In late June every year in the United States, unbeknownst to most Americans, a nation-wide radio communications network is set up that links every major city and most of the geography of the country. This massive amount of technological infrastructure is set up from scratch within a few hours at locations that vary from State/Local Government Emergency Operations Centers to isolated areas without utilities of any kind. Every mode of radio communications is utilized including analog, digital, voice, data, simplex, duplex, satellites and even automated relay stations launched on aircraft and with weather balloons. For 24 continuous hours this nation-wide radio communications network is exercised with the primary objective of proving the system’s readiness and capabilities. Then as quickly as it was set up the system is dismantled and stored in preparation for when it is needed. It is the most reliable back-up emergency communication system in the world. And it does not cost the U.S. tax payers one cent — not in equipment or human resources. The benefits of such a system to emergency relief operations should be obvious. In fact the system has demonstrated its’ value time after time during earthquakes, hurricanes, forest fires, terrorist attacks and other disasters. And all of this capability is provided by volunteers who continuously hone their technical skills and acquire/build/maintain their own equipment. These skilled radio engineers and operators along with their equipment combine into a seriously important resource for emergency communications. And the annual event that tests their readiness is called “Amateur Radio Field Day”.
For Amateur Radio operators (Hams) Field Day is a big deal. In addition to exercising their ability to set up and operate a massive emergency communications network the event also has some fun aspects. Field Day is also a big contest where stations compete to make the most contacts on as many frequencies and modes as possible. And there is the social aspect that usually involves food and ancillary outdoor family activities. This is also the major Amateur Radio annual public awareness event. If you are interested in learning about Amateur Radio or more specific radio communications technologies and techniques then visiting your local Field Day site should net you the information you seek. You will find many knowledgeable people who will welcome you and be happy to answer your questions. You might even get invited to stay for lunch and/or dinner.
The annual Field Day event is coordinated by the national association for Amateur Radio; the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). Here are some links to more information about Field Day which is held on the last full weekend of June each year.
General Field Day Information:
Locate a Field Day site near you:
Until next time, best wishes.