The Halifax Amateur Radio Club hosts a competition to challenge the city’s communication

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Dozens of amateur radio operators take part in a contest on Saturday to challenge Halifax’s connectivity.

As the coronavirus pandemic has limited the club’s activities, the Halifax Amateur Radio Club is organizing Get On The Air to challenge new and veteran radio operators in the city.

Amateur radio, or amateur radio, communicates with other devices over FM frequencies, without using a landline or Internet services.

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John Bignell, an EHS Advance Care paramedic and licensed amateur radio operator, says it’s a fun winter event that doubles as a practice for emergency situations.

“During normal days, normal conditions, for us as radio operators one of the things we focus on is emergency communication,” he said.

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Heavy snowfall hit most of Nova Scotia on Saturday; such weather can cause disturbances for radio operators.

“The competition today is to have the opportunity to connect, to reach other radio amateurs, to set up a communication network and to be able to test our city.

The locations tested include the Citadel, Pier 21 and many others away from the city center. Some participants will be traveling while others will connect from their homes.

“I have a portable radio, set up 2 meters, then I have my vehicle’s radio and we set up a location with radios there, and see how far we can go, see if we can. connect with people in the province, in the region.


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The purpose of this competition is to build a stronger network, says Bignell.

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“If I’m in Dartmouth, can I reach a location in Sackville, can I reach someone in Hammonds Plains?” The ability to use a certain frequency and be able to use it effectively, and (understand) does it work, it does not. “

Bignell says being able to understand interference when traveling from one place to another is essential. “Here in Halifax, there are buildings, there are other radios, there are other factors that come into play.”

He says the importance of connectivity for amateur radio operators has been seen time and time again in recent events.

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Bignell remembers the connection failure in Eastern Canada in 2017, where on August 4, Bell Aliant’s landline and cell phone services were cut after damage to fiber optic lines.

Anyone from citizens to retailers and – especially emergency responders – has been cut off or experienced a significant connectivity disruption for several hours.

“It’s that last resource – when all else fails, amateur radio still works.”

Bignell says it’s important to have amateur operators for the Red Cross, ground search and rescue teams, and the Emergency Management Office, among others.

“It’s the last resort, the last card they can play,” he said.

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Amateur radio, he says, is all about communication, “the ability to go from one point and transmit something to the next point … but how you do it, how well you do it, how far you can do it, makes it really interesting. “

Bignell says the ability to convey information is so accessible now that it’s taken for granted.

“In the event of a disaster or storm that strikes in Halifax, we have the ability to still carry images, the ability to carry weather reports… without the use of cell phones, the Internet and traditional means. “


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Radio Amateurs of Canada, a non-profit association that offers qualification courses for those who want to become licensed amateur radio operators, reported that there are more amateur radio operators in Canada today than ever before.

“There are more people signing up, there are more people who become ham radio operators,” Bignell says.

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According to him, between 20 and 50 people should participate in the competition on Saturday, which began at noon, with the fire of the cannon of the Citadel.

“I think the storm might keep people home more… but I predict about 20% (of the applicants) will roam the city.”

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Each traveling participant will go to a designated location and try to make contact with someone at home, from radio to radio.

“Whoever hears me will call me back. If I take that contact, I’ll record in my journal that I contacted Joe in Dartmouth, I’m John in Halifax, and that’s a point.

Each time a connection is established, one point is earned. The challenge is to get as far away from the city center as possible while making a connection.

“There are people who should be able to hit New Brunswick, maybe even Maine, Cape Breton,” Bignell said.

The competition aims to encourage new amateur radio operators who have just completed the course to go out and practice. The competition will last about four hours, Bignell said.

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“It’s a fun event. COVID certainly makes it difficult and we are trying to find some unique ways to get our club back and engage them. “


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