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Muscatine Amateur Radio Club celebrates 75 years


The Muscatine Amateur Radio Club is till going strong with a 75-year history of helping with anything it can in the community.


The first meeting of the amateur radio club was Jan. 21, 1948.


Amateur radio, or ham radio, uses radio frequency spectrums for the purpose of non-commercial communications. The communication is used for experimentation, personal recreation, and emergency communications. The federal government regulates the radio usage and issues individual station licenses.


The Muscatine Amateur Radio Club operates from a trailer during Field Day.


“We are just trying to make a difference,” said Scott Richardson, emergency coordinator for the amateur radio emergency service, a division of the club. “People don’t realize what we can do for them until something bad happens.”


He explained even documents can be moved over radio bands. Richardson said the club members can do anything over the radio most people can do over the Internet.


Richardson has been a ham radio operator for over 35 years. He started while living in Kansas where “chasing tornadoes and trying to keep away from them is part of life.” A friend who was a ham radio operator talked him into becoming licensed as a way of keeping track of inclement weather.


“Seeing the need here I started the ARES group and we tried to get it expanded into the counties around the area,” he said. Clubs have started in Cedar, Washington and Louisa counties.


A few times a year, he said, the club participates in a simulated emergency test where they drill with other counties or states. The drill usually happens the first week of October. Richardson said many times the whole United States is having a simulated emergency test and the radio operators work to make contact with the other groups throughout the U.S.


The club also participates in some other tests. Richardson mentioned Operation Black Swan, which was recently held in seven states throughout the Midwest.


“There really isn’t anything we can’t do,” he said. “We can help local forestry. We can do grid searches. We have a few operators who have remote flying licenses and they can work as drone pilots and help local law enforcement.”


The club also helps with communications at local retirement communities. The club has about 30 members, of which 26 are in the emergency service.


Every year during the last full week in June, the club participates in Field Day, during which members operate out of the club’s trailer to contact as many different states as possible over 24 hours.


Right now, the club is focused on replacing its 33-year-old communications trailer. Fundraising is being done to afford a new trailer and to outfit it. A member of the club had fronted the money for the trailer and the group is working to repay the loan while they are moving all the equipment to the new trailer. The club only recently became a 501c3, Richardson said. The club has only attempted to get one grant, which it did not recieve.


The annual fundraiser for the club is Hamfest — an amateur radio show and swap meet — being held at the Louisa County Fairground from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 1.


“Hamfests aren’t what they used to be and the whole COVID outbreak changed everything,” he said. “”People got used to being on the phones and just ordering things.”


For more information on the club, go to https://www.muscatinearc.org/.


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