MARICOPA — In the event of a cyber-attack or natural disaster, the thing that would likely be the first to fail is what most people now rely on the most: cell phones. That is why one group is working to ensure Maricopa stays prepared with the Annual Emergency Communication Drill.
The event is known as Field Day and is organized by the American Radio Relay. The Maricopa Amateur Radio Association is a chapter of that organization. Each year, MARA and other radio affiliates participate in a preparedness day.
“It is a stimulation for if we lost all commercial power,” said Steve Miller of MARA.
Miller said if the city lost grid power, it would generally lose the ability to communicate. In an emergency situation, this would limit the ability to get supplies, medical assistance and other necessities to the city.
During Field Day, organizations participating in the event will try to make as many radio contacts as possible in a 24-hour period. They can only use solar or battery-powered devices. Miller said the goal is to make as many radio contacts as possible. Each contact is worth one point, and if that contact is made in Morse code, that is worth two points.
At the end of the 24-hour period, the groups with the most points will be declared the winner. MARA has participated in this event four times, and placed as one of the top teams for their first year.
Those who participate are licensed in amateur, or “ham,” radio.
“Hams are just people who enjoy learning and being able to communicate around the world,” Miller said. “Hams not only can build and modify their radio equipment, but are responsible for inventing some of the modern electronic conveniences we use today.”
In fact, hams are so important to communities, Miller said they are often called in times of crises to provide emergency telecommunications support for fire and police departments because those systems run off electronic computers.
While the competitiveness adds a fun aspect to the event, Miller said people shouldn’t neglect its importance.
“It wouldn’t take much to take us off the power grid, and if that happens, we don’t know what would take place,” he said.
The Field Day will take place from 11 a.m. on Saturday to 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Maricopa group will be housed at the Maricopa Police Department substation in the community room. Miller said the event is open to the public, so anyone interested in becoming licensed in amateur radio or simply wants to see how it all works is welcome to come.
“The more people who are licensed the better because we will have more people to talk to and be able to keep the hobby alive,” Miller said.