Club president, John Mills, sits in front of his home set-up. (Submitted photo)

Maple Ridge Amateur Radio Club still strong on the airwaves

Amateur radio operators play vital role in emergency coordination

While some Maple Ridge residents play Call of Duty to pass the time during quarantine, others take to using technology quite useful during the great wars of the twentieth century to pass theirs.

“It’s designed for this type of situation,” said John Mills, president of the Maple Ridge Amateur Radio Club, of his hobby of choice’s use during a quarantine.

“Most of us would just as soon sit and play on our radios. We travel around the world without leaving the house.”

READ MORE: Ears and voice for old radios

The club, which started with four members in the late 1960s, has grown to over 60.

While their weekly in-person meet-ups have stopped, everyone is just as in touch as ever.

“Mostly it’s touching base and seeing how everybody’s doing,” said Mills, who can be reached at his call-sign of VA7JPM.

They run a network, or an on-air gathering of amateur radio operators, every Wednesday evening, where members talk about their set-ups and gear, or reach out to other cities through the internet, to see how fellow clubs are faring.

“Recently our club ran one of our networks with a sister club in Australia,” Mills said.

“One of the things we can do on our system is we can talk to our local radio repeater, and through that go through a repeater in Australia, so we had about a two-an-a-half hour conversation with people over there who are locked down as well.

“It was interesting that their experiences are very similar to ours.”

Amateur radio has played an important role in emergency coordination, and the local club is no exception.

Mills said they are responsible for performing regular tests on the emergency operations radio systems for both Pitt Meadows, located in the city hall, and Maple Ridge, located in the fire hall.

“If there was an emergency our club wouldn’t specifically be involved in the handling of the emergency,” Mills pointed out.

“But we would be involved in the humanitarian aspects of that, as far as reconnecting people goes.

“We’re prepared with our equipment, so we can operate on batteries or a generator, and go out to any centre that’s required and act as communications there. That’s a role that amateur radio has played almost since the inception of radio.”

As the majority of the club are over the age of 45, Mills said they would really like to start convincing some younger radio enthusiasts to join.

“There’s no age limit on getting an amateur radio licence in Canada,” he noted.

“It’s simply a matter of taking the course and writing a test, and it’s your licence for life from then on.”

The hobby can be expensive, but the cost to get started is cheap, Mills adds.

“Some radios are as low as $50….plus our club has equipment that’s available for use at any time for free,” he said.

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