Technical Articles

Field Day Tips: How to Fine-Tune Your EMCOMM Skills During Field Day

Since the 1930s, Field Day has been an event to test the field preparedness and emergency communications (EMCOMM) abilities of the Amateur Radio community. Over the years, it has turned into the largest on-the-air event on the Ham calendar. Operators look forward to testing their skills and showing the public what Amateur Radio can do.

Field Day’s traditional EMCOMM mission has diminished somewhat in recent years to be almost secondary in focus. In many cases, Field Day operation mostly emphasizes contesting, points earned, and standings among stations in each operating class. If your club or group has chosen to spend the weekend having fun in contest mode, here are some ways you can incorporate EMCOMM activities—and rack up some points in the process.

Operate 100% off the grid  Hams who volunteered their time in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Maria quickly realized that alternative power was the only way to get things done. Don’t just rely on generators. Utilize solar, wind power and batteries where practical. If you want a novel way to charge batteries, rig up a human-powered generator using a stationary bike.

Work in partnership with emergency agencies   Operating Class F encourages ARES, RACES and local radio club groups to develop and maintain working relationships with their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and to practice their existing emergency plans. EOCs include federal, state, county, and city agencies or administrative entities, and chapters of national and international service agencies such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Practice message handling skills  Copy the ARRL Field Day Bulletin, send a message to your Section Manager or SEC, and 10 other messages through traffic nets, packet, or with point-to-point communications. There’s an easy 300 points for the taking.

Incorporate VHF operation   Many Field Day operations don’t include VHF operation, which is a regular part of local communications networks during storms and local disasters. Class A and F stations can have a “free” VHF station. Try operating 6 or 2 meter simplex to earn extra QSO points, test your simplex range, or create a local HT net coordinating Field Day setup. 

Make your Field Day Meeting a tabletop exercise  Discuss your roles and responsibilities in setting up your Field Day installation as if it was a real emergency deployment. It could be in conjunction with an existing plan in cooperation with ARES/RACES or your EOC. If you really want to make this authentic, have some volunteers come to Field Day prepared with their go-kits in preparation to stay for the full 24 hours.

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