BETHLEHEM — A little town in Maryland with a Christmas story name went around the nation and then some on the Ham radio frequencies on Saturday, Dec. 21.
The Easton Amateur Radio Society (EARS) held a “Whiskey 3 Christmas” event, setting up in the parking lot of the U5 Foods and Exxon Station with a mobile emergency response unit and setting up two giant antennae that could reach around the world, according to its members.
They began broadcasting their Merry Christmas message, “from Bethlehem, Maryland” and ham radio operators all over the United States responded in a steady stream.
“Whiskey,” of course, is the radio letter code for the letter “W,” just like Romeo is for “R” and Foxtrot is for “F.” The call for Saturday’s event was W3C.
For ham operators, special event stations are approved by the Federal Communications Commission to coincide with a significant event or location, and Saturday’s Christmas message broadcast was both a significant event, Christmas, and a significant location, Bethlehem.
The EARS group operated two stations simultaneously with the goal of contacting as many other ham stations in other parts of the country and world as possible. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By 1 p.m. the group had contacted 55 posts, including some from Wisconsin; Arlington, Texas; Pensacola, Fla.; Indiana, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Washington State and Woodbridge, Va.; among others.
During a ham radio event such as Saturday’s it is the custom to request a QSL (acknowledgement of contact) card to be sent to the EARS Club. In return, the club sends back a specially designed card unique to Saturday’s event. Many ham radio operators collect such cards.
EARS member Ken Rogers said the members could have stayed home and sent holiday greetings all over the world from the comfort of their home stations, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
“By doing that we don’t get all the camaraderie,” he said.
Saturday’s mild weather had the members leaning back and soaking up the sun in lawn chairs, drinking coffee and eating donuts while they took turns at the microphone.
They were enjoying themselves but the event was good practice for those times when ham radio operators can get into some pretty serious situations.
Each member is licensed, and can deploy emergency communications operations during a disaster.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ham radio operators were among the few who could communicate and helped to save many flood victims in Louisiana and Mississippi.
When all other communications fail, the ham amateurs can usually get through by using individually owned and operated two-way radio equipment, generators and long-distance antennae.
Hams and their radio equipment have provided emergency communications for the Red Cross and government agencies all over the world.
EARS members were in the parking lot at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, setting up the giant antennae and two operating stations inside their trailer. Their club-owned generator provided all the power for the signal and equipment that they needed.
Amateur radio is the only hobby that is federally regulated and governed by international treaties. Those who are interested can study the material and take an exam to be licensed. There are more than 40 members in the EARS Club, ranging in ages from high school students to seniors. The club meets at the Talbot County 911 Center on Port Street in Easton every third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. The public is welcome. Visit the EARS website at www.k3emd.com.
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