Last weekend, members of a local amateur radio group gathered to test their ability to recover in the event of a catastrophe.
As it turns out, it was no problem at all, as the Sabine Valley Amateur Radio Association, SVARA not only is an old hand in dealing with emergencies — it serves as the SkyWarn storm spotter organization for Hunt County — it jumped into operation during the severe storms which struck Greenville on the evening of June 24.
“We got American Medical Response back up right after,” said SVARA President Jim Davenport.
The club set up at the Caddo Mills Fire Rescue Department station Saturday, to participate in the annual nationwide emergency communications exercise known as Field Day. Starting at 9 a.m., members worked to establish a base of operations under simulated disaster conditions. At 1 p.m., they began attempting to make as many contacts across the United States and around the globe as possible in 24 hours.
“We’re expecting it to be very bury here very soon,” said Karen Conley, who was helping host the event. “Right now we have three different systems set up.”
Inside the station, the SVARA had a 40-meter radio and a 20-meter radio working, along with a table covered by a United States map with pins available to stick in map on the locations reached by radio operators.
“Later on there will be some area Boy Scouts coming in to work on their Communications Badges,” Conley said.
The table also featured books and magazines on how to get started in amateur radio, and a variety of older radios and equipment which the group has used in years past.
Outside the station, members double checked the makeshift antenna installed next to the fire department’s communications tower, while the SVARA’s mobile trailer had a 15-meter radio.
Davenport urged those entering the trailer to be careful, as the door requires most people to bow. Inside was a different story, as one wall is filled with multiple radios, along with a radar screen and a television.
While the temperature outside was a humid 90 degrees, it was positively chilly inside the trailer, thanks to the air conditioner blowing.
Davenport said the trailer, which the SVARA received following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, operates independently thanks to the solar panels installed on the roof.
“Someone also donated a microwave to us the other day,” Davenport said.
One end of the trailer is filled with more equipment which can be used to set up an emergency base. Davenport said there are also multiple radios which can be used in the event the main communications system fails.
“There are spare parts for just about any radio in the world,” he said. “And it is all fully integrated.”
The SVARA also works with area law enforcement agencies when called upon, along with Hunt County Emergency Management, the Hunt Memorial Hospital District, the American Red Cross, the City of Greenville and more.
“If you need us, we’re there,” Davenport said.
Those seeking information on the SVARA can find it online at www.k5gvl.org.