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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) —  =Amateur radio operators are exercising their emergency preparedness skills this weekend.
All across North America, operators are setting up antennas and radios just like in a real emergency. In Huntsville, hundreds have turned out with their gear to sharpen their skills and have a little fun.

“Field day is an emergency communication exercise meets contest,” said operator Chris Reed. “We set up stations to test our emergency communication skills but its also a contest, we try to make as many contacts with people all over the United States and in fact the world.”

Successfully making contact with other operators is huge. If disaster strikes and all else fails, ham radios are here and we have people who know how to operate them.  “In this community back in 2011 we had the tornadoes, you know 6 days without power, lost cell phones, land-lines, all communications, but ham radio was still there,” said Todd Cline, the station manager for Get-On-The-Air.

In an emergency situation, amateur radio operators can set up their communications and relay information to people like first responders and The American Red Cross. “It’s not a matter of if but when another emergency of that magnitude takes place, we want to be ready for it,” Reed said.

While the field day is mainly for practice, it does come with its perks. Especially when you get to talk to someone far away from you, like outer space.

“I said, ‘Hey International Space Station, this is kilo four Juliet Charlie hotel JC4H,’ said John Hilliard. “I got back, ‘You are very loud here on the International Space Station.’ I just couldn’t believe it. I was like, oh wow! Best contact I could ever make!”