SAN ANTONIO -

When it comes to dealing with the elements, Texans have been well-conditioned for severe rain and flooding, hurricanes, and of course, the heat.

That conditioning is what gave local amateur radio operators the upper hand Saturday in a national competition. It's called "ham radio," and if you think you've never heard of it, you'll most likely be grateful it exists after hearing what it does.

"Ham radio is very instrumental during tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes," said Mike Brown, an amateur extra class radio operator. "When all of the other cellular communications and electricity is knocked out, only Ham Radio is the means of which you can establish contacts and coordinate emergency activities at that time."

Saturday's "Field Day" at Russell Park was organized to practice communicating with contacts in adverse conditions. It helps when trouble brews and the operators need to go to work coordinating emergency activities.

Tens of thousands of radio operators took part in the nationwide event, competing to make the most contacts to gain points and win prizes.

San Antonio's dozens of radio operators range in age from 16 to 80.

According to the Amateur Radio Service, ham radio operators provided critical communications in emergencies including the Colorado wildfires, Oklahoma tornadoes, Southern storms, and other events worldwide. During Hurricane Katrina, amateur radio, was often the only way people could communicate.

There are 650,000 Amateur Radio licensees in the US, and more than 2.5 million around the world.

To learn more about Amateur Radio, go to http://www.emergency-radio.org.