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SIMI CLUB JOINS MASS TRANSMIT; RADIO OPERATORS BROADCAST TO HAMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

Byline: John Huddy Daily News Staff Writer

Members of the Simi Valley Settlers amateur radio club were busy hamming it up this weekend - part of the National Field Day activities for amateur radio clubs across the nation.

Starting on Saturday, members of the local radio club began erecting temporary antennas, two-way radio stations and portable electric generators for power that would transmit signals across the United States and Canada.

The activities were part of a national drill held annually to test the amateur ham radio operators' skills and their abilities to provide emergency radio communications.

``This is my hobby,'' said John Beckers, president of Simi Settlers. ``But when you can turn your hobby into something that helps other people, its a benefit.''

The Simi Settlers have been known for providing emergency assistance to local authorities in times of disaster. The club has been called upon by the Red Cross following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, when telephone lines were interrupted, and during fires in Malibu, helping to provide communications between different organizations.

``We're here to have fun as a club,'' said Sue Berkhout. ``But we're also here to show that we're serious about helping the community.''

Berkhout, who is handicapped, has been involved with amateur radio for six years, saying, ``It helps me personally - if there's an emergency, and it's tough for me to get around, I can just get on the radio and talk with other people.''

The club has members from all over the community.

``We're from all walks of life,'' said Diane Belcher, the Simi Settlers public information officer. ``We have doctors that belong to the club, electricians, retired telephone employees - we want people to understand that our hobby won't interfere with their hobby.''

Along with Belcher and Berkhout, Jerry Crabtree, a seven-year club member and its emergency coordinator, was also on hand, helping to set up his Portable Packet radio operation system.

``My dad was a ham,'' said Crabtree. ``He got me started and now I use his call sign.''

Each member of the club is given a call sign by the Federal Communications Commission. A call sign is a group of letters distinguishing the person broadcasting as being a licensed radio operator.

Every now and again, an unlicensed operator may get on a radio frequency, transmitting signals throughout the vicinity. These pirate radio operators'' are frowned upon by the Simi Settlers, who act as watchdogs for the FCC, Belcher said.

The Simi Settlers, organized in 1976, have made contact with more than 3,000 other stations across the United States and Canada. Members of the club say it is not uncommon to make contact with stations as far away as Germany or Costa Rica, depending on the strength of the signal being transmitted.

But aside from providing emergency communication assistance in disaster situations, being a ham radio fan can offer other benefits as well - like cutting the costs of phone bills.

``We have a lot of husband-and-wife radio hams,'' said Belcher, listening to her portable radio as a husband in the club talks with his wife, who is somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. ``It's helpful because you can keep in touch without having to use a phone. My husband used to commute to work. When he got off, I would get on the radio and talk with him while he drove home - it made the drive go a lot quicker.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1--Color) Simi Valley Settlers radio club members are taking part in a national drill held annually to test their emergency communications skills.

(2--Color) Randy Streder dials his ham radio to make contact from Simi Valley to the LAX area.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 28, 1998
Words:616
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