Tom Traughber has seen how amateur radio can be vital during an emergency situation.
Traughber, an Eden Prairie resident, assisted the American Red Cross and law enforcement with local communications as an amateur radio operator after a series of tornadoes ripped through Fridley and other parts of the metro in May 1965.
"I did Fridley communications along with a big team. We were right next to the State Patrol," he recalled, "and then the next day I went to the Red Cross headquarters and handled their station. The requests would come in for support. I'd get it and hand it off to the Red Cross people."
Traughber also is a member of the Eden Prairie Radio Club. The group is planning an event to test its communications capabilities for emergency scenarios like the Fridley tornadoes as part of the Amateur Radio Relay League's Field Day, an annual nationwide on-air event. The event will take place June 27-28 at Miller Park.
"Those stations partaking in this event must use emergency power such as gasoline generators and batteries using solar power. The motto for these radio hams is, 'When all else fails, amateur radio,'" according to a news release.
Traughber said while being an amateur radio operator is fun, at the back of his mind he always remembers the importance of the communications amateur radio provides when all other forms of communications are unavailable in an emergency.
"What we provide is kind of a patchwork, if you will, of communications that restore hook ups in particular areas that are needed. It's very rewarding stuff," he said.
According to the Amateur Radio Relay League, amateur radio operators have been involved in restoring communications in Nepal, after the country was hit by an earthquake in April. Traughber said amateur radio operators also provide severe weather updates to the National Weather Service through the NWS' Skywarn volunteer program.
Traughber said the club's communications drill will allow the club to showcase what it's like to be an amateur radio operator. The public is invited to watch the drill.
"They can come watch and we'll even let them get on the air and make a few contacts with the Field Day exchanges," he said. "We'll show them just by our presence how much fun amateur radio is for long-distance communications."
Club members will also explain the test and how to obtain an FCC amateur radio license, Traughber said.
Traughber said he's been involved with amateur radio for more than 50 years, getting his first license from the FCC at around age 14 or 15. He said his interest in radio contributed to his work in cryptology during his 30-year career with the U.S. Navy and his roughly 12-year career as police officer for the Three Rivers Park District. He's a member of the Twin City DX Association and his involvement with the Eden Prairie Radio Club is more recent.
According to the Eden Prairie Radio Club's website, it was started in January of 2014 and most of its roughly 40 members are from Eden Prairie. The club meets at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the Prairie Hill Evangelical Free Church on Valley View Road. "We are a general interest ham radio club with activities and support for people who are just learning about radio communications and those with a deeper background," it states.
Traughber said one of the club's priorities is to find a place to install two radio repeaters. The club recently amassed enough funds to purchase the repeaters. A repeater installed in a high location such as a radio tower or a high building receives radio signals from ground level stations and repeats the signals over a broad range.
"The club needs a generous donor to allow the installation of this equipment in an appropriate high location. The system has two small antennas and is powered by normal house power with a storage battery backup during power operations," according to a news release. "A system such as this, dedicated to encompass Eden Prairie, has been proven to be an extremely valuable asset in time of natural disaster such as a tornado."
For more information on providing space for a repeater, Traughber can be reached at (952) 906-1264.