Federal Way amateur radio enthusiasts ham it up

Dave Swartz, Federal Way Amateur Radio Club president, and wife Esther, both licensed ham radio operators, use a high frequency radio during an annual Field Day event. - Courtesy photo
Dave Swartz, Federal Way Amateur Radio Club president, and wife Esther, both licensed ham radio operators, use a high frequency radio during an annual Field Day event.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Federal Way will celebrate hams beginning June 23.

June 23-29 is Federal Way’s Amateur Radio Week. Hams, also known as amateur radio operators, will be recognized for their efforts in assisting city officials during emergencies. The week will conclude with live radio demonstrations in Steel Lake Park, 2645 S. 312th St.

More than 300 of Federal Way’s inhabitants are licensed to operate amateur radio, according to a June 3 proclamation by the city. Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is a form of wireless communication. It can be used to interact with neighboring cities or even across seas. It works in a way similar to citizen’s band radio (CB), said Daniel Stevens, Federal Way Amateur Radio Club vice president. Amateur radio is able to transport information over a longer distance than CB. Ham radio operators often assist in emergencies or other public services. They do not use their equipment for commercial or money-making endeavors.

“We are communicators. We augment the normal communication channels,” Stevens said.

The Federal Way Amateur Radio Club works with the city’s Emergency Operations Center. It partners with the city, South King Fire and Rescue, Lakehaven Utility District and the Federal Way School District, Stevens said. If an earthquake, wind storm or other emergency uprooted Federal Way, amateur radio would be heavily relied upon by these agencies.

“We wouldn’t be the only way to link them, but we would be the primary link,” Stevens said.

Radio operating centers are set up in facilities owned by each partner. When a disaster hits, volunteers disperse and report back to the respective agencies with any urgent information, such as a busted gas line or an individual in need of medical care, Stevens said. The volunteers free up time for public safety officials to perform more important tasks, he said.

“(Amateur radios) let us have the eyes and ears for all the services of the city,” club member Bill Balzarini said.

Amateur radio is not always a serious matter though. Hams have their fun, especially on Amateur Radio Field Day, sponsored by the National Association for Amateur Radio (AARL). The weekend of June 28-29, hams will set up their equipment in public locations and attempt to make contact with as many other operators as possible. Federal Way’s club will establish a base at Steel Lake Park Annex.

“We’ll be talking to the East Coast. I talked to a guy in Missouri last year,” Stevens said. “Australia is easy to get ahold of.”

The event provides training for hams, which are licensed through the Federal Communications Commission. Field Day is also a good time to experiment with new technology, some of which utilizes Global Positioning System and the Internet, along with radio communications. Hams might even establish contact with roaming satellites, Stevens said.

“We can actually bounce things off the moon and talk,” he said. “It’s like shining a flashlight on the moon and doing Morse code off it.”

Field Day is also a great opportunity to hear conversations that span the nation, even the world. It is an interactive way for the public to learn more about amateur radio.

“We love to talk about our hobbies,” Stevens said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

Check it out:

Learn more about Federal Way Amateur Radio Club and Field Day events online at

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