KINGDOM CITY, Mo. — Amateur radio enthusiasts will have some fun preparing for the worst this weekend.
From 1 p.m. Saturday to 1 p.m. Sunday, members of the Callaway Amateur Radio League and Callaway Emergency Communications will operate a temporary communication station at the Firefighter Memorial in Kingdom City.
"The idea is to see how many people can we talk to in how many different locations," CARL member Dave Phelps said.
The 24-hour radio marathon is part of the Amateur Radio Relay League's annual Field Day. On the fourth weekend of June each year, more than 35,000 amateur radio operators in the United States and Canada team up and get on the air waves. Their goal is to make as many contacts in as many far-flung or nearby locations as possible.
"Our club doesn't really push the contest aspect," Phelps said. "We have people who are contesters. One member of our club has contacted every country in the world except two, and those two are new countries. What we look for in our group is connectivity."
He sees it as a practice run for emergency situations like after a tornado knocks out cell and radio towers, leaving first responders without a way to reach each other and families desperately waiting to hear from loved ones.
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"We're a backup for the Emergency Operations Center," Phelps said. "During (Hurricane) Katrina, we helped find people who'd disappeared by making contact with American Red Cross shelters. We were involved in search and rescue after (the 2011 tornado in) Joplin, using handheld radios."
He said CARL wasn't called on after the recent tornado in Jefferson City because no one was missing and communications weren't completely wiped out.
About 20 amateur radio operators joined the team for Field Day last year. Together, they'll set up an emergency radio station with a 50-foot-tall antenna, its own power source and the capability to send audio and communicate computer-to-computer. Phelps said CARL is working on developing the ability to send pictures and computer files.
"We're trying to prepare our Callaway guys so we don't have to wait for outside people to come in," he said.
Members of the public are welcome to stop by and learn about amateur radio operation. To learn more about Field Day, visit arrl.org.