At 1 p.m Saturday, generators at Wells Overlook Park kicked in and Douglas County Amateur Radio Club members began scanning the airwaves for fellow hams.
At 1:07 p.m., they tallied their first points in the nationwide Amateur Radio Relay League Field Day when a station in northern Florida answered Bob Rainbolt's morse code transmission.
"Just about every radio club in the country is participating," Karl Medcalf, a Douglas County club member, said. "There's one in Wichita and Manhattan and Topeka. The one we got in Florida was a 3A, so we're in competition with them head-to-head."
The object of the contest is for amateur radio operators to make as many contacts as they can in a 24 hour period, while operating away from a fixed power source. All the equipment at the overlook must be powered by generators.
MEDCALF estimated that 50 ham operators from the Douglas County club would be at the overlook Saturday or today to participate in the annual event.
The Douglas County club is competing with more than 300 other clubs in the 3A category. Each 3A station operates three main transmitter and receiver units, each with less than 150 watts of power.
To earn points, the operators send out a report listing their classification and must receive an answering report evaluating their signal and listing the serial number of that communication.
Medcalf said more than 440,000 operators are licensed in the United States, and there are more than 1.5 million operators worldwide with whom the Douglas County club could communicate.
"Last year we made more than 1,300 contacts and came in 57th in our category. That's pretty impressive," Medcalf said.
Medcalf said ham radio "is traditionally one of the first means of communication out of a disaster area.''
"AS AMATEUR operators, we make our services available to others. Whatever agency needs our support, they contact Paula Phillips, who is our emergency coordinator at the county's emergency preparedness office, and she contacts the operators," Medcalf said.
In emergency situations, ham operators work under three levels of alert standby, alert and activation.
When Hoch Auditorium caught fire last June, the operators were placed on standby, and Phillips instructed them to prepare their equipment. Had they gone on alert, the operators would have moved their equipment into position at hospitals, the disaster scene and at the emergency preparedness office. Communication would not begin until activation.
Each ham station has a transmitter and receiver, an antenna and a source of power. It is similar to a citizen's band radio, but the range of most ham stations is global.
ALL DOUGLAS County club transmissions this weekend will go out under club member Dave Fayman's call sign - W0GI, "because it's simple and easy to remember," Medcalf said.
The stations will remain in operation until 1 p.m. today at Wells Overlook, south of Lawrence.
"The public's real welcome to come out here and see what we do, just take a look around at the equipment and talk to the operators," Medcalf said.
"We come out here primarily for fun, and to get in some practice," club president, Klissa Rueschhoff said. "Most of the people you see out here are real good buddies, so it's a lot of fun for us more than anything."