June is here, and that means Field Day planning
As you know, we have been at Handiham radio camp last week, and because the camp session ended just as the long Memorial Day holiday weekend began, today is our first day back for routine office duties. We hope you had a pleasant and thoughtful Memorial Day weekend and were able to set some time aside to remember those who have gone before us, serving to protect our freedom.
Memorial Day seems to be the unofficial start to the summer season here in North America. Yes, I know that the official beginning of the season begins later this month at the summer solstice on June 21. In fact, in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice begins on Jun 21 2010 at 7:28 AM EDT. Nonetheless, nothing flips the switch to summer quite as well as a long holiday weekend, and once people get into the mood of summer, they tend to forget about spending time with indoor activities and look to the great outdoors for fun in the sun.
That doesn't mean that ham radio will not be an important part of the summer. To the contrary, June is an excellent month for ham radio. Amateur Radio Field Day is coming up on the first full weekend in June, as it always does. ARRL Field Day is June 26-27, 2010. If you have never operated during a Field Day, you are in for a pleasant surprise: Field Day is the largest on-the-air operating event in Amateur Radio. Combining elements of a contest with setting up portable stations is a brilliant strategy. Field Day provides an opportunity to practice setting up for emergency situations, learning new and better operating skills, participating in a competitive event as a group or as an individual operator, really learning how your equipment works, and -- in the case of a radio club Field Day event -- being able to socialize with your friends and just have a lot of fun sharing this operating event. Some radio clubs have a family picnic to make sure that spouses and children can share in the fun. Others are in it for the contest and run stations day and night, focusing on that all-important point count.
If you are a person with a disability, you can participate in Field Day, but you may have to do just a little advance planning to make sure that you are able to operate effectively and safely, either as an individual or in a group. Here are some things to consider:
Field Day has many different options. You can operate from your home station without setting up any portable antennas and portable radios. You do not need to operate using power from a generator or batteries. In fact, you can operate your existing station just as you always do and still participate and have a great deal of fun on Field Day. The object of the exercise is to work as many stations as possible on any amateur radio band except 60, 30, 17, and 12 m. If your disability requires that you stick close to home, you may want to simply participate using your own station.
You don't have to operate during the entire Field Day exercise. Even if you participate for a couple of hours, you can have fun and gain experience. So, even if your disability makes it inconvenient to be away from home for long periods of time, you will be welcome at most radio club Field Day sites during the time it is practical for you to be part of the group effort.
Check out the Field Day site in advance for accessibility, especially if you are using a wheelchair or electric scooter to get around. Some sites are truly rugged and not accessible. Others may be the ultimate in accessibility, with wheelchair ramps and accessible restrooms. Since several radio clubs in your area may be participating in Field Day, now is the time to start shopping around for an accessible site. Don't be afraid to call the contact person listed on the club website and discuss accessibility. It is better to find out in advance what is and what is not available.
Sometimes special needs can be accommodated at the operating positions of a club Field Day site. For example, if it is known in advance that a blind operator will be participating, a radio or radios equipped with voice frequency output might be made available. Again, this is something that needs to be planned in advance, so now is the time to speak up.
If you are a ham radio operator with a disability, I certainly hope that you are part of a local radio club already. But if you aren't, a club Field Day is sometimes the perfect opportunity to meet club members and find out if a particular club will meet your needs. Don't forget that as a club member you will be expected to participate and take on some club duties as well.
Sometimes we concentrate on accessible radios and wheelchair ramps when we think about Field Day, forgetting that it will be necessary to take care of life's normal requirements. Since the contest goes on for at least 24 hours, if you expect to stay at the Field Day site for long periods of time or even for the entire length of the contest, you will have to consider whether the restrooms are accessible, if the food and beverages meet your dietary needs, whether it will be possible for you to stay on your medication schedule if you must take medicine on a daily basis, and what kind of shelter is available on site in the event of inclement weather.
If you stay overnight, you will need to determine where you will sleep and how you will stay warm since it can get quite cool in the night and early morning. Generally speaking, if you are comfortable with camping and already do so on a regular basis, you will have no problem managing a Field Day where the crew is "roughing it". On the other hand, if you would rather fill out 100 tax forms than go camping, you should look for a club that has its Field Day indoors with lots of amenities. Either one will be a great experience, but you have to be sure you pick the right one for you!
Field Day rules change a bit from year to year as new ideas take shape and technology changes. If you have never been to a Field Day or if you have been away from Field Day for a number of years, take some time to check out the ARRL website and find out more about this excellent operating event.
My radio club, the Handiham-affiliated Stillwater Amateur Radio Association, is holding its Field Day indoors in a completely accessible modern city park building. SARA goes the extra mile to serve Handiham members and is an ARRL Special Service Club.
I hope to hear you on the air during Field Day 2010.
Patrick Tice, Handiham Manager