If a category 5 hurricane were to strike the East End, the Bonac Amateur Radio Club would be ready. The club held its annual drill last weekend, atop Prospect Hill, east of East Lake Drive.
As members of an organization called the American Radio Relay League, for 24 hours, from 2 PM Saturday, June 22 to the same time June 23, the Bonac Amateur Radio Club members relied not on the PSEG power grid, but on their own supply of power, as they communicated with other like-minded individuals across the North American continent.
Eddie Schnell, who also is in charge of the East Hampton Town’s drive to modernize its emergency communications system, is the head of BARC. “We all get out in an emergency-type setup,” he explained on Saturday, as he and his fellow club members were hooking up cables to an antenna.
They first arrived Friday, June 21, and set up their large former U.S. Army tent, donated by Jimmy Grimes, and deployed the main antenna using a bucket truck borrowed from the Village of East Hampton. The truck enabled them to get the antenna, which looks like a giant version of the television antennas that used to dot the roofs of homes across the country. “It’s the same concept, just much bigger. These will talk all around the world instead of just to the nearest city.”
“You take a 35-question test, and you get a license, which gives you a whole bunch of spectrum you can talk on,” Schnell said. Each member of the club has their own call letters.
Club member Marshall Helfand said that during Superstorm Sandy, generators in areas that lost power began running out of fuel. For the ham radio operators, that was not a problem. “We were on the air,” Helfand said. The radios can operate off of a standard car battery. The group has solar panels for power as well.
When it was all over, Schnell gave the resulting learning experience from the drill two thumbs up. “It was great,” he said. “We made over 2000 calls.” BARC is ready, no matter what hand Mother Nature deals the East Hampton area.