Ham radio operators are often called upon to act like first responders, restoring some semblance of communication in areas laid to waste by disasters.
Members of the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club have utilized their skills in south Florida and New Orleans, responding to needs in the aftermath of hurricanes Andrew and Katrina.
Honing those skills is a must, said club member James Niccum, to ensure they will be ready when called upon.
To prepare, the club, like others across the United States, will take part in "Field Day," a 24-hour event of continuous radio transmission, testing equipment and prepping for emergencies.
"We're there for people in case of emergencies," Niccum said. "We're ready, willing and able to help."
The club will set up shop in the North Fort Myers Community Park, transmitting from 2 p.m. Saturday, June 26, until 2 p.m. Sunday, June 27.
What: Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club "Field Day"
Where: North Fort Myers Community Park
When: 24 hours, 2 p.m., June 26, until 2 p.m., June 27
Cost: Free and open to the public
Niccum said he's always had an interest in radio, but didn't truly dig into it until he retired to Lee County 25 years ago.
He said ham, or amateur, radio operators communicate with each other globally, though Saturday's event will focus primarily on chatting with other operators across the United States.
The focus, of course, is being to able to assist during emergencies.
"We always jump in in any emergency," Niccum said.
Field Day is also used as a tool to entice new members by giving them a hands on trial at ham radio.
Niccum said there are several levels of classification a ham radio operator can obtain, but everything starts with obtaining a license from the Federal Communication Commission.
After that, Niccum said people can outfit themselves with radio equipment at a cost of $200 - $300.
Now that Niccum is able to indulge in his passion for ham radio full time, he hopes to instill that same sense of fun and communication to others on Saturday. He also hopes to fine tune those skills so he, and the rest of the club, will be ready when called upon.
"I've always had an interest in radio. I never had time when I was working but when I retired, I said, 'I'm going to to do this,'" Niccum said.
The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend to see hands on demonstrations of amateur radio.
For more information, contact Niccum at 997-6423, or Larry Zimmer at 282-1526.