Field Day is the single most popular ham radio on-the-air event held annually in the US. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations for 24 hours straight. Field Day is an annual nationwide emergency exercise in preparation for actual emergency situations. But we make it fun. It is a picnic, a campout, an informal contest and an educational experience all rolled into one. It allows us to keep our emergency equipment together, operational, and ready for swift deployment.
It is a time where many aspects of Amateur Radio come together to highlight our many roles. While some participants think of it as just a contest, it is ultimately the opportunity to practice their emergency response capabilities. It is an also an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to public service organizations such as the Police, Fire Department and Ambulance Services. Field Day shows the public what Amateur Radio can do in an emergency when all else fails. For our club, Field Day is one of the highlights of the year.
The contest is simply to contact as many other stations as possible and to learn to operate our radio gear in abnormal situations and less than optimal conditions. The contest aspect makes the bands crowded and makes it difficult to communicate and pass information. It creates a situation with difficulties we would experience in an actual emergency situation. We use the skills we learn here in times of actual emergencies.
Complicated and complex systems such as cell phones and the power grid tend to be the first things that die in an emergency situation. Many times it is because they are so complex and complicated that they fail.
Conversely, during Field Day hams use emergency power that we generate from our own generators just as we would in a natural disaster when commercial power is not available. We use long range portable radios that operate point to point and do not require commercial infrastructure such as cell towers. We use portable antennas that can be placed virtually anywhere to establish a communications link to the outside world. The simplicity, portability and training are the reasons ham radio is up and running when nothing else is. May times it is the only link in and out of a disaster zone until outside help arrives.
To participate in our next field day, just contact any club member. You do not have to be licensed to be part of the group. To learn more about Field Day go to the following page at this link: http://www.arrl.org/field-day