This weekend will find thousands of amateur radio operators out in the field participating in the ARRL 2020 Field Day exercise around the country. In short, the exercise is to mimic a grid down situation where hams (amateur radio operators) set up antennas, set up transceivers with alternative power sources and communicate around the country with other folks doing this exercise. The exercise starts June 27, 2020 at 1400 hrs ET to Sunday June 28, 2020 1359 hrs ET.

This year is a unique challenge because of the Chinese virus. I belong to two local ham clubs. One in Pennsylvania and one in New York. The Pennsylvania club decided to have a more traditional Field Day exercise which involves finding a site for the event, setting up the equipment, using another power source than the grid and spending 24-hours nonstop making QSO’s around the country under the clubs call sign.

The New York club do to the virus decided to go off in a different direction where all of the members remain at home in their shack using off grid power and making QSO’s around the country, again using the clubs call.

This year, the Pennsylvania club has added a few additional steps for members who will be participating and guests that are coming to get on the air using a club members equipment. Some of those additions are,

  • Adding several hand washing stations complete with hand sanitizer,
  • It is open to the public and the event was advertised in local papers and commercial radio stations. The one caveat to this years event, is we asked visitors to preregister via email if they were going to swing by,
  • The GOTA station (Get on the air), will be sanitized between each visitor use, and
  • Computers linked together will be used by all stations to record QSO’s and to minimized duplicates. No paper logs this year.

Typically, this is the timeline for the event,

Friday afternoon, we meet to put up messenger lines for horizontal, inverted ‘L’ or inverted ‘V’ antennas, set up tripods and lay-out ground systems for the vertical antennas.

  • Set up three 10 x 20′ party tents,
  • Set up the field kitchen,
  • Set up wash stations and receive the porta-Jonny,
  • et cetera.

Launching antenna messenger lines with PAAL II Click photo to make your own antenna launcher

  • Saturday morning, the dipole antennas are hoisted, and vertical antennas are erected,
  • The generator is fired up and extension cords are run to the six stations,
  • Computer links are established,
  • Transceivers are hooked up and tested,
  • Personal tents for the overnight portion of the event are pitched, and
  • At 1400 hrs ET we start collecting as many QSO’s as we can over the next 24-hours.

The event is as much a social event for the club and guests as working our rigs under emergency conditions. We stop at 1700 hrs for a club picnic. By 1800 hrs we are back on the radios till the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday at 0700 hrs breakfast is served and usually consists of scrambled eggs, bacon, scrapple, danish, and of course coffee.

At 1359 hrs Sunday, someone pulls the plug on the generator and we have lunch made up of leftovers from Saturdays picnic. Then the breakdown commences.

Field Day is a contest with different classes from working the air waves as a club which we are doing to individuals using their own station call. You can make QSO’s using CW (Morse Code), PH (Phone or voice), DIG (Digital using FLDIGI). You get more points for CW and DIG than PH. This year we will have two stations using CW, two using DIG, and two doing PH. You also get extra points for making the exercise open to the public and extra points for non-license holders using the GOTA station. Additional points are also earned by having local LEO’s and town supervisors or council members show up.

If you are interested in getting into amateur radio, follow the link I embedded above over at ARRL. Over on their site there will be links to find out if there is an amateur radio club near your AO. Have fun!

73 & God Bless

Freedom Through Self-Reliance®