“In Ham Lingo, Radio Group’s Convention Was ‘Fine Business’” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 78
Amateur radio operators from as far away as Australia enjoyed “eyeball QSOs” (face-to-face, instead of on-air, meetings) at the third biannual world convention of the Mercury Amateur Radio Association, held in Utah July 20 to 22.
But the convention was devoted to matters far more important than ham radio “rag-chewing.” MARA was originally organized to be of service to the Church in times of emergency. Members met for presentations and discussions on a wide variety of topics related to emergency communications and service to Church and communities.
The convention drew 371 registrants to discussion sessions and activities in the Bountiful Utah Val Verda Stake headquarters, ten minutes north of Salt Lake City. Topics for the radio operators’ sessions ranged from the function of stake emergency communication specialists to the use of emergency power sources and operation with low-power radio rigs.
At the opening session on Thursday evening, association president Preben H. Nielsen told MARA members that the organization now has 3,600 members, up from just 109 when it began in 1983. There are concentrations of members in California, Utah, and the northwestern United States, with members also located in most of the other states, in Canada, and in more than twenty other countries.
These MARA members collectively put millions of dollars’ worth of radio equipment at Church leaders’ disposal when emergency communications are needed. But that fact doesn’t mean anything if the radio operators aren’t prepared to handle emergency traffic rapidly and effectively, Brother Nielsen said. “You’re not helpful to us if you don’t participate in the program,” he added, urging members to take part in regular on-air training sessions and meetings designed to keep them ready for emergencies.
Other speakers at the convention included Gay Lindsay, a member of the steering committee of the Business and Industry Council for Emergency Planning and Preparedness in Los Angeles, who showed a videotape of emergency operations following the Mexico City earthquake in 1985 and reviewed lessons learned from that disaster. Keith McMullin, managing director of Welfare Services, also spoke and thanked MARA members for their service to the Church following disasters.
MARA members now operate, on regular schedules, nearly fifty shortwave radio nets covering or linking regions and localities in the United States and Canada and on other continents as well.
Amateur radio operators interested in MARA may contact the Church’s Welfare Services Department, 50 E. North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.