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Local ham-radio enthusiasts pull an all-nighter in national event

While ham radio hobbyist Rob Hoegee, rear left, and his six-year old son Henry look on, Crescenta Valley Radio Club member Steve Burkholder logs finds at right, and fellow member Bob Cesarone, left, makes contact with another group at Verdugo Park on June 24, 2017.
While ham radio hobbyist Rob Hoegee, rear left, and his six-year old son Henry look on, Crescenta Valley Radio Club member Steve Burkholder logs finds at right, and fellow member Bob Cesarone, left, makes contact with another group at Verdugo Park on June 24, 2017.
(Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

When the next big earthquake finally strikes the Los Angeles region, the phones may either be knocked out or overloaded.

So, if the power grid goes down and cellphones won’t work, short-wave radios are widely considered the best solution.

This past weekend at Verdugo Park, the Crescenta Valley Radio Club gathered its 25 to 30 members and other amateur radio enthusiasts, also known as hams, to practice their emergency-response skills during a 24-hour National Field Day.

Almost everyone participating came from a different career field and background. However, they all share a bond for short-wave radios.

Some attendees inquired about how to earn their own federally-granted amateur radio license.

“Our philosophy is it’s a hobby,” said Mike Lichtman, club president. “We have fun, and we socialize.”

Field Day, which was started in the 1930s by the National Assn. for Amateur Radio, is the most popular on-the-air short-wave radio event in the United States and Canada.

As in previous years, participants set up tables, chairs, antennas, radios, computers, lights and canopies during the start of field day at 11 a.m. Saturday near the park’s entrance. All equipment was powered by solar panels and batteries.

The group ran two 100-watt transmitters, while some participating ran 1- to 2-watt transmitters in an effort to contact other non-Field Day stations on low power, according to George Eckart, a club member.

While Field Day is a competition for many hams across North America — seeing how many “exchanges” they can make in 24 hours with other groups, some which are set up in remote locations — many club members were operating their short-wave radios to hone their disaster-preparedness skills or socialize with other hams.

Lichtman said on Sunday morning that by nightfall on Saturday the numbers tapered off and, by Sunday morning, there were between 10 and 15 hams still on duty, all operating their stations on and off throughout the night, making contacts. One member stayed up 24 hours and made more than 100 contacts.

Eckart said the Crescenta Valley Radio Club, which went this weekend with the call sign “2 Alpha LAX,” made contact with ham radio groups in Hawaii, Manitoba, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

“It varies depending on the time of day,” Eckart said.

The club has been providing communication services to the community for more than half a century and has more than 40 members. Some serve with the Glendale Emergency Auxiliary Response Radio Service.

For more information, visit cvrc.club. The organization meets every second Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, 1812 Verdugo Blvd., Glendale.

Matt Sanderson is a contributing writer for Times Community News.


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