said.

Tom Denton, a member of the club, agreed.

“There’s a lot of trouble shooting in this hobby,” he said. “That’s part of the fun — tracking things down and fixing them.”

Snider said he feels its important to preserve skills in communications that rely on radio and microwave transmissions for when emergencies occur, which can result in jammed cellular phone service and damaged modern communications towers.

Equipment like the kind the club set up for the competition, Snider said, can be set up quickly and easily and can provide much-needed communication during times of an emergency.

Snider speaks to this point from personal experience. He volunteered as a communications operator in Monticello after a tornado tore through the area in 1974. He said the same contingency plans are still helpful today, adding that ham radio operators played a role in establishing communications for emergency services in New Orleans after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Snider currently works for the Indiana Integrated Public Safety Commission, which provides communications for emergency service providers and law enforcement across the state.

He said he enjoys working with communications on a recreational level as well because of the wide array of factors it entails.

“It’s not really one hobby, it’s 99 hobbies,” he said, adding that the public service factor is a draw for him as well. “I like knowing knowing when people need someone to call on for help, they can call us.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or

If you go: WHAT: Cass County amateur radio field day WHEN: Through 2 p.m. today WHERE: Cass County Emergency Management Agency, 1227 N. Ind. 17 WHY: To see ham radio operators in action and learn about amateur radio