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HAM Radio Operator Special Report: Field Day

Ham Radio Operator


HAM Radio Operator Special Report: Field Day

Field Day, what is it?  Every year the ARRL, or Amateur Radio and Relay League, has an event called Field Day.  HAM’s from all over the United States and Canada get on their radios, it is part emergency preparedness exercise, part contest, and mostly fun.  If you choose to participate, you can win points by contacting other radio operators, with extra points being given for things like running off of solar power or batteries (the grid might be down in a disaster, right?).  If you are NOT an licensed amateur radio operator but you have an interest, I’d look up the closest club’s field day and head there right now.  The Field Day goes all night and into tomorrow, ending at noon Eastern on June 29th.

antennasIn today’s world of instant communications via cell phones and the Internet it is easy to forget the infrastructure that is required to sustain it.  When you connect to the Internet or place a cell call you are relying on an intricate network of machines that are susceptible to compromise, whether it be from solar events, EMP’s, hackers, or even natural disasters.  Amateur Radio, better known as HAM radio, is different.  It relies on the laws of physics to propagate worldwide communications.  As a prepper, you need to understand all that is required to communicate across States, regions, or continents are radios, antennas, and a simple 12 volt power source.  In short, you control the airwaves.  When disaster strikes, HAM radio is the first line of communications.  Field Day is like Christmas for HAM’s, and it is your opportunity, whether you are just interested in emergency communications or are a new HAM, to gain access to experienced operators.

stuffThis year I decided to venture out for field day and find a amateur radio club to visit.  Our county doesn’t have a very active club as most of the members reside in the local cemetery.  With the lack of local HAM’s with a pulse, I took a look at the ARRL website and located a club that was somewhat nearby.  It was an interesting journey, starting with finding the place.  I arrived at the cross streets to find a field loaded with cars, cars with no antennas on the roofs.  For a bunch of HAM’s that was very strange.  Walking through the crowd that was assembled I quickly got the hint that this wasn’t it.  I expected a bunch of old white haired gentlemen, instead I found not a single individual that fit the description.  I did find a police officer, though, and I asked him if he knew where I could find the club.  His response, as he pointed through some trees and thick brush, was “Yeah, over there.  In the bunker”.  Anytime someone directs me over to a bunker, I get strangely excited.  Sure enough, through the trees and brush I could see a bunch of antennas pointing towards the sky.

consoleI nearly skipped over to the entrance I was so excited, this place was like it was out of a movie.  It was a concrete structure, buried in the dirt on three sides.  It sure looked like a bunker to me.  The steel door to the bunker had a sign with the club’s name and call sign.  I reached down and turned the handle to the door and was greeted by a musty smell.  I’d later find out that the “bunker” was an old converted concrete storage tank.  Inside I was greeted by some fellow HAM’s.  Mind you, I didn’t know any of them, but almost all HAM’s are like a bunch of panting Golden Retrievers when they meet someone new.

If you are interested in survival or emergency preparedness communications (aka HAM radio), EVERYONE is always happy to help.  Always.  Look up a club and find a field day before it is over.  They can answer and will be happy to answer all of your questions.

The particular club that I randomly chose to attend has a wealth of equipment and experience. Inside the bunker was station upon station, free to use for club members.  Radios to talk to satellites, HF radios to contact the world, antennas galore, all available for a nominal club fee.  More importantly, the radios are available with a wealth of experience just dying to bring new members into the fold.

I am a newer operator.  I’m relatively young and have a million questions.  Yes, I passed two tests and am have my General ticket, but passing two tests is not the real world.   I started chatting with a gentleman named Mark and three and a half hours later he’d answered a few hundred thousand of the million questions.  Mark has almost 40 years of experience with Amateur radio under his belt.  He offered insights into the hobby which might erase years of trial and error for a person who doesn’t seek out assistance. The hobby is daunting, but there are so many folks willing to help you learn.

Beyond the wealth of knowledge instilled in my brain by Mark, I got to watch experience operators in action.  Guys running phone, PSK, and CW (don’t worry, you will learn what that means).  Finding folks like this takes away some of the more intimidating aspects of amateur radio.

Here is my advice to you fellow preppers, I know my article is a bit late, but if you can get to one of these clubs before tomorrow at noon EST, you stand to make leaps towards your goal of becoming a HAM radio operator or answering the many questions you may have about the hobby. It will be worth your time.  Look up a club field day location here, if you can’t make it, find out when their next meeting takes place.  Go.




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