Story and photos by Andy McEvoy – KB2KBO
Each June, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) hosts an event for amateur radio operators across North America. The “Field Days” event is open to all FCC Authorized Operators and the general public is also encouraged to learn about amateur radio operations.
Operators demonstrate their skills by showing how they can provide global communications in emergency situations. Many radio clubs set up in the open in tents or small caravans. They are “off-grid”, so electricity is provided by solar panels and generators. Skilled operators have set up a variety of radial or long wire antennas depending on the frequency band on which they will be operating. Many operators also participate from their homes.
The ARRL requires that detailed logs be kept documenting every contact made and location. Contact distance varies depending on atmospheric conditions, as some frequency bands actually use the Earth’s atmosphere, which acts like a mirror to bounce radio signals from one location to another.
Of the more than 750,000 licensed operators in the United States, more than 18,000 attended Field Days 2020 in locations across North America. There are an estimated 3 million amateur radio operators worldwide. Amateur radio operates completely independent of the internet or phones in emergency situations and is vital in the event of natural disasters or extreme weather conditions. While amateur radio is considered a fun hobby, it is much more than that for many operators. It is a fun hobby that allows you to be useful when needed.
In Herkimer County, the Fort Herkimer Amateur Radio Association, Inc. (FHARA), set up and demonstrated for Field Days June 26-27 in a large open field on the property of Hank and Deanna Crofoot on Kilts Hill Rd, Little Falls.
About a dozen FHARA Club operators have spent an hour to 24 hours on the air making hundreds of contacts across the United States to Alaska and even a few overseas. The field installations were either in pop-up tents or in small caravans. Operators used an aerial and long wire antenna array depending on the bands they were operating on. Generators or solar panels were the source of energy. New operators who didn’t own any equipment or wanted to try out different bands were able to use a Get On The Air (GOTA) station under the supervision of Control Operator Don Kitts (KC2OJI) to make contacts and learn from an experienced operator.
FHARA has been together for 43 years and has been organizing Field Days at the Crofoots for over 20 years. The radio club provides a public service by providing communication support for a few events and by regularly monitoring the weather forecast for any severe weather event. Members are trained by Skywarn and are readily available in the event of severe or catastrophic weather events. Some members such as Hank Crofoot (KB2VLP) regularly report extreme weather conditions for our area to the National Weather Service in Albany.
Anyone interested in obtaining an FCC amateur radio license and / or joining FHARA can contact either Chris Bouck (KB4CMF) 1-315-868-0132 firstname.lastname@example.org or Hank Crofoot (KB2VLP) 1-315-823 -2993 email@example.com
FHARA meetings are held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. They took place at German Flatts Town Hall on Route 5s, Mohawk. They could come back to the 911 center in the future. Call Chris or Hank if you plan to attend a meeting. The club welcomes anyone interested.