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JAWS has field day to prepare for emergency, natural disasters

To better prepare for local emergencies and natural disasters, the Jessamine Amateur Wireless Society (JAWS), sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, set up a portable radio station over the weekend. The radio set-up was part of a field day event to establish communication with many other operators in the U.S. and Canada in the case of emergencies.

With scoring based on number of contacts, communications mode (voice, digital or Morse code), transmitted power, energy source and several bonus points for various actions, the event was established in 1926 and serves as a way for radio amateurs to rapidly establish field communications in a simulated emergency or disaster situation where local telephone and cellular services have been overloaded or disrupted.

“We are a nonprofit 501(C)3 organization,” President of JAWS Bill Cotter said. “The purpose of the JAWS Club is to further the interest and education in amateur radio, develop technical and operational skills of its members, and participate in public events, community service, emergency communications and disaster preparation.”

The JAWS Club meets at 7 p.m. the second Monday of every month in the conference room at the Corman St. Joseph Ambulatory Care Center, located at 1250 Keene Road. Cotter said all who are interested are welcome to attend.

Having been an FCC Licensed amateur radio operator since 1961, Cotter said he joined the JAWS Club after his family moved to Jessamine County in 1982.

He was drawn to the group for the social interaction and technical interchange with other people who share his similar interest. The main interest for Cotter was JAWS’ participation in the Amateur Radio Emergency Services.

“The Sept. 11 attacks, the earthquake in Haiti, hurricanes Katrina, Maria (Puerto Rico), Frances, and many other natural disasters have one thing in common — the loss of wireline telephones, cellular services and other conventional communication services,” Cotter said. “The severe storms and tornados in this part of the country account for the loss of communications by destruction or loss of capacity due to overloading of systems.

“Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) provides an infrastructure of trained communications operators and equipment to assist first responders and community members.”

Cotter said the strategy for the field day is to not only rapidly establish communication in a simulated emergency or disaster but equally important is to use the opportunity to train amateur radio operators to communicate with other stations on behalf of local officials, such as emergency management, police and fire departments and other first responders.

“As a volunteer organization serving the Jessamine County community, we hope to gain the skills and proficiency needed to deliver emergency communications for supporting our county officials, emergency management, police, fire, sheriff and first responders during an event where auxiliary communications are needed,” Cotter said.

Cotter said knowledge and experience are the key gains through the exercises last weekend, and the group plans for successes and failures along the way as they execute, operate and tear down their facilities.

Understanding what they did well and what could be improved is important for the group to revise their strategies and plans to better prepare for the next field day. More importantly, the group can better prepare for an actual emergency or disaster, Cotter said.

“We welcome anyone who may have an interest in amateur radio, electronics, robotics, drones, and computers to contact us about our club, help in obtaining your FCC amateur radio license, setting up a ham radio station, and the support we offer our community,” Cotter said.

For more information, visit facebook.com/jawsk4hh or contact Bill Cotter at n4lg@qx.net.