When an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan in March, much of the communication infrastructure was wiped out across huge swaths of the country.
Telephone and cellular service was non-existent and internet connections were down in most parts of the Asian nation.
For Coquitlam Amateur Radio Emergency Services Society member Jessica McAlister, the incident was an important reminder of the role ham radio operators can play when a disaster strikes.
While the technology may seem archaic in a world full of iPhones and laptop computers, radio was often the only means of communication in Japan following the quake.
"You can never predict where the need is going to come from," she said. "Amateur radio operators remotely located in Tokyo were able to maintain communication between government and residents."
Fortunately, McAlister said, the city of Coquitlam is armed with a strong team of radio operators who are ready to respond in case of an emergency.
This weekend, the society will hold its amateur radio operators field day exercise. Radio enthusiasts from around the world participate in the event and the local group members will be setting up its equipment at Blue Mountain Park in hopes of contacting people in other countries.
"It is an international event and the purpose of it is to test our emergency capabilities," she said. "It is one thing to operate from our building... but it is quite another to go to a new location and set up your antennas and do everything from scratch.
The field day exercise will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and finish 24 hours later. Club members will set up their equipment between the tennis courts and the Scout Hall at the park. The nearest intersection is Porter Street and Winslow Avenue.
The Coquitlam Amateur Radio Emergency Services Society is under the umbrella of the Coquitlam Amateur Radio Club. For more information about both organizations, go to www.ve7scc.com.