CUMBERLAND - Over the past year, the news has been full of reports of ham radio operators providing critical communications in emergencies worldwide.

This weekend, local residents will have a chance to meet and talk with ham radio operators and see for themselves what this "radio service" really is about. Mountain Amateur Radio Club (MARC) will hold a demonstration of emergency communications abilities outside of Allegany County Emergency Management Center near Constitution Park from Saturday at noon through Sunday afternoon.

This annual event, called Field Day, is the climax of the weeklong Amateur Radio Week sponsored by the ARRL, the national association for amateur radio enthusiasts. Using only generators, batteries or solar power, the hams construct emergency stations in parks, shopping malls and back yards to test their skills under all situations.

The slogan, "Ham radio works when other systems don't!" is more than just words to the hams as they prove they can send messages in many forms without the use of phone systems, internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis.

More than 33,000 amateur radio operators across the country participated in last year's event, logging about 1.2 million contacts.

"We hope that people will come and see for themselves, this is not your grandfather's radio anymore," said Ryan Woods, event chairman. "It may be called 'amateur radio' because we are unpaid but that does not mean we're not prepared or not professional."

Over the weekend hams will be demonstrating AM, sideband, FM, digital, code and even satellite communications. Several clubs will also be experimenting with TV signals and "incredibly" high frequency equipment. It was from their practical experience as hams that many electrical engineers went on to develop the marvels of today's communications.

There are 670,000 Amateur Radio operators in the United States, and more than 2.5 million around the world. Through the Emergency Management Center, and the ARRL, hams provide emergency communications for the DHS Citizens' Corps, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA and many state and local agencies.

To learn more about Amateur Radio, call Judy Currence, secretary, at (301) 729-6889 (n3rja@arrl.net) or go to hamtalk.org or arrl.org/newham.

The event is open to the public.

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