Warren County EmComm participates in national Field Day

Greg Butler, a member of the Warren County EmComm, talks on his portable ham radio setup outside his home in Warren County on Wednesday. Butler will have his equipment on display during this weekend's Field Day, which will be held in Lions Park near Fantasyland Park. Rich Cooley/Daily

Being able to communicate in an emergency is key. Letting first responders know where victims are stranded or how many people need help at a given time are just a few components of emergency response.

But what happens if our usual means of communication, cell phones or radios, aren’t working? Well, that’s where people like Greg Butler step in. Butler has the ability to communicate with people from all over the world, without the use of a single cell phone tower.

No, he’s not a superhero. Butler is an amateur radio enthusiast and a district emergency coordinator for the Virginia section of ARES, the emergency communications arm of the American Radio Relay League. Ham radio, as amateur radio is more commonly known, is a communication system that allows people to communicate with each other across the state or across the world, without the use of the internet or a cell phone tower.

“Communication systems these days have gotten very complicated and they do a tremendous amount of things for us,” Butler said. “In a disaster, these are the kinds of things (modern communications) that fail to operate pretty quickly, If we have a tornado or an earthquake, everybody feels that they have to get on the phone to tell what they’re experiencing or check on family and those systems become overloaded. An advantage of radio operators, we have thousands of frequencies that we can use that aren’t impacted by that kind of an outage.”

This weekend, Butler and 35,000 of his closest friends will take part in the National Association for Amateur Radio’s annual Field Day. According to the ARRL website, Field Day is “the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. It is a time where many aspects of Amateur Radio come together to highlight our many roles. While some will treat it as a contest, other groups use the opportunity to practice their emergency response capabilities. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the organizations that Amateur Radio might serve in an emergency, as well as the general public.”

One such group that will be taking part in the weekend activities is the Warren County Amateur Radio Emergency Communication Group, of which Butler is a member. The group, which was founded in 2011, has about 12 members and was designed to not only showcase their enthusiasm for ham radio, but to help Front Royal and Warren County in certain emergency situations.

“We’re a group of amateur radio operators and what we have decided to do is volunteer our time, our talents and our equipment so that if Warren County or the town of Front Royal has any sort of communications problems, we can deploy wherever they need us and set up quickly and communicate for them,” Butler said.

If anybody is interested in ham radio, however, Butler explained that there is a process of obtaining a license that is required by the Federal Communications Commission.

“First, they need to study for an exam, and that can be done through self study or through some friendly amateur radio operator who would like to help or some places offer some classes,” Butler said. “The entry level license is called the technician level license, and the exam is 35 multiple choice questions and if you get a 75 percent or higher you pass the test. Then you turn your paperwork into the FCC and usually within a week or two you have a license in your hand.”


If You Go

When: Saturday 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Adjacent to Fantasyland Park in downtown Front Royal

Cost: Free

More information: Visit the Warren County EmComm facebook page: www.facebook.com/WarrenCountyEmComm or contact David Johnson at WA4DJ@ arrl.net.