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Calling ham radio buffs

Kevin Allerston
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 16, 2011

The Yellowknife Amateur Radio Society is looking for new members to help grow the sometimes life-saving hobby in Yellowknife and the North.

There are 20 society members scattered through the NWT, with the majority of them in Yellowknife.

Society president Chris Cameron said adding to their membership would help the society become more involved in the community.

"Like anything else, more membership means we can take part in more activities in the community, participate in events," Cameron said.

Many society members participate just for fun, but there are a couple of serious things they do.

"For the last 10 years we've been working with the Yellowknife Ski Club, we do the communications for the ski-loppett," said Cameron. "We keep track of all the skiers."

They also are available to assist the Canadian Forces in the case of an emergency such as a plane crash.

"If we want to get into emergency services further, more people the better," said Cameron.

The society also participates in the North American Field Day, a contest where regions face off to see who can get the most radio contacts from other ham radio stations. It was originally meant as a field exercise to make sure people are prepared for emergency situations to work with limited resources, such as power from a grid.

Organizers are also looking for a new space for the society, which currently operates out of room 129 at St. Patrick High School. One of the main problems with the venue, which the school donates free of charge, is accessibility, since they can't use the space if there are classes in session.

"We would like to get a road-accessible site. We can provide our own power and our own heat, we want to have some real estate available so we can put up towers and wire antennas, but it can't be too close to the airport or any place where there's aircraft flying and we want it to be away from other sources of interference," said Ron Thompson, vice-president of the society. He said they have considered an area near Con Mine as well as the curling club, and have contacted Environment and Natural Resources, Municipal and Community Affairs and the Department of Public Safety, but haven't had any luck, yet.

"The curling club is right on the edge of town. It's got a tower they aren't using so much, it's away from urban areas. It's well situated if you needed to provide emergency services between the hospital and city hall," he said.

The society also has a training component, in which those who want to learn the hobby can receive their Basic Amateur Radio Operator's Licence. Membership is free for the first year, which becomes $45 a year for a family and $30 for an individual in the second year.

Bob Johnson has always had an interest in electronics and radio, and is a relatively recent member of the society, which has been in operation since the early 1980s.

"A couple years ago I took a course, got my licence and I've been doing that since," said Johnson.

"It's interesting. I think it's a little out of the mainstream these days with cellphones and that kind of stuff, but I find it interesting and there are lots of people around who like it."

Those interested in learning more can find society members hanging out at Tim Hortons on most Sunday mornings at 9 a.m.

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