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Amateur radio operators gather at park

LAWRENCEVILLE - Heads bent low over radio equipment and laptop computers, members of two Gwinnett amateur radio groups attempted to make contact with other radio operators around the country Saturday.

The Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society and Gwinnett Amateur Radio Emergency Services expected about 100 operators to don headphones and repeat the call "CQ, CQ, CQ," short for "seeking you," at Rhodes Jordan Park on Saturday and today for the national field day event sponsored by the American Radio Relay League. The event began about 2 p.m. Saturday and was set to continue nonstop for 24 hours. Eight antennae were shot up into the trees surrounding one of the pavilions at Rhodes Jordan early Saturday morning, where amateur radio operators demonstrated radio communication, digital capabilities and Morse Code.

"What field day is about is amateur radio operators going out into the field and showing that we can operate for 24 hours with our own power with whatever modes of radio that it takes to get the communications through," said Norman Schklar, president of the Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society who has been licensed as an amateur radio operator since 1966. "We'll talk to all 50 states most likely in the 24 hours (and) probably talk to 3,000 different stations."

In the event of a disaster or emergency, Schklar said amateur radio operators are the first to deploy to provide essential communication for emergency personnel when the existing infrastructure is down. Schklar said most amateur radio operators are involved in emergency communications in some way or another, some for the technology and others for the research and development.

"This is a great exercise for us to be able to demonstrate under field conditions that you might encounter if there was an actual disaster or an emergency where you would be forced to operate ... on emergency power," said John Davis, emergency coordinator for the Gwinnett Amateur Radio Emergency Services. "We get good practice from this."

Davis said there are more than 1,300 amateur, or ham, radio operators in Gwinnett County, and the Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society and Gwinnett County American Radio Relay League are two of the largest organizations of their kind in the state.