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Wednesday, July 24, 2024


Summer Homeowners Help ‘Hams’ Survive

2018:  Joel N3HRK & Ron KB2BEI: Joel is working voice and Ron is log in who he talks to.

By Taylor Henry

COURT HOUSE – In 2018, members of the Cape May County Amateur Radio Club were worried for the future of amateur radio.
The club members – also known as “hams” – have been making contact with other hams around the world and coordinating storm-relief efforts with emergency management since 1985. A lack of new membership and struggles to attract young radio operators had the club concerned the skill would end with their generation.
“We get very few real young people,” key operator Bill Cole said in 2018. “We’ve got to come up with a good way to interest young people. I don’t know that young people want to come out and hang out with a bunch of old guys.”
Club members wondered who would know how to operate their equipment, which Cole said is crucial during storms which knock out power relied on by digital communications.
“I don’t think enough people know about it,” Cole said. “That kind of makes us somewhat obsolete.”
After a well-attended radio competition, the hams are more optimistic.
On June 22, the club competed in Field Day: a North American-wide competition hosted by the American Radio Relay League, wherein over 40,000 hams throughout the nation and Canada earn points for each contact they make with other clubs. A contact is an exchange of information with another radio operator elsewhere in the world.
“We had about 26 people” operating radios throughout the 24-hourlong contest at the 4-H Fairgrounds, said operator Robert Myers, which is “about 10 more people than we usually have.”
Myers said the new interest is mostly due to summer hams: amateur radio operators from Philadelphia and its suburbs, who have summer homes in Cape May County.
For a long time, Philly-area hams “didn’t know we were here,” Myers said. “Now, all of a sudden, they’re coming out.”
Myers said he sees new faces at the club’s monthly meetings and thinks it’s due to increased publicity, as well as a new website and Facebook page.
“We even had a father and son duo,” Myers said of Field Day.
The club made 410 contacts with 43 states, including Hawaii, as well as with Canada and the Virgin Islands.
“We’re not a big enough operation” to be an even match against other larger clubs, Myers said. “We just try to have fun.”
With more club members, Myers said, hams will be able to coordinate better with emergency management, and in turn, assist more people during storms.
There were no major weather emergencies in the last year that caused widespread power outages, he said, but the hams expect to be busy during hurricane season.
On Aug. 17-18, the hams will make international contacts from the top of the Cape May Point Lighthouse as part of the annual International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW).
According to ILLW’s website, the event’s purpose is “to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, to promote amateur radio and to foster international goodwill.”
Myers said anyone interested in amateur radio is welcome to the club’s monthly meetings, which are held in the county Emergency Management Office at the Airport Complex every fourth Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“Ham radio is a big family,” Myers said. “We are always changing and getting better at what we do.”
To contact Taylor Henry, email

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