A dozen hams, or amateur radio enthusiasts, met at their usual headquarters, a clubhouse filled with aviation memorabilia, for Powell River Amateur Radio Club’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, March 8.
“For a long time, Powell River didn’t have a place to train with ham radio,” said longtime member Russell Storry.
According to Storry, the club originally acquired a space at a local fire hall, but access was difficult due to security concerns.
Storry said relocating to a shared space in the Westview Flying Club (WFC) clubhouse was a big step up for the radio club. Since moving to its current headquarters, the club has installed radio antennas on the roof and acquired a communications trailer.
Storry said the radio club participates in a yearly field day where off-grid operating conditions are simulated and stations from around the world contact one another over a 24-hour period.
“Lots of people become involved with the club,” said Storry. “I’d say about half of the people who receive their ham licence in Powell River acquire it through the club.”
Lucy Achibank, a director with the club, became involved through one of its open houses.
“My husband was involved and he had his licence,” she said. “I started studying and received mine through the club.”
Achibank said the club provides access to ham-radio infrastructure, guest speakers, training for unlicensed enthusiasts and designated examiners. It also participates in local events, she said, including being on standby
for the Terry Fox Run.
“If a runner is having a problem, we can report by radio and relay it to medical services,” said Achibank. She added that amateur radio is a hobby for many of its members, but it also provides an important service in the community.
Radio club member Derek Poole, who is also coordinator for Powell River region’s Emergency Radio Communication Unit (ERCU) and a longtime search and rescue volunteer, said he saw an opportunity for further training through the club.
In the event of a collapse of internet, phone and other communications, Poole said he, other members of the club and ERCU would come together to provide amateur radio capabilities, using an emergency communications trailer equipped with generators.
Poole said it is important to build skills and test technologies routinely. In addition to radio club meetings, ERCU volunteers meet monthly as well, he said.
According to Achibank, amateur radio allows Powell River to connect with communities from around the world. She said the club has successfully contacted stations in Alberta, Australia and Japan, and on Vancouver Island, to name a few. Poole added that contact with other stations is strongly affected by sun phenomena, such as solar flares.
Ham radio has many practical uses as well, said Achibank. In recent storms, she has used ham radio to report downed trees on the road when cell phone service was not available. She said in situations where someone needs to relay a message to their friends and family to let them know they are safe, ham radio can play a role as well.
“As a private citizen, I can use radio to help people,” she said.
Powell River Amateur Radio Club meets monthly at Westview Flying Club and weekly at a local restaurant for informal gatherings. For more information, visit prarc.net.