Just a quick note about amateur radio’s field day – which is today.
In the event of a disaster or emergency, the usual communications systems often become overloaded. Everyone wants to check on everyone. People are calling the authorities to report problems or to ask what’s happening. In some cases the disaster takes the telephone or the cellular system down. In other cases the authorities systems become too busy to handle. Amateur radio exists, by law, to assist in such situations.
On field day, ham radio operators set up temporary stations in parks or such and power them with generators, solar power, or other systems that would be necessary in an emergency. Antennas are strung up in the trees – high enough that either a bow and arrow or a potato gun is necessary to reach the height. Everything must be set up within the 24 hours before field day and removed after field day.
Starting at 2:00 PM EST, stations try to contact as many other stations as they can. Extra points are given for the type of power (generator, solar, etc.) and if there is a “GOTA” station – that’s an abbreviation for “Get On The Air”. These stations are specifically intended to let potential hams try out the hobby with experienced hams helping out.
Usually besides being a test of emergency capabilities and a contest, it also becomes a big party with lots of food. Many hams who talk with one another on the air quite frequently get a chance to see what the other ham actually looks like!
The kids and I spent some time at the field day site for the Chesapeake Amateur Radio Service (our local club) and a good time was had by all.