In an era when electronic communications are identified with credit-card thin devices that take pictures, send e-mail, surf the Internet, play music as well as send and receive people’s voices, the need for a team of amateur radio operators with bread-box size transmitters seems somewhat dated. But when disaster strikes, amateur radio operators are often the only means to talk to the outside world.

Members of the Brownwood Amateur Radio Club will again participate in the annual Field Day Saturday and Sunday conducted by the American Radio Relay League. For 24 hours, local “hams” will use their mobile equipment and make contact with their counterparts throughout the nation, and around the world.

Technology has provided Americans with a vast array of communication options, but they are all dependent on electricity, on towers and overhead lines. When a disaster such as a massive hurricane or deadly tornado wipes all that out, amateur radio operators have served as the information link when other means of contact are inoperable or overloaded.

The public is invited — even encouraged — to stop by the Groner Pitts National Guard Armory between 1 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday to observe what is happening. Those who do will see the equipment that is available. More importantly, they will be able to hear the contacts local amateur radio operators are making with other operators during what is described as a “shakedown run” for hams everywhere.

They will have some fun, of course. But it’s preparation for a time no one hopes will ever come, a time when those emergency communications skills will have to be put to use.

Amateur radio operators function behind the scenes, even when their services are needed the most. But their skills and availability help form a vital lifeline in times of crisis.

Brownwood Bulletin