Palouse Hill Amateur Radio Club participates in 24-hour drill for emergency situations

MOSCOW, ID - If a natural disaster hits the area and there's a widespread power outage, the phone towers and the internet will likely go out as well.

In that case... how would you seek help? Amateur radio operators across the country practiced for that very scenario over the weekend. Rachel Dubrovin shows us what happened at this year's Palouse Hills Amateur Radio Club Field Day.

(indistinct radio noise)

"One alpha Idaho, one alpha Idaho," said Amateur Radio Operator Rodney Spencer.

"Copy that, one alpha Idaho," Radio voice says.

Every summer the Palouse Hills Amateur Radio Club spends a weekend here at the Latah County Fairgrounds.

"We're running for 24-hours straight," said Palouse Hill Amateur Radio Club Power Coordinator Jim Kusznir. "So far we're doing pretty well."

It's part of a nation-wide amateur radio field day. Part of the event is a friendly competition.

"Stations all over America have set up events like this, plus many other people just work from their homes as well," said Kusznir. "And the goal is to talk to as many other people as you can. When you make contact with them, there's a small amount of information you exchange with them quickly, then you can move onto the next contact."

"All we're asking for is the call sign, what our section is, which is Idaho," said Spencer.

But first and foremost, the field day is about emergency preparation.

"Well, always when the power goes out, the call towers go out too," said Palouse Hill Amateur Radio Club President Jim Smallwood. "So, no cell towers, no cell phones. Often, no internet. But, with these radios, we're only relying on signals going through the air by themselves without any internet or anything, so that's one of the reasons we can get through when often, nobody else can."

"We are not using anything from the grid," said Kusznir. "No generators as well. All of our power is coming from the solar power you see behind you and a hydrogen fuel cell, just over there. Then, with the universities here, if this was a true emergency, we could continue to get hydrogen readily easily. It's surprising how many tanks of hydrogen are on both campuses."

"We have some people doing Morse Code," said Smallwood.

(Smallwood tapping Morse Code)

"And some people are using what is called 'Digital Modes,' said Smallwood. "It's computers talking over the air."

"These signals coming in from Europe, from over the North Pole, into the US," said Smallwood.

These amateur radio operators take emergency preparation seriously

"I'm serving this area," said Kusznir. "Should anything happen, we're ready to serve."

But it's clear that these field days are also about having fun.

(Man talking over the radio)

The field day lasted from 11:00 a.m. on Saturday till 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. There was an amateur radio base set up in Moscow, Lewiston and Kamiah. These events are open to the public, and it happens every year on the fourth weekend of June.